Theater Scene Getting Facelift

Used to be, theater-lovers in Phnom Penh knew they’d be spend­­ing their nights at either the Cha­k­­tomuk or the Bassac theaters.

But that was before the Bassac burned down, and the Chak­tomuk was transformed into a luxurious conference center, too nice to be used on a daily basis.

These days, the only big theater in town is the auditorium at the Royal University of Fine Arts’ north campus on Street 70.

“We hope, someday, to be able to rebuild the Bassac, and the Chak­tomuk is beautiful, but it will only be used for very special events and conferences,” said Fred Frumberg of the UN Edu­cational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Until then, he said, “People need to realize, [the RUFA auditorium] is the only theater in town.”

In the spring of 2000, Frum­berg was working at the university theater on “Samritechak,” a Cam­bodian classical dance telling the story of William Shakes­peare’s “Othello.”

“Samritechak” was shifted to RUFA because the Chaktomuk was still being renovated, and a number of structural problems came to light. Frumberg laun­ched first a personal fund-raising campaign, collecting about $6,000 from friends and acquaintances in Phnom Penh. Since then, Un­esco has donated “well over $20,000,” he said, while substantial a­mounts­ came from both the Kasu­­misou Foundation and Mobi­Tel.

The donations have provided a new lighting and sound system, new seats (the old seats from the Chaktomuk, recycled), new fans for the auditorium and backstage areas, repairs to the generator, new toilets for theater-goers, new doors and fresh paint. The theater’s capacity has also been expanded from 460 seats to 575.

The shows at the theater are part of the MobiTel Performing Arts Series. Up­com­ing performances include the classical dance “Kray Thong” Satur­day and Sunday, Lakhaon Bassac “Sang Selchey” July 7 and July 8, a Khmer circus and folk dance July 14 and July 15, Lakhaon Yike “Neang Padacha” July 21 and July 22 and classical dance and Lak­haon Khaol, July 28 and July 29.



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