Penang opens its own theatre by the sea

Photos from the signing ceremony between The Actors Studio and E&O, witnessed by Lim Guan Eng, Chief Minister of Penang, last year

While Malaysians were pregnant with expectation of an 11-11-11 dissolution of Parliament to pave way for the 13th general elections, Penangites of the artistic crowd were celebrating the northern region’s first performing arts centre.

Making the best of the year’s auspicious date, the Penangpac (Performing Arts Centre of Penang) threw open its doors at 11 minutes past 11 on Friday morning, followed by a gala opening officiated by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

The project is the result of an 18 month love affair between founding partners Eastern & Oriental Berhad and The Actors Studio, helmed by Malaysian Threatre ‘First’ Couple Faridah Merican and Joe Hasham.

During the gala launch, E&O Berhad deputy managing director Eric Chan described the project as a meeting of passions in art, theatre and hotel management between the former and two arts enthusiasts.

Naturally, the Penang arts and theatre activists were enthusiastic about the new project, but keen observers muse over how the ‘ordinary folks’ would get to enjoy the space when it is situated in one of the state’s top notch location, the Straits Quay.

Overlooking the Straits of Melaka, Penangpac houses two fully equiped threatres: Stage 1 – a proscenium theatre that seats 303 – and Stage 2 – an experimental black box theatre that seats 150.

There are also three studio spaces and two galleries for public use.

The idea was launched in October last year, and Joe heaped praises on Lim for keeping his promises to realise the dream.

Lim, during his speech, told the founders of PenangPac to keep the space alive as they are accountable to the Chief Minister.

The 22,000 sq ft space is an expensive project which has cost E&O RM8 million to build, while TAS maintained a financial interest in it, he said.

“Today, E&O has helped TAS realise their dream of establishing itself in Penang with a special gift through the realisation of PenangPac,” said Lim, at the event held at the Straits Quay Convention Centre.

“This venue we are gathered in today is not just a building. It is a space where the Penang and E&O story will continue,” he added.

Lim commended Chan and E&O managing director Terry Tham, who is currently overseas, for their “forward thinking and socially responsible team” for playing a role to preserve Penang’s heritage and advancing the arts.

He welcomed other companies in Penang to follow suit and pledge their support for a non-profit organisation like Penangpac.

“We hope to see new talents bursting forth. We believe the talented people of Penang are just waiting to showcase their talents,” he added.

During the gala night, guests were entertained by performances from Hands Percussion, indicinelive, Last Five Years the Musical (excerpt), Nyonya Kan and The Tony Yap Company.

And knowing how Malaysians love all things free, Penangpac will be holding performance FOC for November and December. Just click here to go to the schedule: http://www.penangpac.org/