As a child, Leonard Tan loved the limelight. He moved from stage to stage in search of an audience – and finally found his home in the theatre. Ahead of young & W!LD’s next showcase in May, Leonard tells us about discovering his calling and stepping out of his comfort zone as a performer.
Tell us about how you were bitten by the theatre bug.
I actually remember watching my very first theatre performance! My cousin brought me to the Esplanade Theatre in 2009, when I was in Secondary One. The show I watched was Broadway Beng – Jiak Liu Lian, and I loved it. I was amazed by the set design, costumes and music, and I really wanted to learn more. I came out of the theatre aspiring to be like Sebastian Tan one day, to have my own solo musical show. That night, for me, was life-changing.
From then on, I started watching more theatre – from pure entertainment to the thought-provoking variety. I now feel that theatre is my second home.
In school, you’ve been an emcee and participated in story-telling competitions. How did you get involved in theatre?
I would say that my involvement in theatre was rather accidental – I did not set out to be involved in it! Since primary school, I have always enjoyed being on stage – entertaining an audience and getting their attention. I took whatever opportunities I had to be on stage. In secondary school, I had to choose a CCA, and chose the English Drama Club because of my love for being on stage. And so it began.
Since then, I have never once regretted being in theatre. It has been a life-changing and enriching experience for me, taking on different characters and finding a voice on stage. I would like to thank my English Drama instructors in secondary school, Claude Girardi and Samantha Scott-Blackhall. If not for them, I don’t think I would be where I am today.
Why young & W!LD?
W!LD RICE has always been my favourite theatre company, because it pushes boundaries and creates work that is original and local. I really wanted to work with them if I could. So, when auditions for young & W!LD finally rolled around again after a hiatus, I thought I should give it a try.
I also hope that this programme will serve as a stepping stone for me into the theatre industry. I thought it was a wonderful way to push myself out of my comfort zone. I wanted to improve as an actor and also gain some experience of what it’s like to work in the industry.
young & W!LD has been going strong for several months now. What have you learnt thus far about your craft and yourself?
I have realised that there is much more to theatre than what I had expected. Being relatively new to this field, I have learnt how to better analyse theatre pieces. I’ve picked up new perspectives on theatre from my friends in young & W!LD, as well as the external master classes we attend.
I have also learnt so much about myself in the past few months. Serena and Rodney, our instructors, have made me aware of the “bag of tricks” that I always dig into as a performer. I am too safe a performer and tend to rely on what I already know. But I should be pushing myself to take on roles that I am uncomfortable with: to be dangerous, to be divergent!
young & W!LD staged its first showcase in August last year. What has writing and performing in Little Riots and Other Stories taught you?
Writing for Little Riots was no mean feat. First and foremost, I did not have any writing experience prior to young & W!LD, so writing a monologue for myself was very foreign to me. While devising it, I learnt that it’s extremely difficult to tap into one’s own thoughts because there are definitely some memories that you do not want to revisit. But, through the whole process, I managed to move out of my comfort zone and face my fears and insecurities to create the character I performed in the show.
Performing, on the other hand, was a whole lot of fun and very interesting! It was the first time that I actually wore panties and put on prosthetic breasts. Being a mother figure in the first showcase definitely allowed me to understand women better – the difficulties they go through psychologically, and the challenge of strutting around in heels!
Your next showcase, Geylang, is inspired by Kuo Pao Kun’s play and will be staged in May this year. How are you preparing for the production?
We are now in the process of research. We have been talking, discussing and discovering Geylang through all the secondary research we can find on that area of Singapore. A few weeks ago, we went and immersed ourselves in the heart of the red-light district, and had close brushes with prostitutes, durian sellers, foreign talents… the list goes on!
Geylang runs from 13-17 May 2015 at 10 Square @ Orchard Central.