When a theatre production has been in rehearsals for more than a year, no doubt the cast is committed to the project.
“It’s a big commitment, but it’s one everyone is willing to make,” Panesar said of work required to bring the production to the Scotiabank Dance Centre’s Faris Family Studio Theatre on Sept. 27-28.
For weekend rehearsals and writing sessions, Panesar commutes to the Vancouver arts hub from his home in Newton. “We started in August of 2018, and have been going for a full year, with a few breaks,” he noted.
AWAY with HOME is the 2019 edition of biennial shows staged by Miscellaneous, billed as “Vancouver’s hip hop theatre boot camp for youth.” The non-profit society aims to use art to promote social change and personal transformation in culturally and socially at-risk youth.
At age 22, Panesar is eldest among cast members in AWAY with HOME.
The Tamanawis Secondary grad has been acting since sixth grade. Today he teaches at Vancity Dance, a family-owned business in Newton, and also plays Sarjit “Mac” Singh with The Re-enactors, the heritage re-enactment performance troupe based on real people from Surrey’s past.
“Acting is a career goal of mine, whether it’s the screen or stage – it’s a place I can call home, and be myself,” Panesar said.
On stage, AWAY with HOME combines contemporary and hip-hop dance, neo-soul and hip-hop music, Taiko drumming, image theatre, performance art and performance poetry.
The show tackles issues of immigration, racism, mental health, bullying and more, with Panesar joined in the cast by Zefanya Hardhian, Lennox Johnston-Yu, Lucy Luo and Kevin Nguyen.
“Sometimes in dealing with these subjects, it’s easy to get lost in the emotions,” Panesar explained.
For Panesar, it’s his second go-around with Miscellaneous, four years after he worked on a production called Haunted House.
“These are soulful and heartfelt productions that talk about real-life scenarios and real people,” he said. “I reached out to them because I heard they were putting on another show, and asked if they’d be willing to welcome me back, and they did.”
Elaine Carol, director of AWAY with HOME, calls Panesar “a very brave and amazing young man” for his willingness to tackle difficult subject matter in the company’s latest production.
“It’s a great process and a fantastic group to work with,” she said.
Show and ticket details are posted to miscellaneousproductions.ca.