Acting dream comes true for young Aiden

Rachel Cher (second from left) performing in Midsummer Chaotic Dreams, an adaption of A Midsummer Night's Dream, at Genexis Theatre in Fusionopolis. It is the first time that DAS Speech and Drama Arts pupils have performed adaptations of Shakespeare's wor
Rachel Cher (second from left) performing in Midsummer Chaotic Dreams, an adaption of A Midsummer Night's Dream, at Genexis Theatre in Fusionopolis. It is the first time that DAS Speech and Drama Arts pupils have performed adaptations of Shakespeare's works.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Aiden Peh (back row, hands raised) and his brother Issac Peh (far left) with cast members of Midsummer Chaotic Dreams. Aiden played the Duke of Athens and Issac played Puck.
Aiden Peh (back row, hands raised) and his brother Issac Peh (far left) with cast members of Midsummer Chaotic Dreams. Aiden played the Duke of Athens and Issac played Puck. PHOTO: DYSLEXIA ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE

Over 40 primary school pupils from Dyslexia Association of Singapore take to the stage

Like many young boys, 12-year-old Aiden Peh dreams of making it big as a professional actor.

While the road to the red carpet may be rocky for any aspiring star, he faces an additional hurdle - dyslexia.

Though learning lines may be a struggle, the Anglo Chinese School Junior pupil has shown that this will not keep him out of the spotlight.

Aiden and more than 40 other primary school pupils from the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) took to the stage at the Genexis Theatre at Fusionopolis last Monday to present Shakespeare 400, the first time that DAS Speech and Drama Arts (SDA) pupils have performed adaptations of the famous playwright's works.

The performance represented a breakthrough in confidence, self-esteem and communications skills of the pupils.

OFTEN MISUNDERSTOOD

Because they are often misunderstood, children with dyslexia may feel that they are not good enough due to the difficulties they face in reading and writing. They sometimes have low self-esteem, lack confidence and do not communicate well.

MR LEE SIANG, CEO of the Dyslexia Association of Singapore

"Because they are often misunderstood, children with dyslexia may feel that they are not good enough due to the difficulties they face in reading and writing. They sometimes have low self-esteem, lack confidence and do not communicate well," said Mr Lee Siang, CEO of DAS.

Its SDA programme uses performance-based methods to help children with dyslexia.

"Their superb performance illustrates the importance of focusing on and developing the strengths of children and people with dyslexia so that they can excel and achieve their individual potential," he said.

Preparing for the show was not always smooth sailing, as those with dyslexia often struggle with literacy and social emotional challenges due to their learning differences.

"The initial challenge was getting them to read the words," said Ms Pushpaa Arumugam, 44, the assistant director for enrichment programmes. "Sometimes we had to simplify the language for them."

Ms Pushpaa, one of six teachers involved in the play, first taught the children to read the individual words, followed by the complete sentences, before finally helping the pupils to understand the meaning of the text so that they would be able to deliver their lines with vocal and physical expression.

Concentration presented another problem.

"Focusing and concentrating are other issues they have besides reading, writing and spelling. The programme allows them to overcome these issues also, as they are forced to concentrate," said Ms Pushpaa.

The fruit of four months of intensive work was an impressive 105-minute theatrical production - twice the length and greater in literary complexity than SDA's inaugural play last year.

In front of a full house of 300 parents, students and friends of DAS, the pupils performed an adaptation of The Merchant Of Venice, explored issues such as family, elder care and greed in a Singaporean version of King Lear, before lightening the mood with an adaptation of the popular comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream.

"Our teachers believed in us and thought we could do it," said Aiden after the performance. The young aspiring actor played the Duke of Athens in Midsummer Chaotic Dreams, while his younger brother Issac, 10, entertained the crowd as Puck.

"One of the parents came up to me earlier and said I was a very funny man," said Aiden.

He was not the only one proud of the performance.

"As a teacher, I felt so proud of them," said Ms Pushpaa. "The work they have put in these many months has been so fruitful because with no fear, they actually delivered and completed the play."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2016, with the headline 'Acting dream comes true for young Aiden'. Print Edition | Subscribe