Competition aims to groom fresh acting talent in Singapore

Mr Kamil Haque (left), overall producer of the Singapore Monologue Slam, with budding local actor Shrey Bhargava. The focus on monologues is significant as they are frequently used in auditions - when they are held - as the surest way to test a perfo
Mr Kamil Haque (left), overall producer of the Singapore Monologue Slam, with budding local actor Shrey Bhargava. The focus on monologues is significant as they are frequently used in auditions - when they are held - as the surest way to test a performer's mettle.TNP FILE PHOTO

Organisers of S'pore Monologue Slam hope that it will help break insularity of local theatre scene

Young actors now can make use of a new platform as they aspire to become the next Adrian Pang or Margaret Chan.

Organised by Method Productions, the Singapore Monologue Slam (SMS), which will take place over three days from Sept 16 to 18, will see 60 actors aged 13 to 35 overcoming their fears to soliloquise.

Participants, many of them students in international schools or local universities, select monologues from any medium including film, theatre, TV or their own original works. They will then tell a compelling story in character with minimal lights, costumes and no fancy sets.

The organisers hope that the competition - the first of its kind to focus on monologues here - will break the insularity of the local theatre scene by injecting fresh blood into Singapore's pool of actors.

Practitioners say that despite a huge demand from aspiring actors, the industry remains quite exclusive, with very few auditions open to them. Casting decisions are often made behind closed doors.

"It is unsustainable to have the same revolving cast of actors every time. We hope this competition will help those with no professional experience overcome their fear of rejection, step out of their comfort zone and share their stories," said project executive and stage manager Ranice Tay, 19.

Current contests, like theatre festivals and 10-minute play competitions, are more general. Slams, which are recitations of existing or original works, are also constrained to poetry, though the SMS is not.

The focus on monologues is significant as they are frequently used in auditions - when they are held - as the surest way to test a performer's mettle. The ability to confidently hold the stage and go deep into a character while delivering an uninterrupted speech, according to theatre practitioners, "is an underrated art", Ms Tay said.

But the courage entailed in being the sole focus of attention for a crowd can be a harrowing prospect for some. To ease the fears of those interested, Method Productions organised two meet-and-greet sessions last month where anyone could walk in for personal consultations with seasoned practitioners.

Among attendees' questions: "What makes a good monologue", "Must I cry onstage?", and even "What if I don't win?"

"What is most important is that they understand and relate to the monologue they are delivering, and remain true to that experience," advised Ms Tay.

Mr Kamil Haque, the overall producer of SMS and Ms Tay's mentor, assured participants that "failure is the cornerstone of creativity and success". It was a lesson the founder of acting studio Haque Centre of Acting & Creativity (HCAC) learnt the hard way. Having not done well for his A levels, he admitted to then feeling "a little lost in life".

Ms Julia Gabriel, Mr Haque's erstwhile teacher and chief executive officer of speech and drama school Julia Gabriel Centre, suggested he teach at her school while he figured out where he wanted to further his studies. This led to him enrolling in the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in Los Angeles in the United States a year later. It was there that he discovered monologue slams and where he even produced one for Company of Angels, Los Angeles' oldest not-for-profit repertory theatre.

Mr Haque, 33, said: "I witnessed the positive impact the event had on those who participated, from emerging to established talent.

"I'm really excited to introduce this performance format to my home country."

Besides Noise Singapore and *Scape, which are the project's key partners, two schools, Yuan Ching and Clementi Town Secondary School, have also approached HCAC to conduct monologue workshops in their schools, with the aim of introducing the form to more students in Singapore.

Winners will be given acting scholarships and publication opportunities for their writing, and will be invited to perform at the Singapore Writers Festival 2016 and All In! Young Writers Festival 2017, among other prizes.

Polina Kravtsova, 13, a Grade 8 student at Chatsworth International School, said she signed up because she loves acting on stage: "There are not a lot of acting competitions or performances in Singapore... so you have to take the chance when you have it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2016, with the headline 'Competition aims to groom fresh acting talent in S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe