SIFA 2019: Local commissioned works to take centre stage at arts festival

Wong Casandra
Senior Reporter
Displaced Persons’ Welcome Dinner, a commissioned local production on the aid industry for SIFA 2019. (PHOTO: Joel Lim/Calibre Pictures via Checkpoint Theatre)

Festival-goers attending this year’s Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) can expect more local commissioned works and a sneak peek at 2020’s edition.

The 2019 festival will showcase three commissioned local productions, up from one in 2018, as well as talks by local artists – including The Necessary Stage and The Finger Players – who would share the creative processes behind their works for SIFA 2020.

This is part of the SIFA’s aim to cultivate new Singaporean works as well as to give local artists time and resources to push their artistic boundaries over an extended period of time, said festival director Gaurav Kripalani at its unveiling held at The Arts House on Monday (25 February).

“I identified artists who are at the pinnacle of their field in Singapore. I asked them what their dream project would be, and how the SIFA can make it happen…we chose the ones…that cater to our diverse audience over a three-year horizon,” added Kripalani, who took over from his predecessor Ong Keng Sen last year.

The 42nd edition of SIFA will showcase “four of the best Singaporean artists” – Checkpoint Theatre’s joint artistic directors Huzir Sulaiman and Claire Wong, visual artist Ho Tzu Nyen, Toy Factory’s chief artistic director Goh Boon Teck – who were commissioned to create the productions.

These are Displaced Persons’ Welcome Dinner, a multidisciplinary theatrical production on the aid industry; The Mysterious Lai Teck, a partially fictional re-telling of the life of a leader of the Malayan Communist Party; and A Dream Under the Southern Bough: Reverie, the second installment of a three-part series adapted from 16th-century’s playwright Tang Xianzu’s work of the same name, respectively.

Low Eng Teong, assistant CEO for sector development in the National Arts Council (NAC), called the festival “an important platform championing the best of Singaporean performing arts”.

“In Our SG Arts Plan launched last October, the festival is recognised as a focal point for the performing arts in Singapore’s vibrant cultural calendar, where our home-grown artists present distinctive content that will resonate with our audiences,” he added.

Commissioned by the NAC and organised by Arts House Limited, the festival will showcase over 40 productions, talks, and workshops by both local and international artists.

It will run from 16 May to 2 June at various locations, including the Arts House, Esplanade, Victoria Theatre, and Drama Centre. More events are set to be added to the line-up in the days leading to the festival, said organisers.

Marking their Singapore debut at the three-week festival are musical icons Ryuichi Sakamoto and Bill Frisell as well as renowned choreographer Sasha Waltz.

“The SIFA’s programming captures Singapore’s creativity and innovation, positioning the festival not just as the pinnacle arts event on the local stage, but as a distinguished arts festival at a global level,” said Arts House Limited’s chief executive officer Sarah Martin.

Tickets for Ryuichi Sakamoto – fragments, a collaborative concert with founder of Japanese artist collective Dumb Type Shiro Takatani, have sold out but more may be added for purchase, said organisers.

Students can continue to purchase $10 tickets for front row seats of selected shows at this year’s festival. 85 per cent of seats under this initiative were snapped up during its launch year in 2018.

Last year’s SIFA saw over 55,000 festival-goers attending over 50 events across 17 days.

Tickets are available at, SISTIC outlets and via their hotline. 

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