There’s a song by Death Cab For Cutie on one of my favourite albums, called ‘Transatlanticism’, which I first listened to when I was fifteen. It tells a story of two people - lovers, maybe - and how they are separated by a sudden flood, which grows and grows, until it becomes the Atlantic Ocean, leaving each person isolated on either side with no way to find each other. It’s a song about distance, about separation, about yearning, ending with Ben Gibbard futilely singing the line “I need you so much closer”, over and over, presumably across this infant ocean to his lover out of reach. I used to listen to it on the bus home from school, while thinking of my own imaginary distant lovers, and how awful it would be to truly be separated from any of them. It’s curious how a song changes colour after a pandemic.
Today, Panas Panas Theatre begins its journey as the world continues to reel from the events of the year. It feels absurd to start a theatre company now, with theatres not even open, and productions barely being feasible, as our communities groggily come to from their enforced slumber. In fact, it feels odd to write this post at all; firstly, because I rarely do write online, and secondly, because the idea of Panas Panas has existed for so long in my mind that I’d never thought of the need to “officially” announce it. What changed today was the realisation that it now exists in the minds of others, magically manifesting through clicks and shares. And with that comes the burden, possibly self-imposed, of answering the most obvious question - why now?
About a year ago, Hana Nadira, Ali Motamedi, Ariff Kamil and I began to meet regularly, not for any grand ambition of incorporating, but as a group of individuals who had worked in theatre for several years, still quite clueless as artists, still grappling with what a c*reer means, and really, just confused about the point of it all. Somehow, during the lockdown, I think we found what we were looking for.
Over the past few months, we’ve been extremely fortunate to continue working in “theatre” online, zoom reading plays we’d never previously known, meeting new friends from all over the world, collaborating, discussing, playing. It has, for me, shattered past needs of ‘space’ and emphasised that theatre, or art for that matter, is about ideas, and how they might touch us.
As the definition of ‘space’ becomes ever more nebulous, as it continues to dissolve into the inbetweens of our keyboards, Panas Panas Theatre hopes to first continue cultivating platforms - whether physical or online - that provide a place for people to critically engage with theatre works, with diverse ideas, and with other people.
As the performing arts begins to clamber up again, we want to be part of the conversation that helps imagine what the future holds for us and our communities. Panas Panas Theatre hopes to be here for the rebuild, to share ideas, to collaborate, to encourage new artists and new works, and to be there for when people are ready to come together again.
To friends new and old, to future collaborators, and to everyone else who will be there along the way - see you soon.