ARTERI’s long list of most influential people in 2017
2017 looks grim for the performing arts. How could it not be, when much better funded areas are tightening their belts?
If the performing arts survive, and they will, it will be thanks to remarkable individuals who have kept the scene going and growing through far worse. Here, in no particular order, is the list of thousands to pin your hopes on in the coming year.
The veterans – Fighting for the performing arts in Malaysia ages you. It does. It’s a struggle up a slippery slope in the middle of a landslide-inducing thunderstorm. And yet there are people who have stuck with it for more than a decade or two or three, pushing on while others move away, sell out or give up. Their steps cut footholds making the climb easier for those who follow.
The newcomers – Often students, recent graduates or leap-takers and bless them, every one. In an industry where it’s easy to become discouraged, they provide regular infusions of energy and bright-eyed idealism.
The creators – The composers, choreographers, playwrights and designers who carve new grooves in recorded cultural history, inviting performers and audiences to be a part of it.
The unseen majority – In most shows, the people you see are outnumbered by the people you don’t. Producers who wear their knuckles bloody knocking on doors to assemble funds and people for the production to go ahead. Directors who drive, inspire and bring out the best of their performers. Stage managers who lead in ensuring safety and quality performance after performance. Then there are the designers, technicians, managers, stage hands, front-of-house…. Together they create and maintain that little world for performers and audiences to inhabit.
The full-timers – Whether by sacrifice, courage, hard work or luck, those in this teeny-tiny minority devote their full time and energy to their craft. Their dedication pays off; these are the ones who become the performing arts scene’s professionals, leaders and experts.
The part-timers – They have jobs in other fields. Something with a regular salary and medical coverage. It’s impossible for them to give up their source of steady income, but even more impossible-er to give up their dream. On weekdays they work to survive in society. Evenings, weekends and annual leaves belong to their soul.
*Shout out here to understanding, flexible employers, who don’t stand between their artist-employees and rehearsals, classes and performances. Join your place on this list.
The teachers and mentors – Those generous souls who prevent old mistakes from being repeated, arming a new generation with skills, opportunities, knowledge, self-awareness and confidence.
The visionaries – The big picture people who see the arts scene as a whole and work to support it as such. They push for changes in policy, for government funding, better representation and making the performing arts part of the school curriculum. They spend their time network, make introductions and choose their battles carefully. With both likely and unlikely allies they strengthen the position of the arts on the national agenda.
The funders – Supporters big and small. Those who hand over the big cheques, and those who participate in crowdfunding. Shops that donate props, costumes, door gifts or items for auction. Restaurants that feed the cast and crew during rehearsals or offer a discounts to anyone who presents their ticket.
The space cadets – Everyone who opens up their theatre, studio, cafe, shopping centre, empty shop lot and even home to artists. Those who organize festivals, arts markets and other events, indoor and out, family or corporate, making certain to reserve a space for performance.
Promoters – Critics, columnists, reporters and netizens who not only alert followers to what’s playing, but encourage deeper understanding of a performance.
Audiences – Everyone who buys a ticket, brings a friend – or many – or sits alone. Everyone who elbows the person next to them for checking their handphone. Everyone who gives performers his or her full, respectful and appreciative attention, who claps loudly, who spreads the word.
Partners and family members – Those who offer financial and emotional support. The arts can take a heavy toll in both. At such times a meal, a shoulder or an encouraging word makes all the difference.
You will have recognised yourself, perhaps more than once, among these integral players. The important thing, though, is to recognise everyone else on the list as well. That’s when it becomes obvious that there are more than enough droplets in the performing arts scene to make a wave. And 2017 starts looking a whole lot better.
Did I miss anyone? If so, help me rectify the oversight in the comment section below. Happy New Year.