: It is a huge challenge for Zaiton Md Desa in her new role as Istana Budaya director-general, especially when the country is fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic, where everything has to be conducted under under the new normal.
The Istana Budaya, or the Palace of Culture, is Malaysia's main venue for all types of theatre, including musical theatre, operetta, classical concerts and opera from local and international performances.
Since her appointment as Istana Budaya director general, effective July 1, Zaiton has put in place the necessary standard operating procedures (SOP) for all performances at the venue.
They include allowing only spectators who between 12 and 60 years of age, where those below the age of 12 and above 60 are barred from entering its performance hall; disinfection of the place to be carried out twice daily, which is before and after each performance, as well as the need for organisers to limit the performance to only one and a half hour.
"It is very challenging and the fact is, we are fighting something that has never happened before, not only in our country, but worldwide.
"So, when it involves the whole world, people will understand our actions and everybody knows their role," she told Bernama.
Realising the constraints for Istana Budaya to work with outside production companies, Zaiton said Istana Budaya took the initiative to produce its own programmes for the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) period.
These include the New Normal Concert, which was staged last July 17 and 18; traditional musical theatre (Oct 9 and 10); Lambang Sari Series (Aug 12, Oct 21 and Nov 11), Colours Of Malaysia (Sept 23 and Dec 16) and Siti in Fantasy World (Dec 18 to 24).
"We are also discussing to expand our activities to digital platforms. Like other agencies, Istana Budaya also needs to keep abreast with current development so as not to be left behind.
"In fact, when the Movement Control Order (MCO) was enforced, our dance artistes were actually involved in a shooting for the performance to be shown online via Instagram and Facebook," she added.
Zaition, who was born in Kuala Kurau, Perak, is determined to lift the level of traditional arts and also to prevent them from becoming extinct.
She said this had to be done to keep the country's heritage alive and to preserve them for future generation.
"Many traditional arts, such as Mek Mulung and Makyung, are being forgotten, especially by the young people, and I understand the challenge to attract them (young people) in our effort to promote (traditional) arts and culture.
"However, through this (social media) platform, it makes it easier to get the young people to watch traditional arts as they are also an attraction for tourists.
"Hence, the need for us to exalt traditional arts and culture so that they be preserved as national heritage," she added.
Zaiton said she would continue with efforts made by her predecessor, Datuk Mohamed Juhari Shaarani, in getting people of all ages and communities to come to Istana Budaya.
Among the initiatives made by Mohamed Juhari was to bring popular films to the theater, as well as -provide opportunities for big names in the entertainment industry to hold solo concerts at Istana Budaya.
"He (Mohamed Juhari) also used many new approaches that proved successful in attracting more people to come to Istana Budaya," she added.