Nicholas Tan has garnered more than a decade of experience in arts education. His journey in theatre started in school when he was given the opportunity to attend a workshop by theatre doyen Kuo Pao Kun and he hasn’t looked back since. With a heart for children and youth, Nicholas coaches scriptwriting and drama skills, and has directed several productions and musicals. As a freelance trainer, he also works closely with, and trains underprivileged children in Singapore.
1. What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently finishing up this year’s projects with several preschools, and am working to produce a primary school musical for 2018.
2. What’s the direction of your work? Has it changed over the years?
The direction of my work is very youth-centred, and I am currently exploring early childhood education. Over the years, I have widened my training to include adults, preschoolers, and those with special needs.
3. What is a dream project that you hope to do?
Haha! I have a lot of dream projects, but I guess the foremost would be to return to Victoria Theatre to direct another school or church musical.
4. How did you start out doing what you do?
I started as an arts administrator in Dramaplus Arts in 2001, and picked up training skills from all the trainers, and from courses I attended.
5. How do you keep your work fresh?
I talk shop with various trainers, read up what I can, and most importantly, talk to the students/people to find out what works, and any trends that I can adopt to engage them better.
6. What do you think makes a perfect drama educator?
I don’t think that perfection exists as education is constantly evolving, and every new group we train requires an individual approach.
7. Why is drama important? Why should it be taught in schools?
To me, drama is important to develop creativity and an avenue of expression. I also think that we have to start teaching early from the preschool level so that critical thinking, teamwork and all the good things associated with drama will have a greater chance to take root in the kids.
8. Who was the drama educator that has the most impact on you?
Many drama educators have impacted me, but the one that has had the most impact would be Dr Jonathan Neelands when I attended a workshop he conducted.
9. What is your most memorable moment in the classroom/on stage?
It was when a shy introverted boy was transformed into a confident and expressive lead in a school production of Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and there was a standing ovation for him. Everyone was tearing and crying.
10. Share a drama activity that you love to do.
One of my favorite activities is Pirate Ship. It has several levels and can be expanded as needed.
Level 1 – trainer’s command is Captain On Board, and response by all is Aye, Aye Captain, and to stand at attention
Level 2 – trainer’s command is Row Row Your Boat, and response is for participants to get into pairs, and to demonstrate rowing a boat (standardized or interpretive responses)
Level 3 – trainer’s command is Man Overboard, and response is for participants to get into threes, and to demonstrate saving a drowning person (standardized or interpretive responses)
Further levels have different commands and responses. Trainer & participants can work together on commands and responses.
11. What do you hope to see in Singapore’s drama/theatre landscape in future?
I’m hoping to see drama becoming a core element in curriculum, either as a vehicle to deliver subjects, or as a stand-alone.
12. In one word, sum up your drama education journey.