More than 250 artists from Battambang and Siem Reap provinces and Phnom Penh will put on four nights of performances ranging from folk dances to circus acts this week in the capital.
Taking place in front of the National Museum, the Phnom Penh Arts Festival will offer free shows from today through Sunday night, blending traditional and contemporary art forms.
“This is a festival done by the artists themselves,” said Mann Kosal, artistic director for Sovanna Phum Theater. “We want to show people in Phnom Penh that the arts are alive and well in Cambodia,” he said.
The artists are performing for free, and are just getting a meal and travel expenses in return, said festival director Jane Martin.
Starting each night between 5 pm and 6 pm, the program will include folk dances and Lakhaon Bassac opera by Ministry of Culture artists on Thursday, Lakhaon Yike musical theater by the Apsara Arts Association and folk dances, plus song and comedy acts, by the NGO Cambodian Living Arts on Friday. Saturday, the Battambang NGO Phare Ponleu Selpak will stage street theater and a play mixing dance and circus acts, and the Wat Bo troupe from Siem Reap will present shadow puppet theater by firelight.
The festival will end Sunday with a mixed-form show by Sovanna Phum, a dance version of a folk tale by Epic Arts, whose troupe includes physically-disabled performers, and street theatre by Phare.
The festival came out of discussions among artists two years ago, Martin said. Though King Norodom Sihamoni, the Culture Ministry and the municipality supported the project, getting permits and paperwork processed took a great deal of time, she said.
“We hope to make this an annual event in Phnom Penh,” said Kang Rithisal of the NGO Amrita Performing Arts.