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January 2023
Issue No. 312

Why be normal when you could be happy?

  (© 教聲/ ECHO)

The maiden performance of Why be normal when you could be happy was held successfully at the Y Studio of Youth Square, Chai Wan on 20th and 21st October 2022. The performance was organised by St John’s Cathedral as part of the ‘Expressive Arts Teens Drama Project’, and the production of the play – from writing the script to composing the music and lyrics, choreography, costume design, make-up, designing the programme, and the logistics of the day – was helmed by a group of late teens and young adults hailing from different secondary schools, universities, and various first jobs. 

Why be normal is a play organised by the St John’s Cathedral Life Enrichment Centre (LEC). The LEC’s Service Coordinator and the drama’s executive producer Vanice Chan commented that every teenager has their own strengths, and what they need are the opportunities and platforms for them to express themselves and pursue their dreams. For this reason, Vanice has organised various workshops, interviews, this drama production and other creative opportunities, such that participating teenagers could find ways to explore their potential.

The director of the performance Billy Cheng said that Why be normal is an attempt to explore how we could find ourselves under the influence of presumed values, and how we could find a balance between our ideals and reality. During production, the teenagers often raised the point, ‘Am I normal?’ This question is characteristic of everybody’s youthful years, and it is through answering this question that we find what is special about ourselves. Only when we know what’s different and special with ourselves could we learn to turn that into our strength, and make the world around us more colourful. Billy then commented that the current zeitgeist of Hong Kong is one that zaps the hope out of people, and so he hopes that with this drama production, he could help teenagers rediscover the joys and promises of life, and at the same time allow their voice to be heard. He also hoped that the play could let teenagers know that they are not alone despite the changing and trying times.

 (© 教聲/ ECHO)

Growing up together

After the last performance, the organisers held a round of Q&A with the performers and audience. Bishop Matthias Der gave a speech and thanked the troupe for their performances. The troupe started preparing for the show last year, attending workshops and camps, and all the while learning about themselves and making new friends. Through these new connections, the performers rediscovered their true selves. The Bishop believed that each troupe member has grown and helped others grow as well by going through this experience, and thanked them for helping the audience grow as well. The play emphasised the point that there are inevitable ups and downs in life, but there is always a constant companion in Christ, and our Heavenly Father is always with us.

The Revd Amos Poon, chaplain of the performing troupe, expressed how touched he was by the performers’ enthusiasm. Many scenes within the play deal with the internal struggles when we deal with our relationships, including those between parents and children, boyfriends and girlfriends, between students, teachers and students, and there’s even a scene of a prince going through his internal struggle when trying to help others. It is this last example that moved the Revd Poon the most, as it is most reflective of the reality when a clergy wants to help others, but find himself powerless when trying to do so.

Tomorrow belongs to the youth

The Revd Poon continued, commenting on the recent talks in Hong Kong about ‘attracting talents’. It is never ideal to be forced to find talent elsewhere, but seeing the talent on display that night, the Revd expressed that he saw a bright future for this place right in front of him, and these are the ‘talents’ that we are seeking. There’s also another question that plagues us these days, ‘Is there a future for this city?’ The Revd replied that when we saw these young performers on stage, he saw the future for Hong Kong.

It is not easy to find hope in this city, but some teenagers manage to give those around them a spark of hope. This is not the sort of hope that is built dependent on others, but rather, it emanates from that moment when one finds one’s true self. We reach out a helping hand when others need it, and we extend a ‘You can do it!’ when others want encouragement. It is by such that hope is transmitted from one heart to another, and the Revd hopes that each member of the drama production could gather their radiance that night and pass it on to people in Hong Kong who need that ray of hope. 

Why be normal’s plot was written based on Oscar Wilde’s short story The Happy Prince. A prince was sent by an angel to visit our current year, and to help three groups of people to rediscover happiness. The play explores how people perceive their own normality within a society of ‘presumed values’, ‘constant comparisons’, and ‘labelling’, and how people stick to their true self despite the various kinds of pressure they face.

 (© 教聲/ ECHO)

A journey to find one’s self 

The ‘Expressive Arts Teens Drama Project’ is designed to be journey for one to find one’s self. Through visual art, music, drama, dance, and creative writing, teenagers are invited to temporarily put away their busy schedules of homework and exams, and explore their own selves in an environment free of stress. One of the main goals of the project is to help teenagers build a space of trust, such that they could freely express themselves. By constructing a place of unconditional acceptance and sincere empathy, the project aims to let participating teenagers feel accepted and understood, and open up in communication.

St John’s Cathedral Life Enrichment Centre was established in 2018 as part of the Cathedral’s outreach ministries for teenagers. The LEC aims to empower youths through providing a wide range of life education activities and programmes based on a holistic perspective for their physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs.


<The above article was published in "Echo" Issue No. 312. Please click here>


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