The 460-seat theater at the Royal University of Fine Arts was reopened to the public Thursday with speeches, religious ceremonies and several sparkling performances by students.
Princess Norodom Bopha Devi, the Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, said the theater is now the only one available to the public in Phnom Penh.
The university’s theater, on the north campus off Street 70 just west of the Japanese-Cambodian Friendship Bridge, was pressed into public use last year when the former Chaktomuk Theater was closed for renovations.
The $3.5 million repairs to the Chaktomuk have since been completed, but the public can’t use it. The theater is reserved for international conferences.
Last April, the university theater hosted performances of “Samritechak,” a Khmer classical dance telling the story of William Shakespeare’s “Othello.”
Shortly after that production, the Princess said, “a number of structural problems were discovered which halted all activities.’’ Performing arts students, with the help of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, raised funds for repairs.
Thursday’s ceremony featured blessings by five monks and an address by Teruo Jinna, Unesco’s cultural program specialist. He thanked Unesco’s Fred Frumberg for leading the fund-raising efforts, which gathered contributions from over 40 people in Phnom Penh’s expatriate community.
“Phnom Penh just doesn’t have enough performance space,” Jinna said, noting the university’s theater is booked for the Feb 17 opening of “A Wounded Life,” a modern Cambodian drama about the trafficking of women.
Scenes from the Khmer-language play were among the performances showcased Thursday, along with vivid folk dances, classical dance, an orchestra production and a short piano recital.
Officials said the theater could use another $50,000 in donations to help pay for additional repairs.