HOW TO CONQUER THE SINGAPORE STAGE: THE MALAYSIAN TROJAN HORSE (PART 3 – One soldier’s story)
Part one of this Trojan trilogy answered the question of why Malaysian performers flock to Singapore, and part two gave advice on how you might get a gig in the Lion City. In part three Stephanie Van Driesen talks about the importance of building relationships and her own experience in being cast for a starring role.
Director Yu-Beng, who has some big-budget Hollywood credits to his name, was one of my acting teachers while I was studying musical theatre at Lasalle College of the Arts, meaning that we’ve known each other almost 10 years now, and he only contacted me this year, offering me a role.
It’s not like we didn’t communicate during those 10 years either. He was and still is an active supporter of my work. He drove up from Singapore to watch me in Cabaret and The Secret Life of Nora (2011), we’ve hung out during the many times I’ve visited Singapore in the years since I graduated, and he was in KL last October, cheering me on at my one-woman show in KL, Marilyn & Me.
When they come looking for you
Some directors have been known to fly down to Malaysia specifically to audition. They usually know key players in the local industry to help recommend potentials.
I met Singaporean director Glen Goei in KL when he was casting for the musical La Cage Aux Folles in 2011. He directs for W!LD RICE, arguably the biggest theatre company in Singapore, famed for their big budget sold out stagings of musicals and pantomimes. As he had previously seen my work, he reached out to me and I was happy to help connect him to other performers to audition. Aaron Khaled and Tony Eusoff were cast during that trip. Aaron has since moved to Singapore, made waves in the scene, and starred in TV dramas on Mediacorp. He recently appeared in the coveted role of Angel in RENT! produced by PANGDEMONIUM! Productions.
Stellar, international cast of Pagdemonium’s critically and popularly acclaimed RENT! included (again) Aaron Khaled (far right). Image source Pangdemonium.com
In rare cases, performers are cast without a formal audition. This usually happens if you and the director have previously met or worked together. If you left a positive impression they are very likely to consider you for future roles. Plus, platforms like Facebook and YouTube allow directors to view and assess a performer before even making contact. In my case, it was a little bit of both.
Alive and well and performing in Singapore
“I was looking for four singer/actors for the show Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris this year.” George recounts. “Stephanie (Van Driesen) was the first person to pop into my head. I auditioned her in 2008 for the W!LD RICE production of Beauty World (a musical). I remembered her as smart, charismatic and brimming with talent. In the end, we never got to work on that show together because I had some scheduling issue. But she left quite an impression on me. Eight years later, I seized the opportunity and got her down to Singapore for the show. I basically pulled together some online videos of her singing and sent that to my producer with a subtle recommendation. Well…I basically said ‘I need this girl to make the show work!’”
George contacted me via Facebook Messenger, and after he had convinced his producer, I was literally confirmed over email!
And the Trojan cavalry continues to march southward
2017 looks to be a Malaysian invasion in Singapore. Peter Ong stars in Liao Zhai Rocks, Safia Hanifah and Joshua Gui are both enjoying turns starring in musicals, Sean Ghazi and Aaron Khaled will appear in the W!LD RICE restaging of La Cage Aux Folles and Cheryl Tan takes the stage in August as The Empress in the iconic Forbidden City, produced by Singapore Repertory Theatre.
So what are you waiting for? Get those stage chops polished and start putting yourself out there!
Life does not come to those who wait.
Late in joining us? Read parts one Casting the shiniest stars, no matter where they come from and two Your first step towards the Singapore stage.
STEPHANIE VAN DRIESEN
Well here she is again. This hungry theatre slut, who is juggling 4 productions simultaneously, writing new music, yapping away on national radio, and whose fire in her ass is kicking her to stride her ambitious heels to Broadway/West End, or kicking her to the curb before she kicks the bucket; decides to poke her head Singapore-side to find out what gives when it comes to breaking into that well-funded nesting ground of the arts. And live to write the tale.