Every two years, SRT’s The Young Company (TYC) opens auditions to accept twenty young people to a two-year acting and theatre programme. Some will sign up for interest while others actively seek this as a springboard to their acting career. SRT met up with three TYC alumni who are familiar faces in the entertainment industry: Julie Wee – actress and voiceover artiste, Rishi Budhrani – actor, comedian, host, and Vanessa Vanderstraaten - actress.
What is your passion?
Julie Wee: I love my job. Acting is hard work, it’s creative, there are always new challenges with each project, and it’s such fun.
Rishi Budhrani: I don't think I have, or will completely be able to answer this question accurately, as it keeps changing. But the longer I've spent in the entertainment and theatrical industry, I've begun to realise that my passion lies in doing work where I get to unite a room full of strangers with my performance. Whether I do it as an actor, a writer, a host or a stand-up comedian, I realise I seem to gravitate toward that genre of communication. It gives me immense joy in being the creator of or tool for discussion of important issues, agent of change, the magic of escapist entertainment or simply, the commonality of experiencing human emotion.
Vanessa Vanderstraaten: My passion is acting and storytelling, and I’m grateful that the opportunities I’ve had and the people I’ve met continue to allow me to do just that. While some youths KNOW they want to be actors from a very young age, it wasn’t until my late teens that the idea began to solidify in my head. I struggled with it too; I wasn’t sure I had what it took to become an actor, or that I had the necessary skills since I had no formal training in school. It was only when I took a drama module in university that my instructor, Michael Corbidge, told me about Singapore Repertory Theatre’s The Young Company.
Vanessa Vanderstraaten was last seen on the SRT stage as Popilius Lena in Shakespeare in the Park – Julius Caesar. 7 years ago, she was part of The Young Company’s ensemble in the production of Grimm Tales.
How was your experience at TYC?
Julie Wee: I was in The Young Company back in 2003. I had taken a gap year after JC before I applied to drama school to decide if acting was really what I wanted to do as a career. In The Young Company, I met like-minded, theatre-loving friends who inspired me. We gained exposure to the industry through our trainers, the productions we put on, and the front-of-house work we did.
Vanessa Vanderstraaten: I learned so much from Dan (Jenkins). He’s an amazingly talented performer who also has a deep passion and patience for working with youths. He taught us everything from voice to characterization to understanding text to movement, always ensuring that everyone felt confident and safe enough to try anything. The fact that I recently got to share the stage with Dan, as a fellow actor, during Shakespeare in the Park – Julius Caesar (my professional theatre debut!) is mind blowing.
Around the same time I graduated from university, we had our final year showcase, Grimm Tales. Dan and SRT also organized a monologue showcase where we had a chance to perform and meet invited industry professionals. I met Keagan Kang and we’re good friends to this day! After graduating from The Young Company, I continued to be involved in SRT’s The Little Company drama workshops with Dan and as The Young Company alumni, we had the chance to meet and workshop with Kevin Spacey when he was in Singapore for Richard III. I also had the opportunity to be an understudy for Shakespeare in the Park – Twelfth Night in 2012. This is where I met Shane Mardjuki who later introduced me to FLY Entertainment!
Rishi Budhrani: Apart from theatrical basics, I think the most important take-away from TYC was that cultivation of a sense of independence. We sometimes forget how crucial it is to be able to look after yourself and take responsibility for yourself as a performer. Whether it's something as mundane as making sure your costumes and props are in order to the more serious aspects of emotionally exiting heavy characters safely, the directors and teachers I worked with showed immense care and love in guiding us. I am, and will be eternally grateful to Michael Corbidge, Sue Tordoff and Daniel Jenkins for this. They genuinely changed my life.
Rishi Budhrani made his transition from The Young Company to other professional roles in the Singapore theatre scene.
What is your advice to youths who have a passion for acting but unsure about taking up the course?
Rishi Budhrani: You can't go wrong with it. Save up some cash, forego a bit of the partying and the new clothes for a bit, and make time to commit to the course. It gives you a real-life theatrical experience from scratch and allows you to grow as a performer and a human being.
Most importantly, don't waste it. Don't show up expecting stuff to happen. Make things happen. Use the resources available. Put in the effort. Volunteer to crew, watch shows, help out with other professional productions. Reach out to the coaches who are more than willing to facilitate your growth. If you do that, I am sure you will have no regrets from your experience.
Vanessa Vanderstraaten: If you’re interested in drama and performance but you’re not yet 100% sure you want to be a working actor in the future, that’s absolutely fine. The Young Company is a great avenue to explore and develop your creativity, hone your presentation and verbal skills (so practical!) and meet new friends. For me, I can’t imagine not having gone through it. The Young Company has made me a better actor and I carry those lessons with me still.
Julie Wee: If you love acting and you want to gain more experience, why hesitate? You’ll have a great trainer in Daniel Jenkins who is a practicing actor as well as a teacher. You’ll receive guidance and practical show experience. You could have the opportunity to be part of the ensemble for Shakespeare in the Park, an experience like no other. This could be the start of your theatre journey, as it was for me and many of my other colleagues.
If you’re interested in finding out what The Young Company can offer you, find out more here. Take the journey and the leap of faith today. Auditions for the upcoming intake is on 7 September 2019. Don’t miss this opportunity!