Claiming authenticity: theatre–state tensions
At a forum in the Substation some years ago, a senior civil servant mused over the local theatre community’s concerns over plans to build the mega arts center, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. The Singapore government, he stressed, was fully committed to raising the profile of the local arts community, and he could not understand why there was so much local resistance. One member of the audience, an artist, countered that while the arts community did what it did for arts’ sake, the government did what it did for the economy’s sake – and never the twain shall meet. Such responses from the arts community are typical and bound up in these assertions are several popular myths – that of the economically disinterested artist, the uncompromising and pragmatic state, and the unbridgeable gap between artist and authority. These myths have turned the relationship between the People’s Action Party (PAP) state and the local theatre community into a complex one fraught with tension.