The Arts

Datuk Faridah Merican

Faridah Merican, theatre doyenne and co-head of The Actors Studio, has dedicated her life to advancing the performing arts in Malaysia

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Datuk Faridah Merican is a Malaysian institution who has been instrumental in elevating the performing arts in the country. Fondly referred to as the first lady of Malaysian theatre, Faridah has been actively involved in the theatrical scene for more than 60 years as an actor, director, producer, teacher and ardent champion.

Faridah discovered her interest in theatre at school. While she assumed several different roles early in her career as a primary-school teacher of physical education, newsreader and talk-show host on Radio Malaysia, television newscaster with broadcaster RTM and advertising executive at Ogilvy, theatre remained her abiding fascination. She is one of the pioneers in the local theatre scene, acting in some of the earliest theatre productions in the country such as Lela Mayang, Tok Perak, Uda & Dara and Alang Rentak Seribu.

Her passion for performing arts led her and her husband Joe Hasham, a fellow thespian, to establish The Actors Studio, the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) and the Performing Arts Centre of Penang (penangpac). These privately owned theatre spaces not only enabled the duo to promote theatre through countless productions, but to provide the space for promising thespians to flourish. Faridah is a respected mentor who is credited for giving many of the country’s performing artists, playwrights and directors their big break.

Still tirelessly keeping the arts alive with her unwavering voice both on stage and behind the scenes, she is paving the way for the next generation of budding artists as an adjunct professor and program development director of TUTAS, Malaysia’s first performing-arts conservatory degree, jointly administered by The Actors Studio and Taylor’s University.

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Merican is proficient in more than one language or dialect, and has acted and directed theatre productions in Bahasa Malaysia, Hokkien, Cantonese and English.  

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