On a Saturday morning in December, students mill about a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) auditorium. Violinists set up their music stands at the corner of the stage, scrutinising their scores. Dancers stretch out their limbs. Actors warm up their voices and prepare for a rehearsal that will last for the rest of the afternoon.
That is the team gearing up to stage ICN Cultural Production’s first musical in two years. An annual show produced by Indonesian students at NTU, ICN brings Indonesian arts, culture, and history to Singaporean audiences. Although productions have halted since pandemic restrictions began, ICN will finally return in 2023.
Next year, ICN presents its 12th edition, “Saujana”, which directly translates to “as far as the eye can see” from Bahasa Indonesia. This theme evaluates whether our eyes alone are enough to reveal the truth, or if we must also use our hearts to complete our vision. After all, sometimes, the heart sees what is invisible to the eyes.
Showing on 4 February 2023 at the Drama Centre Theatre, Saujana narrates the story of Lina, a high school student navigating adolescent life and managing relationships with her loved ones. Lina may seem to be a perfect student and daughter. However, she struggles with her own mental health issues. Through her journey, the musical offers a glimpse into Indonesian families in this modern age.
DANAMIC speaks to the minds of ICN 2023 to learn more about the production journey and how Saujana came to fruition over the months.
What is the overall message that you wish to convey through the production?
Hagata Raguel Jehoshua, Artistic Director: This is a play that explores people, and relationships in our society today. We want to showcase a world where there is no black and white, where there are people with different interests, different relationships, and different personalities. And it is really just a complicated mess.
So, that is what we want to show, the reality and complications of life. Often, we cannot see through what other people are going through. I hope that from this play, we can just reflect on how we treat other people as well as our lives and our roles in society.
When we have people around us who are struggling, can we help them? Are there people around us who, you know, basically need help? Because sometimes they seem okay, they seem okay, but deep down, they need help.
What was your first impression of your character when you first read the script?
Kimberly Atmadja, Actress of Lina: Lina is a very complicated character who undergoes a lot of growth. When I first saw the script, I was very intimidated. I wondered how I should act as this character? How should I portray her? But, with time, I got to understand her more because as I read more of the script and acted it out, I got to see the scenes and tried my best to think like her. And so, I guess over time; we get to understand her more.
Especially since when we first started, the script was not fixed yet. There were a lot of changes, and I had to adapt when the scenes were adjusted. So over time, as we got the completed script, the official one, we could then fully immerse ourselves into the character.
What are your hopes for this year’s show – for the cast, crew, and audiences?
Hagata Raguel Jehoshua, Artistic Director: I want the audience to feel touched by the show. Because when you feel touched, that is when it is memorable to you, right? So through the emotions conveyed, I hope that the audience can feel the energy, even through the sadness. I want the audience to immerse in the sadness, to really feel what the characters are conveying, and just get their hearts touched.
Abhirama Radhitya Santoso, Producer: For the cast, I want them to experience and explore ICN as a whole, because it is new to them. So we need them to gain as much experience as possible for future ICNs. For the crew, it is also an exploration – but this includes how to manage liaising with other main committees and external parties.
For the audience, we hope to give the same experience that we gave them two years ago – we still are in the same venue. We are still doing this with the same name. We are just tackling a theme which is more modern than the previous ICNs that focused on traditional Indonesian folklore.
What were some of the challenges you encountered along the way?
Hagata Raguel Jehoshua, Artistic Director: For ideating on the set and wardrobe, it was quite challenging. If it were a more cultural story based on folklore like previous ICN editions. I think it would be easier because you have a certain template to follow, right? For example, if we were borrowing from a particular culture, the clothes would have certain properties. But this time, it is a modern setting.
Abhirama Radhitya Santoso, Producer: It was difficult to find the right people because there were very few returning alums from the previous production. I needed a lot of mentoring from previous producers as well. In 2020, I was only a cast member, so I did not know what went through it all in the whole design of ICN. I did not even know how to liaise with sponsors.
It was challenging for other members as well, because we were all quite new to this. But the previous producers were really helpful to me, and I am thankful for them.
Herbian Hokky Prabowo, Scriptwriter: Our cast members all have different strengths and skills. Along the way, we sometimes had to change the script to suit the actor. For example, some people were not that good at portraying comedic moments, so we had to make the character seem more apathetic. So, the end goal is still comedy, but just achieved in a different way.
How did you determine and decide to compose different moods for the songs?
Vicyie Janvier Rasio, Musical Director: Hokky, the scriptwriter, gave us an Excel sheet where he said, “Okay, for this scene, I want this as inspiration.” So most of the time, we just followed what he wanted, but he was also open to our inputs.
We have a lot of styles. We have some funky indie, karaoke type of songs, romance, and like Disney, a bit of Disney-inspired, there’s jazz, even like, emotionally-driven, heavily orchestrated pieces. So it really depends on the context of the scenes.
How is ICN special and meaningful to you?
Hagata Raguel Jehoshua, Artistic Director: It is a growth process. It is not only a musical; it is a growth that we want. Firstly, for the people involved to experience, having no experience to having experience, from not understanding to understanding the learning process and just having fun. So it is not just about performing or anything, but it’s also about growing and learning.
And secondly, also for the audience. I hope there should be some kind of difference before and after watching ICN – they should learn something. They should understand firstly, about Indonesian culture and secondly about their lives and how they treat other people. So, it is all about that growth process to me.
Abhirama Radhitya Santoso, Producer: It has been two years, and I want to prove to everyone that ICN is still a quality show worth watching. Through this production, I want to showcase Indonesian culture, and our values and show that we have the perseverance that we can pull off such a major project. That we have the teamwork and creative mindset to do it, that we also had fun while doing so. I feel really proud and grateful for my team. Without them, we really cannot produce ICN.
What do you enjoy about being part of a production?
Abhirama Radhitya Santoso, Producer: I just love creating something out of nothing – creating a story that highlights an important issue right now or creating a story that is fun. From the scriptwriter’s perspective, from my perspective as well, also from the artistic directors, this exploration and creative process that we endure is important, and I really love it.
Herbian Hokky Prabowo, Scriptwriter: Yes, the scriptwriting process for me is a way to showcase my creative side. I also like proving to myself that I can do it. I really enjoy the creative process a lot – how do we portray a character feeling sad? How should they act? How do you act in a way where it’s both appropriate and respectful given the content matter? So I love putting ideas into practice and doing my best.
ICN 2023 – Saujana: A Musical
Date: 4 February 2023
Time: 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Venue: National Library Building, Drama Centre Theatre
Address: 100 Victoria St., #03-01, Singapore 188064
Tickets for the 2023 show can be purchased at their official website. For more about ICN, check out our previous coverage for both the 2019 and 2020 editions.
Photos by Brandon Neo of the DANAMIC Team.