New Theatre Complex to Come to Singapore Esplanade –Theatres on the Bay

Model of Singapore city with Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay being located in the upper corner left

As Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay turns 15 in 2017, Singapore national performing arts centre will be adding a new venue, enabling it to create more unique Singapore stories and shared experiences for society through the arts.

To be completed in 2021, the new building situated along the Esplanade Waterfront will feature a flexible theatre which can seat about 550 people and an outdoor activities plaza integrated with popular dining outlets at the Esplanade Annexe. This waterfront theatre hopes to inspire Singapore young and nurture the next generation of artists, by commissioning and producing more new works by Singapore artists and companies. Smaller local theatre troups have complained for a long time not to benefit of a proper stage with reasonable sitting capacities.

Benson Puah, CEO, The Esplanade Co Ltd said, “Fourteen years since we opened and we are now bursting at the seams! We have programmes all year round, serving a very broad spectrum of our diverse communities, collaborating with as many Singapore artists and organisations as possible. There is much more that we can do but we have literally run out of space.  As we approach our 15th year, we are endeavouring to build this waterfront theatre that will enable more people, especially our young, to learn and bond through the arts. With this new venue, we will focus on creating even more made-in-Singapore works that will, hopefully, become the stories, music, movements or even traditional art forms, that the next generation of Singaporeans will hold dear. In the process, we will continue to develop local capabilities and talent, and tap on our regional and international networks to take some of these artists and works overseas.”

When Esplanade was first mooted in the 1990s, it was originally conceived as a much larger arts complex which included two large and three medium to small venues. However, the decision was made then, that the large spaces – the Theatre and Concert Hall – were to be built first in Phase One, with rehearsal spaces and the three medium-sized theatres in Phase Two. While Esplanade managed to convert the two rehearsal spaces during Phase One to two small Studios alongside the large Concert Hall and Theatre, it is still lacking its medium-sized venues that seat between 500 to 1,000 people and for which a majority of new works created in Singapore and internationally are best suited.

While the development of Phase Two is not viable amidst the current economic climate, Esplanade will build a 550-seat theatre to meet the more immediate needs of the Singapore arts community, as well as the schools and communities served through its programmes. The new theatre will be located within Esplanade’s existing site, along the waterfront as part of the Esplanade Annexe.

The theatre will cost an estimated S$30 million to build. To complete this project, Esplanade will need to raise and secure funds of $30 million, of which its parent Ministry, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth has committed to kick-start this effort with the first S$10 million contribution.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu, said, “We will be adding a new 550-seat waterfront theatre to Esplanade. Over the past 14 years, Esplanade has truly developed into a national arts centre that belongs to all Singaporeans and is loved by all. This new waterfront theatre will meet the needs of our theatre companies and community arts groups that often require a smaller venue to showcase their works. We look forward to Esplanade enlarging the space for Singaporean content and talent to emerge, as well as enriching our arts and culture scene.”

Esplanade will be calling for interested Project Consultants to submit their design proposals for Esplanade’s new waterfront theatre later this year. Construction of the new venue will commence in 2019, and the venue will be operational by 2021. Esplanade has convened a fundraising taskforce chaired by board member Dr Ming Tan, and comprising other members of the arts centre’s board of directors.