When I first met Kimberly Chan 5 years ago, it was at an orientation camp in Victoria Junior College at the start of our very first academic year as post-secondary students in 2009. From the first day I knew her, her natural confidence and vivaciousness was obvious, as was her ease and infectious energy on a stage.
Thus, looking back on our younger days, it is absurdly easy for me to place the friend “Kim” I knew with the professional artiste “Kimberly Chan” today. In any case, Kimberly Chan is now no longer just an aspiring student practicing Theatre Studies in a Junior College – she has proved herself to be an extremely able and multi-talented artiste, with 3 years of education at the acclaimed LASALLE College of the Arts and a portfolio of professional work under her belt despite her youth.
Kimberly’s performing arts journey began at the age of four and she has trained in ballet, jazz, tap, Spanish dance and flamenco since then. Her strength in Spanish dance and flamenco has brought her to Manila, KL, Shanghai and Kuching.
She has also performed as one of the vocal soloists for the 2008 National Day Parade. Her theatre credits include: Malam Newstalgia, La Cage aux Folles, The Boys from Syracuse, Gypsy, And the World Goes Round, Shadow Box and High Class.
She is currently completing her final year in the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Musical Theatre programme at LASALLE College of the Arts and is starring as Daphne Foo in Dick Lee’s musical comedy HOTPANTS.
Featuring 10 unconventional, cheeky and spectacularly entertaining characters, HOTPANTS unfolds as three female schoolmates enter an inter-school Talentime. As the trio goes on an expedition of self-discovery, the combination of peculiar mothers and a common love interest makes for a whole lot of controversy.
The following is an email interview and I thank Kim for doing justice to my lengthy questions regarding personal milestones, industry life and policy issues pertaining to the performing arts scene – for an exclusive insight into (literally) the demanding backstage life of a rapidly rising artiste, look no further!
Q1.) Would you tell us briefly what HOTPANTS is about and what the audience can expect to see?
HOTPANTS follows the journey of three mother-daughter pairs whose lives take a turn when the three schoolmates decide to join an inter-school Talentime. You can definitely expect a big blast from the past with the vibrant costumes (bell bottoms and all!) and the various references to icons of the early 70s. Bet you never heard of Tivoli or a ‘french cap’ (that’s a condom by the way)… being a 90s baby, I most certainly did not!
Q2.) What attracted you to star in HOTPANTS and how do you identify with your character?
The chance to work with such amazing fellow actors as well as our director, Dick Lee was just too good to pass up! Also, I really wanted to be a part of the revival of this musical! The character I play is called Daphne, an only child and a princess in her mother’s eyes. She is actually quite opposite to me with regards to personality, but I did identify with her struggle to feel important and relevant… Something I think we all go through (to varying degrees of course!) as angst-filled teens.
Q3.) How did you first get inspired to join the musical theatre industry? For example, was there a defining moment when you knew what your goals were, or was it a gradual process? Is this your final goal, or would you be keen to enter other industries as well?
This is the longest 4-part question, I feel like I’m back answering a GP question! Ha! Hmmm, I was inspired to do musical theatre because it seemed the most logical at the age of 9. I mean it was the medium in which I could sing and dance at the same time.
My love for acting was something that developed much later in my teens. Being trained in dance, movement has always been an area of interest for me, and I suppose only time can tell where I may end up, whether in a post-grad course in Berlin or starving in New York! In an industry as precarious as this, sometimes one just has to go with the flow!
Q4.) Do you have any particular role models? Especially for someone like you who is interested in dance, theatre and music?
Oooh, I have MANY role models! I suppose it is cause of my varied interests that there seems to be a rather large collection of role models I possess.
The musical divas I look up to (’cause I seriously how do you pick just one!) are Ann Miller, Liza Minnelli and Sutton Foster. And then there’s also Ella Fitzgerald, Fred Astaire, Peter Brook, Alfian Sa’at, Janice Koh, Lim Yu Beng, and Ghandi…. Just to name a few.
Q5.) What types of dance, theatre and music do you feel most drawn to, and why?
I do find myself moved by any medium that takes me on a journey and makes me think. I have always enjoyed the dialogue that art generates and I guess that’s leaked into my yearning for any form that would initiate discussions after.
Q6.) How many shows have you done so far?
Just 2 professionally, High Class as directed by Beatrice Chia and written by Michael Chiang in 2013 and Women of Asia directed and written by Asa Gim Palomera in July this year. I feel that my ultimate professional goal would be to maintain this chance to sustain a career of doing what I love for the rest of my life.
Q7.) What defines a good performer, in your own opinion?
Someone who listens, reacts and shares on top of a lack of fear and self-consciousness. Of course, so much easier said than done!
Q8.) Do you have any comments on the theatre industry in Singapore? If you had advice to give to aspiring theatre performers in Singapore, what would that be?
I feel truly blessed to be a part of such a vibrant and growing industry in Singapore. Though many may complain and compare to the likes of Westend and Broadway, I personally am in awe of how much the scene has grown in just the last 20 years alone.
I think those are all milestones we should acknowledge. I mean who would have thought that one day, Singaporeans could train – in Singapore – in a Western-centric form such as Musical Theatre on an Honours level and then, pursue it full-time following graduation?
Being an aspiring artist myself… I think it is most important to trust your instincts and remain true to yourself no matter what and to remember why you do what you do. Because that is the core you can hold on to when things start to get rough.
Q9.) Do you feel your education at LASALLE prepared you well for the professional work you are currently involved in? What were your first experiences of working like and how does it compare to your feelings now?
No education can fully prepare you for any industry… I think that holds true to my education in LASALLE. However, my time in university truly provided me with the tools I needed to survive, now that I’m out… it has been about utilizing the skills I had honed over the last 3 years.
It still can be very nerve-wrecking and taxing because there’s always a nagging feeling of “You better do well and prove yourself!” but once I quiet-en that voice in my head and focus on the work, it becomes exciting and fulfilling.
Q10.) Looking back on your journey, Is there anything you would have done differently? Is there any advice you would like to give your younger self?
I would have told young padawan Kim, “Be kind to yourself”. Admittedly it has been a trying journey and still, I’m only at the base of the mountain that is life. In such a harsh and critical industry, sometimes, I wish I had more nice things to say to myself in times of struggle.
Q11.) Any special mentors or people you’d like to thank for helping you along the way?
Haha, this feels like an award show answer! My entire family has been always been very supportive no matter what I do, but I definitely have friends, teachers and mentors who have played a big part in showering me in healthy doses of tough love and ultimate support.
Q12.) What else do you enjoy doing, beside musical theatre?
Like most people my ages, travelling is definitely on top of my list. I also like following workout video series such as Insanity and T25 (I’m basically a Shaun T fan) and cooking!
Q13.) Do you have a favourite novel or artistic material outside of musical theatre that inspires you?
I’m a big fan of Mitch Albom’s books… Tuesday’s with Morrie still makes me cry like a baby. I’m currently just re-reading the Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. I also enjoy any sort of trashy chick lit, it feeds a certain part of my soul like no other!
Q14.) Any personal goals? Relating to education, or personal growth?
I would like to eventually be able to pursue my Masters… And I suppose as to personal growth, I would love to be able to strike a healthy work-family life balance within the next 5 years!
Q15.) If you could speak to the arts council in Singapore, do you have any suggestions for improvement? Policy-wise do you feel there is enough support given for people in Singapore who have aspirations to practice theatre professionally or do you have suggestions for improvement?
Recent policies on getting artists to rate their own shows is one of the main concerns at the moment, along with the fact that the new NMP (Nominated Member of Parliament) is also not from the arts sector.
As a young artist, I feel very encouraged to be a part of a scene that truly pushes for what it believes in. And as for support, there is always room for improvement but it is good to acknowledge that funding projects have become more accessible for budding artists.
I do feel that new policies need to be made to protect artists however, as many of the existing work laws do not really apply to the industry and as a result, it leaves professionals susceptible to being exploited.
Q16.) For those in Singapore unfamiliar with the whole arts scene, what do you recommend checking out?
Start anywhere! Esplanade for example always has many free performances at the Concourse and the Outdoor Theatre. It’s a great way to expose yourself to the different sorts of shows that one can watch!
Q17.) Any last words for your fans and the people that support you?
Come watch HOTPANTS! We run from the 14th August to 30th August at the Drama Centre! Tickets available on Sistic. :)
Dick Lee, the writer and director of the musical says, “For my 40th anniversary, I want to do something reminiscent of when I first started my music career in the 70s, so I thought why not a revival of HOTPANTS? I’m so eager to see how it will play out with this new breed of amazingly talented young artistes.” Don’t miss it!
Venue : Drama Centre Theatre
|Show Dates : 14 – 30 August 2014|
Tuesday to Saturday, 8pm
Tuesday to Thursday & Saturday Matinee, 3pm
Sunday Matinee, 2pm
Ticketing Agent :
SISTIC.com Pte Ltd
SISTIC Hotline (65) 6348 5555
SISTIC Website www.sistic.com.sg
SISTIC Authorised Agents
Ticket Prices :
Preview – Thu 14 Aug 2014,8pm
Standard: S$70, S$60, S$50, S$40
Tue to Thu & Sun
Standard: S$79, S$69, S$59, S$49
Fri & Sat
Standard: S$83, S$73, S$63, S$53
*Prices exclude booking fee
See you there!!