I became a supporter of the Singapore Repertory Theatre during COVID-19. Here’s why you should, too.
The energy in the theatre was palpable. Last week, separated safely and flanked by candle-lit side tables, we took our seats in the stalls with great anticipation. This was our first night out at the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) – or indeed, any live performance – since February.
From March until November 2020, the SRT – along with thousands of other arts institutions worldwide – shut their doors due to COVID-19. The staff, performers, administrators, writers, artists and crew who rely on stage performances and education programmes to keep the institution alive, were instead at home, waiting patiently for news of re-opening permission. Eight months later that news came, and it was curtain-up for a wonderful production of Tuesdays with Morrie. In the intervening period, the SRT managed to keep their staff and crew employed and compensated and brought us delightful original online work such as Silver Linings and The Pitch.
It was also during the circuit breaker, in June 2020, that I became a first-time Friend of the SRT.
Why did I decide to support the SRT at a time when there were no shows, priority tickets or exclusive backstage experiences to enjoy? And why – with so many people and organisations in need – would I choose to give money to the theatre?
It’s because the arts matter. The SRT matters. Especially now. Here’s why:
Behind the productions are human beings who need our support. These are the administrators, performers, freelancers, creatives and technical teams that bring the theatre to life. With no ticket sales or corporate programmes, they are at high risk of being out of work, and out of a paycheck. Supporting these individuals’ livelihoods is vital – they are people like you and me with families to provide for – and the philanthropic generosity of Friends of the SRT enables their security.
Enhanced professional and life skills.Forbes cites the benefits of participating in live theatre such as teamwork, collaboration, accepting feedback, and innovation – and highlights how these skills are particularly valuable in start-ups.
Teaching children the right lessons. Live theatre enhances literary knowledge, tolerance, and empathy among students, according to a study cited in Science Daily.
Deepening our understanding of humanity. Theatre helps us understand people other than ourselves: hearing their stories, seeing their performance traditions, immersing ourselves in their tensions and joys. Human beings are the only animal species that creates theatre. Understanding theatre helps us understand what it means to be human.
Deepening our understanding of our community. Summarised beautifully by the Singapore National Arts Council: The value of the arts is immense and multi-layered. By engaging with the arts, our workforce and communities will have access to opportunities to nurture empathy and be stirred to explore their own abilities to create and innovate. It builds the next generation of all-rounded and creative thinkers and provides people with a balanced voice to help shape the future. The arts also capture our memories and stories, playing its part in building upon the unique identity and spirit of all who live in Singapore.
Deepening our understanding of ourselves. During a performance, we’re shown humanity, psychology, motivations, conflict and resolution. We find ourselves laughing, crying, being moved, even sometimes being bored. Psychology Today argues that through this experience we learn what we value, what makes us laugh, what makes us angry, and what we love. Observing our own reactions in the moment gives us insight into who and how we really are.
Escapism, especially during difficult times. Theatre is multi-sensory and highly communicative, bringing together literary, visual and audio elements that create an immersive and engaging experience that is unlike any other art form. Audiences can be transported into another reality, another dimension and encounter something which they would not in daily life. And at times 2020, this is just what we need.
Last week, when the lights dimmed, the curtain rose and actors strode onstage, I reconnected to why I feel that theatre is critical now…
Theatre reminds us that we are not alone. Not only are we sharing space and an experience with the artists who are performing, we are sharing the experience with fellow audience members, live and in the moment. Our daily Zoom calls, films and TV shows don’t have the same intimacy or sense of participation. Sharing an experience with others is not only valuable, it’s necessary for human connection.
And in these difficult and uncertain times, the human connection is what truly matters.