Sovanna Phum Theater Faces Financial Woes

One of Cambodia’s only fine arts theaters, which has been staging original productions every week for 12 years, is facing a financial crisis that may force it to close its doors.

“For the first time, there is no money in the safe,” said Delphine Kassem, founder of Sovan­na Phum Theater on Phnom Penh’s Street 360. “We have not been able to pay salaries for April.”

Sovanna Phum is an association of about 120 artists—solely supported through ticket sales and contracted tours. The shows, which change weekly, cost about $3,000 per month to stage, and ticket sales cover about 30 to 40 percent of the expenses, said Artistic Director Mann Kosal.

In previous years, organizations have contracted Sovanna Phum to tour the country with performances on issues such as HIV/AIDS awareness. This year, there was no tour contracted, said Kassem.

In a fundraising effort, the theater staged a special performance combining masked theater and shadow puppets on Thursday and Friday, with a final performance slated for tonight at 7:30 pm.

In Cambodia’s art world, Sov­anna Phum plays a unique role, said Kang Rithisal, project coordinator for the NGO Amrita Performing Arts. With the Bassac Theater’s pro­m­ised renovation still to come, and the cost of renting Chakto­muk and Chenla theaters high, Sovanna Phum is one of the rare possible venues, he said.

Last November, the UN Edu­cational, Scientific and Cultural Or­ganization declared Cam­bodian shadow puppetry a world masterpiece.

Sovanna Phum is one of only four groups that perform it in Cambodia.

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