[Arts People] is the first in a series of feature profiles of the people who make the performing arts happen! This week, we catch up with Adrian and Tracie Pang who are hard at work minding a rosy brood of young, upcoming actors in Spring Awakening.
“Parents, talk to your children.”
Says actor Adrian Pang, who is starring and producing the blockbuster musical, Spring Awakening in Singapore.
“Listen to them, don’t forget you were once there.”
Pangdemonium’s version of this much acclaimed Broadway musical opens February 3rd, 2012 at the Drama Centre Theatre after a massive lead-up, beginning with the auditions held at the end of 2010 that first sparked a flurry of interest in the show.
Spring Awakening is a coming-of-age rock musical adaption based on the German play of the same name. It takes on themes like sexuality, shame, parenting, teenage pregnancy and more, as eleven adolescents find themselves in the throes of self-discovery.
For a production that deals with topics even adults eschew, the Media Development Authority (MDA) has issued a ‘16-years and above advisory’. An advisory is merely a recommendation for parents to guide their children in productions that have mature themes and content, and not a strict legal restriction.
The Pangs recount a momentous encounter with a student still in uniform who appeared at their office clutching a three-page letter.
Sam, a secondary three schoolgirl, had written a letter that told them how important the story was to her, how it gave her a voice, and how important it was that they were doing it.
The unexpected visit of the girl to their Ubi doorstep gave them further impetus to ensure the production remained accessible to younger audiences.
They decided not to make just a simple standard application to the MDA, but visit them in person to make a presentation about the musical.
“I told them as honestly as I could,” says Tracy, “I can assure you that it is not going to be titillating or gratuitous. It (the scene) is going to be an honest moment.”
The MDA subsequently issued the current advisory that makes the musical accessible to persons of all ages, even below the age of 16, when accompanied by an adult.
Off-stage, the local adaptation has another coming-of-age story of its own.
Sourcing young talents, Pangdemonium held a gruelling audition process and made actors go through two full days of eight-hour long singing, acting and dancing workshops.
The cast were also given… homework!
Director Tracie Pang gave each actor thematic research based on the 1890s. Subjects included Sex Education, Art and Literature, Legal Rights, Homosexuality and Women’s Rights. Before treading the boards, the actors presented what they had learned.
The result is a “nuanced team” of “very specific individuals” who were able to bring not only their thinking caps to the table but that rare gem, the x-factor, described by Tracie as a certain “indefinable quality”.
Adrian and Tracie, who are married, have two young boys on the cusp of teenagehood. Young as they are, the Pangs do not shy away from difficult topics.
“They are always around,” he says, gesturing at the rehearsal space, “They’re good friends with the cast… they’re very much part of this company”
Personally Tracie feels it is suitable for ages 13 up.
“It depends on the maturity of the kid. I know 13 year olds who aren’t ready and i know 13 year olds who are.”
“I think teenagers should be treated with enough regard that they should be informed,” says Adrian.
Then he adds,
“Fifteen and sixteen year olds will want to see this. Parents need to see this.”
Spring Awakening runs from 3rd to 26th February at the Drama Centre Theatre. Tickets are available from Sistic.