Singapore theater company Wild Rice introduces its Funan home with new and classic productions

Photo: Finbarr Fallon
Photo: Finbarr Fallon

After a bit of a delay, Singapore theater company Wild Rice has settled nicely into its plush new digs at Funan, designed by a team that includes local architecture studio Zarch Collaboratives and the theater design consultants at Charcoalblue. Spanning 20,000 sq ft over three floors, the place consists of the 358-seat Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre, which houses Singapore’s only thrust stage, a 60-seat performance studio, rehearsal rooms, and the company’s administrative office.

If you’re wondering what a thrust stage is, it’s modeled after the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon, and dates back to its debut as the earliest type of stage in Western theater. Think William Shakespeare’s plays coming to life from 1599 on the same kind of stage at the iconic Globe Theatre.

With this layout, apparently no audience member will be more than 12m away from the performers.

Photo: Finbarr Fallon
Photo: Finbarr Fallon

The Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre is also inspired by the old National Theatre, which was demolished in 1986, in its diamond-patterned walls. Plus, it repurposes “wayang timber” (wooden planks and beams used to construct traditional Chinese opera stages) for its back wall, ceiling, and foyer features in a nod to the history of Singapore’s performance scene.

With its new location in the middle of the civil and cultural district, Wild Rice will put on year-round programs with an emphasis on homegrown and upcoming talents when it officially opens on Aug 8. It also looks to experiment with new works at its two venues, and expand its education and community engagement initiatives. Plans are in the pipeline to offer signed and captioned performances for the deaf, as well as audio-described works, hearing loops, and touch tours for the blind.

As Founding Artistic Director Ivan Heng said in a press release, “Theater is for everyone… it should not be available only to those who have the means and privilege to go to the theater.”

Design details of the Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre. Photo: Finbarr Fallon
Design details of the Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre. Photo: Finbarr Fallon

Having raised $13.5 million over 18 months to build and maintain the performing arts facility, the company is still appealing to the public to help raise funds for the final $1.5 million of its $15 million goal.

Before it comes time to fling open its doors for the Grand Opening Season, Wild Rice’s “housewarming” party kicks off with the dark humor of Supervision on Aug 8.

This will be followed by the classic Emily of Emerald Hill (from Sept 4), the company’s first play ever staged; Merdeka (from Oct 10), a look at our country’s colonial legacy; Fair Play (from Oct 17), the Theatre-In-Education program that questions the roles of men and women; and Peter Pan in Serangoon Gardens (from Nov 21), a quirky take on Neverland with a Singaporean twist.

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