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What You Don’t Know about Malaysia’s performing arts scene

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Not you personally, of course. Chances are, you are reading this because you already have an interest and background in the performing arts. So do the people sitting next to you in a dark theatre, waiting for the show to start.

Now, how about everyone else; those standing in line for popcorn at the cinema, or helping fill shopping malls at the weekend? How much do they know, or not know, about the performing arts scene in their own country?

This is what Lutraa, part-time investigative journalist and full-time teenager, set out to learn. Her target, the general public.  The locations; Berjaya Times Square, Selayang Mall, TESCO and her school.

Among those she surveyed were doctors, teachers, business people, and students. She also interviewed an admin assistant, a cleaner, a technician and two police officers, starting them all off with a simple question: “Do you enjoy live performances?”

What she discovered

The initial responses were encouraging, with nearly 60% answering “Yes”.

“What kind of performances?”

Again, a healthy mix. The most popular among people who chose only one genre were, in order; dance, comedy, theatre and music. More indicated that they enjoyed two or more. Even so, very few were able to give the name of a local performing artist they admired.  Instead they talked about venues or companies – The Temple of Fine Arts and Instant Café Theatre were both named more than once.

As for the ones who said they did not enjoy live performances, a great majority had never even been to one and the rest had not been in over five years. The last question Lutraa asked these people was: “If someone gave you a free ticket to a live performance, would you go?” Only 30% said yes. The rest: “No, it is very boring”, “No, too busy”, and simply “No.”

What it means

Statistically, not much, but then this was never meant to be a scientific study. Nor is it the first question. The importance, as I see it, was in the “Whys” and “Why nots” that came after the yes and no questions. Because one of the major challenges to those of us who do care about the performing arts is building audiences. In other words, making sure that as the number of performances increases, so does the number of people eager to buy tickets.

So continue what Lutraa started. As everyone you meet the same question and follow up with the whys and why nots. Share their answers in the comment section below. Start talking to your peers about reasons… and solutions.

 *Image: Belinda Hon and Azzad Mahdzir in threatrethreesixty’s phenomenal 2014 production of Angels in America. 

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Amy De Kanter
Amy De Kanter

Former Chief Editor, frequent contributor and enthusiastic audience member, Amy is thrilled to have a job that lets her do three of the things she loves most.