ENGIE AND DERRICK POSING FOR THE CAMERA
The venue was booked, tickets were sold, and rehearsals were well under way. But 'Tan Meets Tan' became the play that never was. The young and proud parents of fledgling theatre company Sight Lines Entertainment could have been daunted and given up on their venture, but that would be completely out of their character.
Youth.SG met up with Derrick Chew and Engie Ho two weeks ago for a chat. Friends for six years, the duo are the youngest in the industry to own their own theatre company, Derrick proudly proclaims.
DERRICK AND ENGIE - PROUD PARENTS OF FLEDGLING SIGHT LINES ENTERTAINMENT
But do not be mistaken. Neither of them are greenhorns. Engie, at 30, has more than ten years of experience in the arts industry, while Derrick, 26, has eight. While they are still younger and less experienced, compared to some of the 'big shots' in the arts industry, it does not deter them. "Of course there are insecurities, being less experienced, but well, if you don't even try, you'll never know," Engie asserts.
Daring to dream
The idea of the company started when Derrick, restless from doing the same things over and over again, had a dream that he might one day do something different from stage managing. It started when veteran actress Tan Kheng Hua mentored him three years ago, exposing him for the first time to marketing and producing plays. Further inspired by Adrian and Tracie Pang, founders of theatre company Pangdemonium, where Derrick works as the marketing and public relations manager, his 'crazy' dream began to seem more attainable.
So, how did Derrick meet Engie? When posed this question, both began a little reminiscent journey of the productions they had been involved in. They first worked together on 'The Magic Fundoshi' by W!ld Rice in 2006. Engie was then in charge of wardrobe, while Derrick was the assistant stage manager.
The chemistry between the two is not one that strikes you instantly, but when they start talking, you can tell it is a partnership that will probably work.
When asked about his personality, Derrick tried hard to describe it: "Strong-willed? That’s not the word…"
Engie helped him out. She said: "Ambitious. Very strong drive and determination."
"I guess I know what I want," Derrick floundered on.
"That's what I said what," Engie retorted good-naturedly.
As Engie explained, part of the reason their collaboration and partnership has been so successful is the way their personalities complement each other extremely well. While Derrick is ambitious to the extent of being "very far-fetched sometimes", Engie is grounded and realistic.
Of course, starting a company came with challenges aplenty. Registering the company in itself was a challenge, Derrick shared. "I have practically zero business sense, and the administration is crazy. So many things to handle. But that's what she's there for la. " said Derrick, gesturing to Engie with a laugh. Funding was an issue too, said Engie, who is saving up for her wedding this May. They had to dig deep into their own pockets to get started and are counting on their upcoming production, 'Trainstopping', to bring in some profits.
THEY ATTEMPT TO POSE WACKILY FOR ME
THE DUO'S RENDITION OF SINGING IN THE RAIN
DERRICK : "OH THIS IS AWKWARD"
ENGIE : (LAUGHS NERVOUSLY) "YES IT IS, LET'S PRETEND WE'RE TALKING ABOUT SOMETHING FUNNY"
Did anyone object to their venture? Since Derrick is working at Pangdemonium while juggling his new company, we assumed there would be resistance from his bosses. However, he assured us that they – Adrian and Tracie - were extremely supportive. In fact, they felt that his separate portfolio would rejuvenate and greatly benefit him.
Other established theatre companies such as W!ld Rice, Singapore Repertory Theatre and Dream Academy were also supportive, generously loaning them props and costumes.
Derrick said: "The arts community works differently from other businesses. Everybody loves everybody. In fact, we all try to encourage more small groups (to enter the industry) because it adds to the vibrancy of the arts scene."
Whatever resistance they faced came earlier on in their lives. When Derrick and Engie wanted to take arts-related courses in school, their parents were not convinced. Engie ended up studying Engineering at Temasek Polytechnic, where she was "so unhappy". She tried her best to involve herself in as much theatre-related activities as she could, joining the drama club at the Polytechnic and working on plays externally. After a year and a half, she put her foot down. She dropped out of Engineering and enrolled herself in Lasalle College of the Arts in 2002.
Derrick, on the other hand, negotiated with his parents, who wanted him to become a banker or doctor. He promised to achieve good 'O' level results, on the condition that they give him the freedom to choose the course he wanted to pursue. He went on to Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Film and Media Studies, which ignited his passion for the arts.
So, why Sight Lines, the name of their company? Derrick told us: "Okay, in very technical terms, Sight Lines, in theatre, are defined as uninterrupted lines of vision from the audience to the performers on stage. That's what we wish to be, the bridging gap between audience and performer. We want to be relevant and accessible to the people."
Finally, their word to all the young people out there. Engie said: "Find a good support team, that's very important. And work super hard to develop your passion; don't let anything kill your passion."
Derrick added: "Don't be afraid to pursue what you want. Don't waste your youth, don't waste your life. This might be cheesy but I heard from someone before, get a LIFE. Living Intentionally For Ever. I mean it's cheesy, but living intentionally, that's important."
So with their words of wisdom, we look forward to Sight Lines Production's debut play, 'Trainstopping: The Year in Revue 2011'. Held at the Arts House, Chamber, it will be running from Apr 26 to May 3.
"We've learnt a lot from our first production that didn't pull through, and we have a good feeling about this. The trains may stall, but this time the show will not. I assure you," said Derrick. Let this dynamic duo inspire all you youths out there to pursue your dreams and passions, and with hard work, be assured you will go quite as far as them.
DERRICK AND ENGIE WITH LASALLE IN THE BACKGROUND - ENGIE'S ALMA MATER
Win a pair of tickets to Trainstopping (worth $100) here!
Tickets are available here.