Dream Academy is a Singapore theatre company. Its story began in 1981 when founder, director, actor, writer and producer, Selena Tan, first watched the multiple Academy Award winning, and familiar favourite musical film, My Fair Lady, on television.
That experience was enough to ignite Tan’s passion for the theatre and at 14 years of age, she attended the theatre camp programme, Youth Theatre Singapore, which was the foundation that cemented her ambition to pursue a life in the theatre.
Throughout her education, from primary school to her university years, Tan became heavily involved on- and offstage, and was often the spark and driving force behind many school productions. This experience was invaluable in teaching her how each aspect of a theatre production was put together, from being a stage hand to directing and producing.
Her first proper introduction into the world of professional theatre happened when she was 23 years old, when she auditioned and was chosen to be part of the ensemble in Singapore Repertory Theatre’s production of the musical, Godspell (a musical based on the gospel of Matthew). However, Tan’s real breakthrough in the local theatre scene came in 1994, when she was chosen to play Little Red Riding Hood in Stephen Sondheim’s musical, Into The Woods, directed by Glen Goei and starring international musical theatre celebrity Lea Salonga. It was then that the theatre establishment in Singapore took notice of this bright young talent, which eventually led her to play iconic roles on stage in the Action Theatre musical, Chang and Eng, and on television, in Under One Roof.
All this happened while Tan was reading law, her second love, at the National University of Singapore. She worked as a litigation lawyer for several years, often rushing to rehearsals or to perform, after a gruelling day at work. For four years of her life, Tan was lawyer by day and thespian by night. It was not long before the pressures on her time eventually left her the hard choice of having to choose only one passion to pursue. Fortunately, after considerable deliberation and against her parents’ initial advice, Tan eventually decided to follow her dreams and left legal practice in 1998 – the rest, as they say, is history, and her loving, close knit and supportive family, are her biggest champions today.
Once she took that leap of faith, Tan quickly discovered the harsh realities of the world of arts and entertainment – that the only way to make a living from it, was to create her own work instead of waiting for jobs to be offered to her by other producers or theatre companies. Since she loved to make people laugh, and with her great musical voice, she found her niche, as the only singing, local, female stand up comedienne, after her two critically-acclaimed shows in 1998, Selena Exposed and Broadway Baby Kai Lan.
In order to produce her own work, Tan founded Dream Academy in February 2000, with her own savings of S$13,000. Dream Academy was incorporated as a private company limited by shares, unlike almost all theatre companies at that time that were set up as art charities or non-profit organisations. Tan’s decision to be different was based on her firm belief of charting her own artistic destiny, without being accountable to any board of governors, trustees, or government institution for the work she produced. She was also driven by the government’s constant rhetoric at that time for arts and art groups to be self-sustainable. She took that and the fact that comedy and comedy groups generally were not art forms supported by the National Arts Council, to mean that she could only rely on two things, the work she produced, and a loyal ticket purchasing audience, the two being intrinsically linked.
Today, Dream Academy is proud to be the leading, privately owned, commercial entertainment theatre company in Singapore that writes and creates a significant amount of original content every year. A rare breed, producing high quality shows that are more than just entertainment, that act both as an elixir and a mirror for its audience, with its unique brand of satire, irony, comedy and heart.
Besides its unique position in the arts and theatre community in Singapore, Dream Academy continues to be a creative trail blazer, with its production and creation of some of Singapore’s most well-loved and household show brands and characters, like the Dim Sum Dollies, Broadway Beng, Happy Ever Laughter, Crazy Christmas and the newly produced hit, Meenah and Cheenah. It is one of the few theatre companies that manages to reach an enormously diverse audience, many of whom are first time theatre-goers. It has successfully done this by daring to be, and being different.
Dream Academy’s creative vision is to be the most entertaining and socially relevant production company in Singapore, which celebrates and embraces the diverse cultures and differences of its people.
The Dream Team:
- Alex Ong
- Ayesha Shaikh
- Cindy Wong
- Malcolm Oei
- Selena Tan
- Sumaiyah Bamadhaj
Its address is 203A Henderson Road, #02-01 Henderson Industrial Park, Singapore 159547.
Telephone number: 65 6278 0377. Fax number: 65 6278 0577
- Dream Academy's website:.