Faridah Merican: Catch Them Early, 'Act' Them Young


Faridah Merican: Catch Them Early, 'Act' Them Young

The grand dame of the Malaysian performing arts scene, Datuk Faridah Merican believes the current state of the industry has never been better. She shares her views on making the theatre and performing arts scene more progressive with AWANI Review.

"I believe the current state of performing arts in Malaysia has never been better,” so says Datuk Faridah Merican, the co-founder and Executive Producer of Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC)

The state of the local performing arts remains strong as the rise of pop culture swamps the arts landscape of Malaysia. Despite the harsh winds blowing in the direction of KLPAC, the arts still remains on seemingly sound footing.

Founders of KLPAC & Penangpac, Datuk Faridah Merican and Joe Hasham

Universally lauded as the First Lady of Malaysian theatre, Faridah co-founded both KLPAC and Performing Arts Centre of Penang (Penangpac) with artistic director and husband, Joe Hasham in 2003 and 2011 respectively.

Both KLPAC and Penangpac serve as sanctuaries for budding and veteran performers to further enhance their talent and promote the beauty of performing arts with daily showcases.

With the strong foundation of KLPAC and Penangpac, the current state of performing arts in Malaysia is much stronger than it was in the late 50s.

“The performing arts then was truly nothing to be proud of as there was hardly any ‘professional’ companies or groups who were constantly presenting performances to audiences,” Faridah says.

However as time goes by, the performing arts scene continues to flourish to what it is today thanks to the setting up of the first privately owned theatre venue in the country which became home to many performers and artists alike. 

Datuk Faridah Merican with Mark Phillips in ‘Big River’ directed by Pauline Farlong in 1998

Unfortunately almost all national schools are depriving our younger generation from being taught this very important creative aspect in their growing up years.

Faridah also stresses the role of education in developing a cultured nation.

"We are not enjoying the teaching of the different art forms such as music, dance and drama to our students," says Faridah.

Faridah also believes that the exposure of Arts to the next generation during their university and college years would be too late if we are to develop a nation that is `cultured’.

When asked about her resolution for 2018, Faridah's reply was short and concise.

"Better productions and bigger audiences!”

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