Interview with Sharon Au: Life lessons gained from the arts | The A List
Multi-hyphenate Sharon Au, a former TV celebrity turned investment director who continues to act, rehearses for Toy Factory Production’s upcoming play, 7 Sages of the Bamboo Grove. She is joined by Loh Junhong , Nelson Chia , Sharon Au, Tang Shao Wei , Li Te. (Photo: Sharon Au)

Interview with Sharon Au: Life lessons gained from the arts | The A List

Former TV celebrity Sharon Au, 44, has publicly confessed she is a changed woman. The Paris-based investment director made local headlines not too long ago because colleagues complained about her working after hours. She now observes strict office hours, yet she has managed to end up with a more punishing schedule since coming back home this month.

She is in town to act in the upcoming theatre production, 7 Sages of the Bamboo Grove. The performance will be staged at the Esplanade as part of its Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts. Between juggling theatre rehearsals in Singapore and still working her corporate job in a different time zone, she gets just 3 hours of sleep every day. To cap it all off, she recently launched a new business, an online French culinary school, Ti Yan Academy.

It is easy to label her an overachiever. But do that, and you lose the opportunity to be inspired. For while she might have been sleeping less, there is no denying her joie de vivre when The A List meets her during a break in her tightly packed rehearsal schedule.

What drives this household name, who still turns heads in public despite having left the small screen years ago, is “passion.” Specifically, a passion that marries art with life.

“Without art, our lives will be very dull. Let art be a part of your life, and you’ll see that it completes you,” she says.This aphorism, she adds, applies not just to conventional full-time artists, but to every man in the street, whether an audience member or a non-arts professional who nonetheless devotes time to making art.

For Au, acting in 7 Sages has been a thought-provoking way of processing life. The play, inspired by Chinese historical figures, is set in a futuristic, dystopian world, one where people have their creativity suppressed and their wills controlled. Au, who plays Cao Shuang, the female oppressor in the surveillance state, however, finds the play to be au courant.

She says: “The opportunity to play Cao Shuang comes at a time when we see people in parts of the world go on rampages to voice their views. The people’s voices need to be heard, but when they communicate in a violent manner and cause so much unrest, it can be counter-productive. This issue hits very close to home and I’m glad to be able to explore it with my fellow actors and director, and in a deep, profound manner.”

This play also carries special personal significance. It marks her theatrical reunion with Goh Boon Teck, chief artistic director of the homegrown theatre company Toy Factory Productions, which is behind 7 Sages. It was Goh who talent-spotted Au 25 years ago and helped her break into the world of acting with a role in a stage remake of the musical, I Have a Date with Spring.

Looking back on how far she and the arts scene in Singapore have come, she says: “I think we have progressed a lot in our perception and consumption of the arts as a nation. When I played Mdm Kwa Geok Choo in The LKY Musical (2015), many people who came to catch the play told me they had never stepped into a theatre before.”

Indeed, as she pours her life into the arts, her pursuit brings art and life to others. Perhaps she is right after all; without the arts, our lives might be just that bit duller.

More information on 7 Sages of the Bamboo Grove can be found here.

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