Teen Talk 4: Interview with a Teen Actor

By: Cindy Kim

For this week’s blog post, I interview Shimali De Silva, an insanely talented actor, singer and performer who’s already had experience working in major productions at the age of 15. What are her experiences working so young in the industry, and how are her future prospects?

Alright, I’m going to open with one of the worst interview questions ever: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Well, I go to Shatin College, and am basically your average privileged, international school-going entitled teenager, but I do really love to perform particularly to sing, and recently I’ve been involved with musical theatre and a bit more on that side of everything.

Can you tell me about one of your performances?
 I don’t know if you can call me a debutante, but I’ve been in one. Last year I was really bored the whole Easter, so I enrolled myself in one of the HKAPA musical theatre classes. Everyone was literally five years old. So I was like, oh God, this is going to be such a waste of time, but the good thing about it was that I met the accompanist to the whole program. His name was Adam; he was basically doing this for a little bit of, you know

Extra cash?

Well, I didn’t want to say that, but you know how it is. Anyway, you audition for him on invitation, and if he wants to he’ll train you in the musical theatre style. And the weirdest thing is that for the past 10 years he was the organ player at my church, so had I joined the church choir like my mom had nagged me to for years, I would have started this whole thing earlier. But he basically said ‘audition for YAF because their productions are always amazing’, and it was A Chorus Line last year. I wasn’t that hopeful because I auditioned the year before and they said ‘okay thank you dear’ and never heard from them again.
But this year I got a callback, and when I got the part of Diana, this Puerto Rican dancer, I was ‘God this is perfect’. I was so excited and incredibly nervous.

Do you think your age affected your commitment to the show?
I was one of the youngest in the cast, but there were two other girls around my age. It was a big production in the sense that Hong Kong theatre doesn’t have many English speaking opportunities especially for young actors. But at the same time, the environment was very nurturing. It wasn’t as brutal as I think professional theatre would be. The point was to bring out talented and committed and people with a passion for theater and brings out the best in them. It wasn’t like I was balancing my school life with this performing arts career; it was more like a big, big extracurricular commitment.

You said that professional theater seems really brutal; will you still try to break into the scene?
The thing about this show is that it gave me this huge confidence boost, and this feeling of ‘yeah maybe I could do this’. But you have to wonder, in a much more competitive environment where everyone’s committed to the skills required of you when on-stage, how will I perform in that kind of environment? It was scary. The production wasn’t professional, but there was still this pressure. Will my voice give out? Will I hit the mark? So many things could go wrong. And in the real world, it would be multiplied a hundred times.

Do you think financial security is a factor in your decision not to go professional?
When you’re performing, there’s always this insecurity about whether your capabilities are sufficient. When your income relies upon that, there’s an added pressure. It’s not so much that I want a high paying career, but rather my parent’s fear, which kind of affects my ability to make a free decision. I’m not sure if I can accept the lifestyle that comes with it, and whether it’s the right career for me. I’ll definitely pursue it college level if I can, but the idea of giving up that life completely hasn’t really hit me.

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