Arts Preview Singapore

Esplanade – Theatres on The Bay celebrates twenty years…and beyond

Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, Singapore’s national performing arts centre, marks the last of its teen years as it turns 19 on 12 Oct 2021. In anticipation of the centre’s 20th anniversary, Esplanade is pleased to share more about its upcoming plans and activities for 2022.

Said Ms Yvonne Tham, CEO, The Esplanade Co Ltd: “Esplanade’s architecture—while resembling durians to some—was not designed with the fruit in mind. It was meant to express the idea of lanterns on the Bayfront. The image of a lantern is a poetic symbol of hope, and in some Asian traditions, lanterns carry our wishes and desires for love or peace and sometimes our grief and loss. Light also represents purity, renewal, truth and hope

“In 2022, the world will hopefully be emerging from the trials of COVID-19 with new norms in our work, lifestyles and mobility,” she adds. “The pandemic has brought into sharper focus the crises societies are facing in these areas, and asks fundamental questions on how we, as individuals, choose to live; how our choices shape culture, or vice versa; and ultimately what is the future we desire. Questions of such nature have always been asked by artists.”

“But the arts have not only posed difficult questions, the arts also provide a safe space to encounter different perspectives, explore new ideas, or to simply imagine, reflect, and connect. As we look ahead to our 20th anniversary in 2022, Esplanade will give focus to how artists and the arts can provide healing, community, joy, and inspiration for the present, in ways that may also illuminate our future.”

– Yvonne Tham, CEO, The Esplanade Co Ltd

Come 2022, the Esplanade’s 20th anniversary celebrations will see a swathe of highlights to look forward to, with the launch of new physical and digital spaces. Accompanying the opening of the Singtel Waterfront Theatre—a medium-sized multi-format venue—is a fresh new look for the Esplanade Mall and the landscape along the Esplanade Waterfront. The revamped landscape will see better event spaces for activities, new green spaces and urban furniture for people to linger and enjoy the Marina Bay waterfront, as well as more attractive F&B kiosks and offerings.

The opening of the Singtel Waterfront Theatre in October 2022 will be marked with new Singapore and Asian works pointing to the future of what is artistically possible, held at the Singtel Waterfront Theatre and other venues in Esplanade. These include the newly commissioned Kingdoms Apart, where Chong Tze Chien reimagines The Mahabharata; Ratam where music producer Safuan Johari leads Rizman Putra of NADA, visual artist Brandon Tay, lighting designer Andy Lim, and other prominent musicians to create an audio-visual experiential work that brings adventurous audiences into the theatre; and A Stream of Memory, as Indonesia’s Papermoon Puppet Theatre performs a non-verbal performance about environmental damage and climate change.

The Esplanade’s da:ns festival and The Studios will also evolve from an annual format into various seasons presented throughout the year, starting from 2023. Dance and theatre presentations will have their own new respective seasons, each with thematic focuses and featuring international and local productions. 2022 will therefore be the last editions of da:ns festival and The Studios in its current formats, and will be featured throughout the year, making full use of the new venues and opportunities afforded.

The Esplanade will run the inaugural edition of its Contemporary Performing Arts Research Residency from April to June 2022, where 10 residents of varying disciplines will reside in Esplanade and conduct artistic research under the theme of “Potential Territorialities: Body, Space and Identity in Performance”. To develop mentorship opportunities for the next generation of performing arts producers from Asia, Esplanade continues its second year of partnership on Asia Connection: Producers Camp 2022, in partnership with National Theater & Concert Hall (Taiwan), the National Theatre of Korea and the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre. From 19th to 21st October 2022, Esplanade will also host the 25th Conference of the Association of Asia Pacific Performing Arts Centres (AAPPAC), with the theme “Future Forward”. The hybrid conference will take place at Esplanade as well as in the digital space, bringing together arts centres and arts managers from around the region to discuss creative thought leadership, interdisciplinarity, social engagement and sustainability for now and the future.

Following the pandemic, the Esplanade has been researching the viability of the online space, and will have digital components in all its festivals and series, from supporting artists and creative technologists to develop work together which cuts across both live and digital, to commissioning new works and projects specially for the digital space. Esplanade Offstage will continue to be developed into a go-to digital platform and reference point for the arts in Singapore and Asia for general audiences, the young, their educators and caregivers, and researchers. A new Esplanade website will be launched in 2022, and aims to spark the joy of discovery of the arts and deepen arts appreciation. Esplanade will also deepen its efforts to make the arts accessible to people of different ages and abilities, anytime and anywhere, while also featuring Esplanade Mall Online, connecting users with all F&B and retail outlets at the mall and offering services such as delivery, self-pick-up as well as pre-order and reservations for dining-in.

In looking to the future, Esplanade also looks at the young and their need for imagination, empathy and creativity as they encounter a complex world. Look out for PopLore – A Year of Singapore Popular Music. Taking place for the entirety of 2022, watch as the Esplanade explores Singapore’s popular music from the 1960s to the present, through a series of 10 live concerts celebrating our made-in-Singapore music. Not only that, but the Esplanade will also be releasing podcasts, videos and an exhibition at Esplanade on the various cultural forces, producers and venues which shaped the scene.

Esplanade’s Feed Your Imagination series for schools and March On, its children-centric festival which debuted in 2021, will continue to feature issue-based works that support learning and education. March On’s second edition will return in 2022 with more collaborative programmes involving children, their caregivers, and artists. Committed to developing artists and expanding collaborative efforts in spite of travel restrictions, Esplanade and Polyglot Theatre (Australia) will continue to co-develop LINK, a work born out of remote collaborations and creative processes, as artists from both countries continue to work with children respectively to create a new work to be presented in 2023.

At the heart of Esplanade’s vision to be a centre for everyone, through accessibility to programmes. In 2022, Esplanade will be introducing new ways, in partnership with both artists and social service agencies, for the centre and its programmes to be more readily accessible and inclusive for people of different abilities, including people with dementia and people with autism. More about Esplanade’s accessibility initiatives for the arts will be announced at a later date.

As a charity and not-for-profit organisation, Esplanade continues to rely on public funding and donations to help fulfil its social mission to bring the arts to everyone. The centre hopes to raise another $800,000 to put the finishing touches on the Singtel Waterfront Theatre and it welcomes arts lovers, philanthropists and companies to make a lasting contribution to the arts through its Gift a Seat and Adopt a Space initiatives for the Singtel Waterfront Theatre. For more information, please email

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