#HelloTFP: Sindhura Kalidas

by fingerplayers

#HelloTFP is a series of anecdotes where we introduce and share more about the members of the TFP family; from core team members to office interns. In this latest #HelloTFP feature, we speak with our TFP Fellow, Sindhura Kalidas, about how she got her start in theatre, her journey through the industry, and what her experience has been like in The Finger Players Fellowship Programme.

“My love for performing began when I was six years old and I was cast in a kids’ television show called Hip-O and Friends. It was like the Singaporean version of Barney so I had to act, sing, dance – the whole shebang. I often cringe when I mention it to people and many of my friends like to tease me about it but if I am being honest, working on that show taught me some important things about being a responsible performer — always be punctual, always know your lines, always be humble. I have tried to carry that with me as much as I can (even though as I get older, the struggle to learn lines is getting more and more real!).

After my time on Hip-O, it made sense to me to join the Drama Club at my primary school. I continued Drama Club-ing throughout secondary school and JC too. In fact, one of the most memorable excursions my secondary school drama club took was to watch Furthest North, Deepest South (a TFP and Mime Unlimited collaboration) in 2004. The late Christina Sergeant, who was our CCA instructor, directed the show and we bought tickets to support her. I remember being totally floored. Never did I think that puppets could be used so imaginatively. It was the most visually arresting theatre performance I had ever watched. Who would have thought that 16 years later, I’d get a chance to work with the very same theatre company that our dear Ms Sergeant had worked with!  

We Were So Hopeful Then, as part of TNS devising platform The Orange Playground.
Image credit: The Necessary Stage.

I must be honest that my journey to and within the theatre industry has been slightly different compared to some of my peers. Many people (including me!) expected me to join the theatre industry full-time immediately after my graduation from the NUS Theatre Studies programme, but my circumstances at that time did not allow me to. So I got a job at a private enrichment centre teaching English and Literature. While that helped to pay the bills, I realised I needed to stay in touch with theatre to nourish my soul. I joined incubation programmes, workshops, masterclasses, whatever I could find to stay in touch with theatre and keep learning and growing. I sometimes would randomly meet up with old friends to “jam”. I’d come prepared with a Shakespearean monologue and then another friend would direct me. For a couple of months in 2015, I was doing comedy improv with two other friends every Sunday afternoon. It started becoming clearer and clearer to me, as time progressed, that performing was my lifeline. It kept me sane.

Sindhura in Oliver Chong’s Puppetry in Performance Masterclass.

In 2018, I made the decision to devote more time to theatre and I am extremely grateful to all the individuals and companies (big shout out, particularly,  to the lovely people at The Necessary Stage) who took a chance on me and gave me acting, directing and facilitating opportunities. In 2019, I was fortunate enough to work with Ellison and Myra, the co-artistic directors of TFP, on a project called “We Were So Hopeful Then” as part of The Necessary Stage’s developmental platform “The Orange Playground” and I got to learn more about their experiences with TFP which started with apprenticeships. When I heard that TFP was going to start a fellowship programme, I was initially a bit hesitant to apply because I have absolutely no experience with puppetry. But it appeared as though they were keen for people of various backgrounds to apply, so I decided to go for it.

Sindhura in Rene Baker’s Puppetry Masterclass.

I’ve been given a lot of freedom to chart my fellowship journey but of course, COVID-19 has thrown a spanner in the works. So I’ve had to pivot the journey a little and do more “behind the scenes” work which has been equally enlightening – writing educational resource kits for TFP’s AEP programmes, scriptwriting for community programmes and doing research for an upcoming dramaturg-ing opportunity. I’ve also been given the opportunity to attend masterclasses and workshops, most notably Oliver Chong’s Puppetry in Performance Masterclass and Rene Baker’s puppetry workshops. Working on these projects and attending these classes have given me a lot of insight into the kind of work that TFP does and its core values as a company. I’m grateful to be aligned with a company that is this established, this inventive and this sincere in wanting to create a supportive environment to groom the next generation of practitioners.”