Hong Kong is a city with a diverse artistic history and stands as a point where tradition meets modernity. Theater and performance arts have always been popular in Hong Kong. It is proposed that with the opening of the East Kowloon Cultural Centre (EKCC) in 2023, a state-of-the-art facility for performing arts and technology, a festival is to be held. The Hong Kong Theater Art Technology Festival is a large-scale event sponsored by both government and private companies meant to demonstrate the latest breakthroughs in theater arts tech while presenting an opportunity to educate the public about it and present the latest trends in theater arts through performances and demonstrations. The festival will have various activities for all ages and levels of interest, ranging from professionals exchanging ideas to public tours and performance exchanges to educational workshops and lectures for those interested in entering the industry. Detailed festival composition and event development proposal are presented. The environment is then discussed regarding how the festival meets public and private sector priorities for arts technology development, creating an environment conducive to the development of diverse and local arts, community art participation, and creating a sustainable tourism destination event for Hong Kong. The event was then discussed from the perspectives of cultural, economic, social, and sustainability impacts it may have. Overall, the proposal is justified to host the Hong Kong Theater Art Technology Festival as it presents a key opportunity for the city to fulfill its objectives and potential goals in regard to arts and technology development.
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Hong Kong has long been a unique city-state where traditional art mixes with the modernity of technology and intersects with cultural foundations. Performing arts, which encompasses dance, theater, and music performed in a traditional stage setting, is one of the leading pastimes in megapolis. One of the unique perspectives that makes modern performances stand out and become more inclusive is the use of innovative technology. New tools are revolutionizing theater arts both in education and performance. Practically every aspect of modern theater production utilizes technology, ranging from sophisticated digital lighting, and video projection to prop or set design and sound modification. The audience experiences a performance with all senses, seeing, hearing, and feeling. New digital, audio, and projector technologies are allowing to enrich the audience experience and can contribute to taking live productions to a whole new level in terms of quality, clarity, and effects so that each performance is an emotional and unforgettable sensory event (Masura, 2020). The theater has always been a medium that offers commentary on life. The very foundation of and historical development of theatrical arts has been to embrace contemporary motifs. Theatrical arts are embracing modern technology as a means to remain a relevant and popular medium of art as public entertainment.
This proposal will focus on the fictional event of the Hong Kong Theater Art Technology Festival to be held in 2023. The event is meant to provide sustainable training and growth in the theater arts industry, serving as both an exhibition of the latest technologies and practical applications of technology in contemporary theater via professional and amateur performances. The event will meet public policy goals in support of the development of art technology, creating an environment conducive to the development of diverse and local arts, and building a sustainable tourism destination to enrich the art scene in Hong Kong. The festival proposed is one of a kind and there are no alternatives in Hong Kong at this level of event development and expected scale for participation and influence.
Background of Event
The Hong Kong Theater Art Technology Festival will be held for two weeks in June of 2023. The venue chosen is the East Kowloon Cultural Centre (EKCC), currently under construction and planned to be finished by the summer of 2023. The festival will be the inaugural event for the EKCC, built under the approval of the local government as a community and cultural hub across 5 Hong Kong districts. The EKCC is expected to have various sizes of theaters, including the centerpiece 1200-seat auditorium. Furthermore, it is built with the integration of the latest technologies and future-proof possibilities for theater art, including holograms, 3-D projection mapping, and immersive audio and video virtual reality (Tsui, 2021).
The venue selection is intentional as it is a perfect match for the festival’s intentions and planned programs as well as its representation as the future of Hong Kong’s theater and cultural scene. According to Getz & Page (2016), planned events occupy and transform spaces for the duration of the experience. However, this allows for events to be intrinsical to be linked to the setting and community. The EKCC is being constructed not far from an area that was once a popular art and theater scene in Hong Kong. It is part of the government’s initiative in support of the arts to create this facility as a hub that will attract both professional and amateur theater linked strongly within the roots of the community. The festival is the initial event to attract attention and solidify the link that the event and the venue may have going forward as the future centerpiece of theater arts technology in Hong Kong.
The purpose of the Hong Kong Theater Art Technology Festival can be categorized in four primary sections:
- Capacity development – It is the aim of the festival mission to offer sustainable training for the arts as well as provide a space where theater arts can be maximized to their full potential through the use of technology. Professionals can support the development and enhance their craft to help artistic talent flourish; this includes both performers as well as directors, producers, and the myriad of technical staff that is involved in modern theater productions. However, the Festival seeks to connect with local community roots, so amateur groups will also be encouraged to participate and take advantage to learn and develop with the professional technical staff working at the EKCC to elevate their productions.
- Content development – As a pioneering project in Hong Kong, the Festival is expected to garner significant local and international interest. Theater groups and productions of various levels ranging from professional to amateur are expected to apply for participation and prepare diligently. With the use of the presented technological capabilities of EKCC, it is expected that much innovative and ground-breaking content may be developed in the context of this event or with influences inspired/learned from it.
- Audience building/tourist attraction – The connection with local theater practitioners as well as the general public is central to the festival, with the aim to increase theater arts interest and participation. It also provides a cultural perspective on the development of Theater and Technical Arts in Hong Kong for locals and international tourists. The festival is meant to heavily build interest in the industry and serve as the attraction point for tourism to Hong Kong’s cultural centerpiece.
- Arts education – As part of local and city-wide initiatives to increase arts education and cultural awareness discussed later, the festival will provide various forms and mediums of theater arts instruction, both in performance and technical/technological aspects. Lectures, tours, exhibitions, and workshops are some means that the public will be provided with learning experiences about theater arts at the festival.
Event Development Proposal
The true meaning of a festival as an event represents a rich and diverse experience that provides knowledge about culture and the local community. Festivals are composed of multiple events, and many are usually associated with fundamental traditions (Getz & Page, 2016). This event development proposal presents a program for the first annual Hong Kong Theater Art Technology Festival.
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The facility where the festival is planned will be a state-of-the-art performance and cultural center. Guided tours will be provided, with the involvement of artists and producers to explain how stage design is implemented in performances. The public will be able to see the potential that the EKCC offers and the impact it can have on Hong Kong during and after the festival.
Stage Design and Technology Exhibition
The exhibition will showcase the most innovative and forward-thinking elements of stage design and theater arts technology. Similar to a museum exhibition, this will involve informational and demonstrational elements that seek to teach the audience about theater from multiple perspectives, including the creative, the production, and the technical aspects that go into each complex performance. The exhibition will promote both local and international breakthroughs in stage design and technologies,
The festival will feature several performances by local and international groups to demonstrate the leading talent and cultural emphasis of modern theater art. It is meant to promote theater arts as a universal profession that offers unique insight into local cultures and the storytelling capabilities that this discipline has held since its early beginnings in Ancient Greece. Audiences will hope to enjoy performances and see practical applications of the latest developments in theater art tech from around the world.
Lectures led by academics and industry professionals from different backgrounds using various media as themes. These are meant to discuss how contemporary theatre arts and technology intertwine to create new perspectives and visions. The purpose of the lectures is to educate and promote stage design and technology.
These are science, art, and technology hands-on workshops offered to the public, with an aim toward undergraduate and secondary school students. Through interactive workshops led by industry professionals, participants can learn about the subject of theater art and technology up close, experiment, and have a chance to ask questions with the potential that they may choose arts as a profession.
Discussion of Environment
According to Getz and Page (2016), a festival is a recurrent social occasion that consists of multiplicity and series of coordinated events where community members can participate directly or indirectly united under common themes such as culture, religion, history, and shared worldview, and others. It is also important to highlight that the social aspect and the symbolic meaning of the festival are representative of values that are recognized by the community and attendees and related to its social identity or historical continuity (Gets & Page, 2016).
The festival is aimed to meet several public policy goals and sector priorities, including the support of the development of art technology, creating an environment conducive to the development of diverse and local arts, and building a sustainable tourism destination to enrich the art scene in Hong Kong. As part of the 2020 Policy Address, the Chief Executive indicated that the government would actively promote and support the developments of art technology, an organic integration between arts and technology that brings benefits to both sectors and enhances Hong Kong’s standing as an international artistic power. More than $100 million has been set aside from the Home Bureau Affairs, Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB), and Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB) (Home Affairs Bureau, 2020).
Furthermore, in May 2021, the Legislative Council Panel on Home Affairs affirmed the support of the government for the development of art technology in Hong Kong. Their policy objectives are to create an environment that is conducive to the diversified creation and development of arts and culture. The council recognizes that innovation and technology is a major elements of art, particularly in theater arts and contemporary performances. Not only is dedicating a specialized task force that strategizes on the development of the arts but also sets up funding arts initiatives/projects, including that of large-scale events that the festival represents (Legislative Council Panel on Home Affairs, 2021).
Similarly, the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (n.d.) has a commitment to the diversified development of arts in an environment that is meant to support local artists and projects. One of their key missions is promotion and participation by hosting large-scale art events that engage multiple sectors of the community and bring art into the spotlight, not only for industry professionals but for society as well. To achieve progress in art development, the Council proposes maintaining close ties with Mainland and international arts communities, potentially offering opportunities for exchange. Furthermore, exploration of social resources alongside research and planning can provide data regarding perceptions about Hong Kong’s art scene, the status quo of the art community, and the willingness of the public to partake or intake these arts.
The Hong Kong government as well as private and arts organizations, are determined to utilize culture and arts as a driving tourism initiative. The city’s history and modern society, which offers a unique combination of art, culture, modernism, and technology, place it as highly favorable for tourism exploration. As an international destination, Hong Kong can attract performing arts from regional China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia, but the city-state’s close ties to Canada and the UK also draw Western influences and performers. Therefore, the cultural scene set in Hong Kong is extraordinarily diverse and serves as a natural attraction to tourism that the government is seeking to nurture (Business Wire, 2019).
However, it should also be considered that the Chinese Communist Party has been cracking down across various mediums, including show business and performance arts. Due to the controversial 2019 law, China has gained significant influence and control in Hong Kong. This year in 2021 saw crackdowns, often without warning, as China seeks to dictate the sociocultural environment in all its areas of control and implement a level of censure (Crossley, 2021). While theater arts has not been touched significantly, especially government-sponsored projects, China is attempting to shun artists who take an unfavorable political stance and demonstrate as such through performances or styles. Any location or event hosting domestic or international performance groups, regardless of artistic or cultural value, would be at-risk.
Outline of Development Proposal
The Hong Kong Theater Art Technology Festival will be an annual mass-cultural event, 2nd compared to the ongoing annual festival for the general arts. It will be a major cultural attraction for the West and East Kowloon, ancient neighborhoods with a rich diverse history. The event is meant to highlight the artistic history of the city mixed with the cultural zeitgeist of modernity. The festival will generate interest and expand the use and potential of technology in performing theater arts. Combined with the capabilities of the new EKCC, theater arts will evolve, and that will have a cultural impact on the sector, which is based strongly on traditions and techniques that are centuries old. It is a cultural impact as the new generation of performance arts comes in, which is selected to represent the artistic capabilities of Hong Kong as a cultural powerhouse.
The festival will be on par with social initiatives led by the city to stimulate artistic development and nurture young artists. The range of events at the festival aimed at education and inspiration for young minds in the industry is lastly to have a long-lasting impact on the profession of choice and growth of the arts sector. Another social impact of the event is that it contributes to the cohesiveness of local communities and aids in urban regeneration. The festival will have its roots in local, attracting local stakeholders, businesses, and artists, but will also bring significant investment into the area through foot traffic and public recognition. It is expected that locals will be heavily involved in the process of the event, ranging from offering consultations to participating in various roles to simply attending. It will be an event that will strengthen the community and its cohesive identity.
A festival of this scale will have an economic impact on East Kowloon, known as one of the poorest areas of Hong Kong. According to Veal (2017), there are two main economic elements to be concerned about. First is the cost-benefit analysis, a smaller scale analysis to determine whether the project can pay for itself and generate jobs and income in an area. Larger scaler economic impact studies of events are important, also taking into account aspects such as government expenditure and private sector development. Getz and Page (2016) then suggest that the large events, by size or significance, are those that yield high levels of tourism and media coverage, which generates tremendous economic impact for the host community and venue. Therefore, by placing this festival on the map as a means to generate future tourism, Hong Kong will provide a positive economic impact on the local communities, and potentially over the years, the high construction cost of the EKCC, which is primarily funded by the city, will be recouped.
One of the key considerations of hosting a large event is sustainability. Sustainability should be examined both from an environmental point of view but also as the ability of the event program to continue through strategic choices and how direct and indirect events can be maintained (Richards & Palmer, 2010). Event development and planning for the festival should include environmental analysis and the impact of the event. In collaboration with city services, appropriate measures can be taken to ensure that the event is sustainable and does not cause any short-term or long-term damage. The festival will be ongoing on the existing infrastructure of the EKCC and its surrounding areas, which is a facility constructed to international standards and prepared to host large numbers of people over continuous days. Meanwhile, the sustainability of the event will depend on its success and uniqueness. Will the event program capture the attention of industry players, Hong Kong citizens, and tourists? Is the event competitively differentiated from other artistic festivals? These are the questions that will have to be answered once the event is hosted and it can be determined if it is a long-term success.
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The Hong Kong Theater Art Technology Festival is a proposed event that is meant to showcase the latest theater arts technologies and serve as a cultural and tourism boost to Hong Kong. The event meets the interests of the government and public sector as well as those of arts-related councils as it provides an opportunity for exploration, development, and nurturing of arts and culture in the city. The event will have profound cultural, social, and economic impacts, but these are largely beneficial to the city and to the artistic community. Sustainability is examined and the event should be sustainable from a long-term perspective; in cooperation with local stakeholders, the decision-making around the festival is beneficial to nearby communities and Hong Kong as a city with a rich and diverse artistic background. The festival will usher in a new era of arts and technology and ensure the progression of theater arts as a discipline.
Business Wire. (2019). Hong Kong in March: Mecca for art and local culture enthusiasts.
Crossley, G. (2021). China cracks down on showbiz for ‘polluting’ society and youth. Reuters.
Getz, D., & Page, S. (2016). Event studies: Theory, research and policy for planned events (3rd ed.). Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann.
Home Affairs Bureau. (2020). Arts technology. Web.
Legislative Council Panel on Home Affairs. (2021). LC Paper No. CB(4)944/20-21(03).
Masura, N. (2020). Digital Theatre: The making and meaning of live mediated performance, US & UK 1990-2020. Palgrave.
Richards, G., & Palmer, R. (2010). Eventful Cities: Cultural management and urban revitalization. Butterworth-Heinemann.
Tsui, E. (2021). Hong Kong a future art tech leader? East Kowloon Cultural Centre to serve as a test bed for experimental uses of technology in performances. South China Morning Post.
Veal, A.J. (2017). Leisure and tourism policy and planning (4th ed.). CABI.