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HOW TO CONQUER THE SINGAPORE STAGE: THE MALAYSIAN TROJAN HORSE (PART 2 – Your first step towards the Singapore Stage)

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Breaking into the Singapore Arts scene is arguably easier for Malaysian actors than breaking into the Malaysian one. In part two of this three-part series, guest writer Stephanie Van Driesen asks directors how it’s done – and lives to tell the tale.

Short of marching down south and banging on every theatre director’s door waving your talent around, I asked Hossan Leong, George Chan and Lim Yu-Beng about the best way for Malaysian performers to get an in onto the Singapore stage.

The quickest way, the three agreed, is to get yourself to an audition. In other words respond to an open call; Show up, wow them, and then see what happens.

“You want people to see you. I went to many different auditions before I didn’t feel the nervousness anymore, “ recounts George Chan. In the 90s, George was based in Europe for eight years. During that time he performed in touring productions of Miss Saigon and Chicago and spent his free days travelling to different cities for auditions. “I realize now I was training to be better at auditions. And when you have done your absolute best, you walk out of the door and you let it go. And that’s a great feeling. Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you truly love what you do, keep going at it. There will be plenty of rejections but your day will come.”

Challenges of auditioning away from home

Quick does not mean easy. Or cheap. To audition in Singapore you need to be able to afford travel and expenses incurred to spend anywhere from a day up to a week in Singapore attending auditions and, if you are good and lucky enough, to subsequent callbacks.

There are ways to cut down on costs, of course, and to make the most of your time there. Stay with friends and network further. Find out if there are other auditions going on or how you could possibly create appointments to audition for theatre companies, whether or not they are actively casting for an upcoming production. You will be noticed just by the fact you took initiative to reach out. 

If trying your luck is too costly…

Now say you aren’t able to travel down for the audition, for whatever reason. In that case, you may consider asking the company if they would consider auditioning you via Skype, or accept a video recording of yourself performing an excerpt from the play or musical. George Chan emphasizes though, that this tactic usually works if they are looking for something very specific, such as a lead role. It’s too much hassle to go through all that for ensemble roles – much easier to cast from the already large numbers of hopefuls who have made it to audition in person.

What if I missed an audition?

Now, what happens if you find out about an audition after the deadline?

All is not lost. In addition to keeping abreast by following the theatre companies’ website and social media for future auditions, take the initiative to send them an email with your resume and performance links and regularly check in with them for upcoming events and productions.

Start building relationships that could turn fruitful eventually.

Yu-Beng says mass mailing your CV to production companies rarely works unless one of the decision-makers has seen your work and already has a favourable impression of you. If you were memorable enough, they may keep you in mind when that perfect role for you comes up.

In the third and final installment, Stephanie will share her personal experience being cast in a play and on how good things may not come fast, but can come eventually if you just keep persisting. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get alerted of this and all new stories.

Did you miss part one? Find it here.


About Stephanie

Stephanie Van Dreisen likes to keep herself busy. Very busy. In addition to the four productions she’s working on, writing new music and hosting a radio programme, she’s finding time to poke her head Singapore-side to to find out what gives when it comes to breaking into that well-funded nesting ground of the arts.

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Stephanie Van Driesen
Stephanie Van Driesen

Stephanie is best known for her portrayals of musical theatre leading ladies in KL and Singapore, but also finds great adventure in asking questions; raiding other actors’ toolboxes on her way to perfecting her own.