Theatre company evicted from home of 20 years lays out ‘nomadic’ plans

Promotional poster for The Year of No Return, a The Necessary Stage production canceled due to the pandemic. Photo: The Necessary Stage/Facebook
Promotional poster for The Year of No Return, a The Necessary Stage production canceled due to the pandemic. Photo: The Necessary Stage/Facebook

After being kicked out of its home of 20 years, a local theatre company says it will embrace a “nomadic” lifestyle and needs help finding spaces.

Alvin Tan, who owns The Necessary Stage, today unveiled plans to adapt to the crushing consequences the pandemic has had on Singapore’s performing arts following news it would join those to lose their venues.

After being given an August 2021 deadline to leave the Marine Parade Community Center, the 53-year-old impresario said he was looking for temporary spaces after determining a National Arts Council offer to move into another venue as unworkable.

“The replacement offer was Goodman Arts Centre which unfortunately is not ideal for The Necessary Stage, and so we made alternative plans which [are] more nomadic in nature. It’s not a bad thing considering the pandemic [isn’t] ending soon,” he wrote online today.


Like other cultural institutions, he said the crisis has already forced them to cut things to the bone.

“With literally no work to be produced until the vaccine is found, there [are] no earnings like we used to have. At the end of the day, we cut all costs that have become unnecessary so that what is necessary can continue,” he added. Tan has run The Necessary Stage, which has produced plays like Gemuk Girls and Model Citizens, since 1987. 

The nonprofit was badly affected by the pandemic and unable to conduct plays in theatres since March. Members have instead conducted Zoom talks and watch parties of past works online.

Other cost-cutting measures have included working from home and renting out spaces for rehearsals only when needed. 

“We keep costs low and work from home (which the work-from-home pandemic measure has trained us well), except for rehearsals which we plan to rent but at a much reduced rate than what we’re forking out for now,” Tan said.

He later added: “If we need office space, it’s a room at an Ubi co-working space which amounts to $1k per month to house all of us. Imagine! No sinking fund, no electricity or water bills, Wifi is shared etc… Take out the third party all together. It’s time for a revolution so embrace rather than resist it.”

At least two other Singaporean institutions are losing their homes. The Intercultural Theatre Institute will have to move out from its home at Emily Hill after 13 years while indie arts center The Substation is also being forced out for renovations to its venue. It faces a return to more restricted spaces due to new arts housing schemes.

Tan is taking things in stride and encourages people to empathize with other struggling theatre companies and stay positive.

“We should do well to be conscious that if we’re affected, all other theatre companies and venues are too. So no need to whine,” he said.

“It will be a crying shame if we are unable to see the opportunities in the crisis to reimagine our existence. It is a matter of reframing. Despite all the oppression and/or obstacles we may face in life, there is nothing more liberating than how creativity aids us during crisis to move forward,” he added.

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