14th The Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards 2014: Kindred spirits

14th The Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards 2014: Kindred spirits

Fourteen years after it started, the annual Life! Theatre Awards ceremony on Monday afternoon was a warm and fuzzy family affair.

The 13 award winners filled their acceptance speeches with moving mentions of their own families, either back home or present in the audience. At the event held at The St. Regis Singapore, they also thanked their theatre families, practitioners with whom they had slogged to create the best of last year's productions.

Two theatre companies, founded over the last few years by husband-and-wife duos, dominated the honour roll. One was four-year-old Pangdemonium, helmed by Tracie and Adrian Pang. It won the coveted Production of the Year and Production of the Year (Reader's Choice) awards for the musical Next To Normal.

The other was Nine Years Theatre, formed just two years ago and led by director Nelson Chia and actress-producer Mia Chee.

Chia, 41, who won Best Director for the critically acclaimed courtroom drama Twelve Angry Men, acknowledged his visibly moved wife in his acceptance speech: "Thank you also to the producer, Mia, who is also my beloved wife - who not only took care of the production but also our kids. Which is very important."

Laughing sheepishly, Chee, 35, told Life! after the event: "I think I am normally very embarrassed by this sort of thing. The last time he mentioned it, I felt so paiseh I wanted to just disappear.

"But yesterday I just thought, I'll take it in my stride. I deserve it!" Paiseh is Hokkien for embarrassed.

Chia last paid tribute to her at the awards when he scored Best Actor in 2011.

The couple's twin daughters were not in the audience but another family showed up in full force: that of performance group spell#7's co-founders Paul Rae and Kaylene Tan.

Their two daughters, Summer and Lola Rae, both in primary school, took a day off from school to attend. And keeping an extra eye out for the two excited girls was Tan's mother Eleanor Song, 67, who is also an actress.

All five of them were nominees for Best Ensemble for the whimsical and personal show, Family Duet, which documented snatches of their family life.

When asked if she was pleased to be skipping school for the awards ceremony, Lola broke out a huge grin and declared: "Yes, of course!" The cosy luncheon, attended by 120 invited guests from the theatre community, was brimming with tributes to kith and kin.

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