The Singapore Arts Festival celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2007, an appropriate milestone for taking stock of the country’s premiere cultural event. Under the leadership of Goh Ching Lee since 1999, the festival has sought to carve out a distinctive identity that is Asian and cuttingedge, while providing a model for other arts festivals in the region. By programming international work and commissioning Singaporean work that is slick, glossy, and easily transferable across cultural and geographic boundaries, the festival may be pointing toward a future in which the work circulating at international festivals assumes a form and content that is, in the words of George Ritzer (2007), increasingly “grobal,” that is to say global and accessible, but increasingly devoid of content and removed from any concrete or stable cultural, political, or social context.
William Peterson is a senior lecturer and director of the Centre for Drama and Theatre Studies at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of Theatre and the Politics of Culture in Contemporary Singapore (Wesleyan University Press, 2001) and has published widely on theatre, politics, and religion in Singapore, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and the Philippines.