DO you know from March 5 onwards, you can go to the cinema and watch movies with friends? You can get your soft drinks, popcorn, sausages and chicken nuggets, and sit inside the air-conditioned closed space for a couple of hours.Do you know where you cannot go to watch shows? Performing arts centres.Do you know from March 5 onwards, you can visit zoos, farms and aquariums? You can take your time to walk around the indoor/outdoor space with friends and family and have a lovely outing time.Do you know where you cannot go for a lovely outing? Performing arts centres.Do you know from March 5 onwards, you can enjoy a good busking performance in cafes, food courts and malls? Yeah, you can order your food and beverages, relax in your seat, removing your mask to take a mouthful of nasi lemak, slurp your iced latte and enjoy a good dose of entertainment.Do you know where you cannot go for entertainment? Performing arts centres.Do you know from March 5 onwards, you can visit edutainment centres, adventure parks and nature parks for recreational activities? You can spend an hour or two with your social circle, unwind and enjoy your day.Do you know where you cannot go to unwind yourself? Performing arts centres.Do you know from March 5 onwards, you can go to wellness centres, spas, hair salons and even massage parlours? Never mind that the activities in these places pretty much require physical contact, because the authorities think it is safe.Do you know where you cannot go (although there is less or almost no physical contact at all)? Performing arts centres.Do you know from March 5 onwards, you can attend weddings and engagement ceremonies, anniversaries, reunions and even birthday parties? Yup, you can have a jolly good time at these parties and social gatherings, removing your masks whenever you feel like having a slice of cake or some dim sums.Do you know where you cannot go even if you have your masks on at all times? Performing arts centres.So what can you do in a performing arts centre, you may ask. Well according to the latest SOP announced by the National Security Council (NSC), you can do any events in a performing arts centre including music concerts, stage plays, comedy shows and cultural performances – as long as there is NO AUDIENCE.You read that right. While cinemas, zoos, busking shows, adventure parks, spas, massage parlours and birthday parties are allowed to have visitors/audience, the same rights are disallowed for a performing arts centre.Why? Well, no one seems to have an answer for that million dollar question.Mind bogglingAccording to the latest announcement of SOP for creative industries, the performing arts is categorised in the same box as animation, dramas and telemovies, commercials, documentaries, sitcoms and music production.All events, shows or live performances in the creative industry according to the SOP must be held without a live audience and with only 70% of the total number of management, artistes and crews. In other words, activities of performing arts are expected to be live streamed or pre-recorded.What NSC and the authorities are failing to understand is the fact that the performing arts industry is different from the film and TV industry. We do not have the expertise nor the equipment as our friends in the filming and broadcasting industry. Therefore it is absurd to place performing arts in the same box as the others.Performing arts industry depends on live performances with the audience. We cannot and must not be forced to put our shows on online platforms to compete with films and TV programmes, nor should we be forced to invest funds (which we do not have, mind you) to join the rat race. Performance without an audience with whatever SOP, does not help our industry, at all.The truth is, the NSC should not change the nature of any industries in its attempt to fight the pandemic. Instead it should assist in finding the best way to allow every industry to resume operation in a safe manner. I wish NSC would treat every industry equally since the focus should be about normalising our lifestyle with strict SOP and making efforts to save our economy.It is unacceptable to us to have our hands tied and denied from having live performances which is the core nature of our industry when we see leniency given to others who do not even take SOP seriously.During July 2020 to January 2021, when the Performing Arts Centre of Penang was allowed to have live performances and audience, in addition to the government SOP, we imposed our own strict SOP because we take this pandemic seriously. It is a shame that we end up being told to sit quietly in a corner in this battle against Covid-19. – March 4, 2021.* Fa Abdul is Performing Arts Centre of Penang marketing and publicity manager. * This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.
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