Off Stage

Stage fright keeps actress on her toes

Ranice Tay says acting keeps her humble and makes her a better person.
Ranice Tay says acting keeps her humble and makes her a better person.PHOTO: COURTESY OF RANICE TAY

In their play Leaves, which lays bare the wreck of a family rocked by a suicide attempt, Ranice Tay and her team explore ways to create intimacy between showgoers.

Tay, 20, a performing and visual arts scholar from the National University of Singapore (NUS), says the play will be watched by small groups of up to 20 people.

The audience will dine together before the show, sharing food and conversation as a makeshift family.

"The immersive pre-show experience allows the audience members to enter the world of this family. They enter the family's house, see the interior of their home and experience some of the activities they might do as a family, such as eating dinner," she says.

"They'd be able to look at the world through the eyes of this family, which allows the events in the play to seem more sensorially real."

Leaves, produced by performance collective Passerby Projects and supported by the NUS Centre for the Arts, will be held at Haque Centre of Acting & Creativity, a small performing arts studio on the second floor of a shophouse in Dickson Road.

  • BOOK IT / LEAVES

  • WHERE: Haque Centre of Acting & Creativity, 22 Dickson Road, 02-01

    WHEN: May 13, 14, 20, 21, 27 and 28, 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: $25. Go to https://goo.gl/feSFV7

How did you get into acting and what made you fall in love with it?

I've always wanted to act. That need to express myself was always there, but it took a while for me to admit that. I wanted it so much that I was afraid of being not good enough.

It was only after I met my mentor Kamil Haque last year that I realised how badly I wanted to do this and so I started to train as an actor. He stressed in his classes that acting is being "the voice for the voiceless". It's a privilege and responsibility to stand in front of people and show them what it means to be human.

Acting makes me examine myself, humbles me and makes me a much better person.

As a performing arts scholar, I want to help my schoolmates express themselves better through acting and/or theatre. I think this is so crucial in this day and age where we're conditioned to suppress our thoughts, feelings and dreams. Acting gives us a safe space to let go.

What are your pre-show rituals?

My rituals vary from show to show, but there are some habits I make an effort to cultivate, including sleeping early. I like taking time to iron and fold my own costumes and I drink anything that gives me a sugar or caffeine rush in the morning.

If time permits, I like to reach the performance venue at least an hour before call-time so that I can have some time alone to warm up and learn the dynamics of the space. An important warm-up activity to me is to practise Strasberg's Relaxation (exercise for actors) because it tunes me into my body and mind.

I love reading my favourite quotes to remind myself why I do what I do. Check out Actor's Vow by Elia Kazan, you'll love it.

Do you still have on-stage jitters? How do you get over them?

Yes, I still have really bad stage fright sometimes. I hope I'll always have it because it keeps me on my toes and reminds me that I care about what I'm doing.

I think the nerves come from the pressure to do well, especially for performances that I care deeply about, so I have to remind myself that I'm there to serve the story. I give myself permission to mess up. At the same time, I tell myself that I cannot stop being generous or stop taking risks with my work.

Communicating with co-actors and the director before we go on stage is crucial. Quiet time is also very important to me because it helps me focus and relax.

What is the harshest criticism you have received and how did you deal with it?

The words, "You're unrealistic." My first thought was, "Well, I think all artists are a bit delusional."

But I didn't say that because it was an interview for a show in 2014 and I was intimidated. And also because I was being a bit pretentious during that interview, so I was quite embarrassed.

In hindsight, I should probably have said that. I was even more affected because I failed to defend my aspirations and opinions.

I was depressed for a few days, but I decided it wasn't the end of the world. After that, I came out of my hole and went to Taiwan for a holiday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2016, with the headline 'Stage fright keeps actress on her toes'. Print Edition | Subscribe