A Performer’s 9 to 5
by Christian Lee
Have any of you non-artists (or are you? *wink*) out there ever wondered what it would be like to be a dancer or an actor/actress? Maybe you sing Disney classics in the shower while imagining yourself on a beautiful stage in front of a large audience somewhere in Broadway? No? Too specific? Okay, never mind. The point is, maybe the life of a performer isn’t all that it seems to be!
Being in the performing arts, specifically theatre, isn’t always about the glitz and glam. Besides the hours upon hours of rehearsals and script-memorising, we may sometimes forget that their lives are no more different than ours. More often than not, they have regular day jobs as well. Here’s a brief look into the lives of some of the local talents in the scene!
- Wei Ling Tan: Business Development Analyst by day, Actress and Dancer by night
- works a 9-6 job and sometimes works weekends
- was a soloist on the Monday Show Entertainment’s Small Stage series back in 2016, danced for NUMEROUS shows/events from 2011 to 2015, as well as having been the lead in the Short + Sweet Musical 2015 at KLPAC
- Lim Boon Seong (a.k.a. Boon): Bank Negara Economist by day, Theatre Actor by night
- Works from 8.30am to 9pm, sometimes midnight during peak seasons
- Was the Angel in RENT! The Musical, and also acted in Wayang: Malaysia Kita
- Alvin Looi: Human Resource Manager by day, Actor and Director by night
- Works 9 to 6 from Mondays to Fridays
- Played General Cheng WuTing, General Li XiaoYi, and Lai Ji in Empress Wu The Musical, which won Best Ensemble and Best Direction at the 2013 BCAA
- Karynn Tan: Marketing Program Manager by day, Actress by night
- Works an 8 to 5 shift, and sometimes travels or works weekends
- Previous roles include Ibu Min in ESYA: The Musical and Harriet in A LITTLE CONVICTION
- Timmy Ong: Executive in Capability & Knowledge Management and Group Risk Management (what a mouthful) by day, Actor and Singer by night
- works 8-hour shifts and never goes home before 4pm
- Was a singer in Sadhu for the Music and played Gopal in Xuan Zang: Journey to the West
What do you do to keep your sanity?
Boon: “Broadway musicals are my passion and I watch a lot of Broadway-related stuff to keep my sanity. Most of the time, I listen to Broadway recordings and imagine how I would stage and choreograph the musicals. That excites me and lights up my life.”
Wei Ling: “My crazy schedule keeps me sane! It can be exhausting trying to juggle between work and classes and rehearsals but I really wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Alvin: “Performing helps me to keep my sanity most of the time. However, should I get overwhelmed with my rehearsal/performance, I take a trip back to my hometown and spend some time with my ageing mother.”
Karyn: “I do the arts to keep me sane from the stresses of my day job and I do my day job to keep me sane from the craziness of the arts.”
Timmy: “Planning out a schedule and following through with it. Changing from one hat to another frankly can be difficult for me; hence keeping a schedule and sticking to it helps me focus more and worry less; because that way I know chunks of time have been cut out for specific activities.”
What’s stopping you from pursuing art full-time?
Karyn: “I tried doing it full-time in 2012 but could not earn enough to get by despite downgrading my lifestyle to almost a hippie.”
Timmy: “The money and sustainability. With the amount I’m getting paid now for the shows I am doing, I can’t pay the bills and sustain myself. A (surprisingly) smaller factor is that I am still contracted to my current company. ”
What is that big break that would make you leave your job and pursue art full time?
Boon: “Getting a role on Broadway. It doesn’t even have to be a lead role. It can be any role in any show, as long as it’s on Broadway. If that happens, I’ll definitely leave my job and pursue art full-time.”
Karyn: “Oh, I don’t know… A role as the token Asian in a Hollywood movie? Actually, just having enough work to earn at least half of what I make now would be a good start. I won’t leave marketing totally. If given the choice, I’d just do it freelance. I love both and I can’t give up either.”
Wei Ling: “A role on Broadway! HAHA, joking. I’d leave my job if I got a role in a project that I believe would be a game-changer for the arts in Malaysia. But really, the dream would be finding a way to merge my day job with the arts!”
Most people say, “If you want to be really good at your art, you need to spend as much time with your art as you spend keeping your job.” What is your take on this? Explain.
Wei Ling: “Yes, time is important, but it’s nothing without passion. ”
Your advice/final words to people in the same boat as you or thinking about jumping into this boat?
Timmy: “Just do it! That’s the only way to find out if you are cut out for having two careers (and eventually one, hopefully)—or if you like it enough to continue pushing even though (other people say) you are not cut out for it. It will be bloody damn exhausting, but trust me, it’s worth it.”
Alvin: “Have fun performing, but don’t forget to tell the stories. As you learn more about performing, you will also learn more about yourself.”
Boon: “Treat every obstacle like an opportunity and never give up. It sounds cliché but you are bound to face a lot of challenges and you need to remind yourself of the joy and satisfaction you get from doing what you love. That little reminder will keep you going. ”
There you have it! Valuable insight from your friendly neighbourhood artistes! As you can see, we’re all not that different from one another, and not everyone lives the life you think they might be living. So if you’ve been chasing the 9 to 5 while hoping to pursue a secret (or not-so-secret) life on stage, just know that you won’t be the only one out there!
As they say before you step out onto that stage, BREAK A LEG!