by Sherif Awad
Actress/ Writer/ Producer/ Founder and Artistic Director of KrisP. Production
-I was raised in a small city called Khabarovsk in the far east of Russia. Just to give you an idea, It is about 35 km from the Chinese border. It is a very beautiful place but quite small, and so not so many things were going on there when I was growing up. However, like in any other city in Russia, there were many state theatres including drama, youth and music theatre so from a very young age I was already exposed to lots of art and theatre. It also helped that my mother was an actress too. I was literally raised on stage among directors, dancers, costumes, light designers and actors. It was a fun and a significant time of my life that determined my future as an actress. At the age of five, I already knew that I wanted to venture into acting.
-My mom was my biggest role model while I was growing up. Watching her and her colleagues on stage was all I knew and admired. Everything changed when I left my city to pursue my acting degree in another town. My interests broadened and frame of reference expanded. I began to read more, watch more, listen more, mainly local Russian writers/actors/singers. Massive change happened when I left Russia for Singapore. I was amazed at how much more there was undiscovered by me. Western and Asian contemporary artists, music genres, acting techniques I’ve never heard of. Too many. I was consuming everything new that came my way. But if I have to tell you a few names, people who influenced me as artists and keep inspiring me as an actress and theatre maker right now, they would be: Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey, Anne Bogart, Kirill Serebrennikov, Konstantin Bogomolov, Robert Lepage, Dimitris Papaioannou, Woody Allen, Yorgos Lanthimos …. I can go forever.
-I truly believe that for true artist learning never ends. It’s a continuous process. One must always be hungry for the knowledge, experience and challenge. Talking about my own training, it was very versatile, and I thank the universe and my parents for giving me such an amazing opportunity. When I was seventeen, I left Russia for Singapore to continue pursuing my acting degree at Lasalle College of The Arts. It was a unique experience for me because I didn’t speak English at the time and I was all by myself with no friends and family. But luckily, everything worked out well for me. I got into the university without any issues. There I got my training, not only in classical Stanislavsky and Chekhov acting techniques but also in traditional Asian theatre. I had the chance to explore forms of performing such as Chinese Opera, Japanese Noh theatre, Indian Kathakali and Wayang Wong. We also worked on classical ballet, tap and jazz dance training, voice training, acting on screen. Furthermore, we were required to learn set design and composition among many other interesting subjects. I enjoyed this form of training as it made me a versatile actor, and I am very thankful for that. So far, I’m never satisfied: always want to do more, be more.
-I personally never felt challenged as a female writer and theatre maker in Hong Kong or in Singapore. I’ve experienced some discrimination based on my look, accent and nationality in this industry before as an actress, but I’ve been lucky enough lately to create freely as a writer and producer. I think we live in a very interesting time for women. Now our voices are being heard and that’s really wonderful and inspiring. I feel blessed to be living in this time and place.
But again, I’m just a small fish. Maybe when I’ll get to play big on a bigger market, like Hollywood or China it would be a different game altogether and I might not feel as lucky or proud to be a female creative in this industry. But so far, I feel very lucky to have been able to express myself freely and see other inspiring women among theatre makers in Hong Kong. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, most of the theatre makers / writers / directors that I know in the English theatre community in Hong Kong are women. Isn’t that amazing?!
-I live between 3 countries right now: Russia, Singapore and Hong Kong. Perhaps I’ll just say a few things about Hong Kong. Art scene over here is quite international, vibrant and active, but I wish it had more affordable performing venues. Venues can be very difficult to book and it is very, very expensive. I personally experience great difficulty as an independent theatre maker to make money out of the theatre productions or sometimes even to break even is difficult.
Also, The industry doesn’t offer many TV/Film opportunities to English speaking actors compared to Singapore, for example.
But there is one major thing I’ve learned as an actor is that “ When no one gives you an opportunity, create it for yourself. “
Therefore I’m mainly focusing on producing my own original work right now, developing myself as a writer, director and producer. I approached my new works always with enthusiasm and curiosity. My private and professional daily lives coexist in perfect harmony.
-I’ve discovered a new passion for myself: teaching creative workshops. Never thought I’d enjoy it, but I do. Next week, I’ll be facilitating my own brand new workshop “Unleash Your Inner Artist” that aims to help people to unblock themselves creatively. I also began to work on a new script DIVORCE (working title), a dark comedy about a young woman who struggles through her parents’ divorce. Another big project of mine is coming soon, end of February, to be precise-the birth of my baby. My husband and I are super excited to meet him. It would be a great change in our life and I love CHANGE.