Grow with iStage | I think I just hope that they can find one thing they really

July 27th, 2020

Q: Madelyn and Eleanor have been studying at iStage since 2017. Why did you choose to send your daughters to iStage?

A: I was looking for musical theatre program for both of my kids, especially Ellie, the younger one. I wanted to find theatre related training programs for Ellie. They tried a few organisations and were not too keen until we found iStage. Both kids told us that they loved it and wanted to sign up after the trial class. In fact, it was the only trial class they had such reaction. After discussing with my husband John, we decided to give it a go to see if they still could be so enthusiastic after one term. It turns out they really love iStage, so we've been here ever since.

Q: Your family lives very far away from iStage and Ellie was very young back in 2017. What  are the factors that keep you going?
A: It was definitely hard in the first term because of the distance and commuting time, we had to put their classes at the same day, at that time Ellie was just 4. Ellie is the one holding the microphone since she was a toddler, she had no fear towards the stage, and that’s something I hope she will never lose. That’s the reason why I wanted to find a place where she could continue to work on that confidence. John and I worked out a schedule so that we can both support their journey at iStage.
Q: Your family goes to church on Sundays, but sometimes our performances happen on Sundays. Many times, you had to prioritise iStage activities, events and performances, how do you feel about that?
A: At first, attending church on Sundays was our priority. We also tried to balance our routine and the kids’ extra program. If there was a class or other iStage activities, we just did it for the kids. This was more of an enjoyment for all of us rather than work.

Q: What role do you think you and John plays in the path of your children's growth?
A: First of all, you have to be very supportive and sensitive to what they like. For example, I was looking for a musical theatre program for Ellie, but Maddie actually has gained a lot from the program. Secondly, it is important to let them try different things when they are young. As a parent, you just need to be supportive, and encourage them from time to time.
Q: It’s quite like looking for a passion.
A: I completely agree with that, I’ve seen a lot of people who do not know what their passions are. When you know your passion, it changes the ways how you are motivated and how you live your life. I hope my girls find their passion.
Q: Are there any other benefits that you think learning performing arts may bring to your children?
A: I think it's interpersonal and emotional expression. They become more sociable, and having no fear of speaking to adults, teachers and strangers. They are able to make friends from different age groups, different schools… Knowing how to interact with people is important. 

For Maddie, I really have seen such a tremendous growth at her. When she was younger, she was really quiet, it was very hard for her to release her emotions and express herself. But musical theatre gives her a way to release. She may not be able to tell me everything, but it gives her some kind of stress release. Everyone needs a let out in some way, sometimes it’s hard to express in words, taking musical theatre class really helps her release her emotions.


Q: Would they like to develop further in performing arts or related areas?
A: Maddie says she wants to be a Broadway star or a therapist, she is a sensitive person. Learning performing arts helps her find and understand herself more. She knows she still has a lot to work with if she wants to make it a career. But I always tell them, besides being a Broadway actor, there are a lot of other professions. They love being on the stage, it may be too early to define their career development, but I am sure they will use these skills in any careers they chose in future.

Q: Maddie has made the Pre-select group. Are there any changes you have noticed since she joined iStage?

A: She is definitely more confident and happier. When she was younger, I had to encourage her to greet whenever I took her to my friend’s house. She knew it was important to greet but it was always the hardest thing for her to speak at that moment. However, she has become not so shy when she is on the stage. Besides, I definitely saw changes of her friendships -- she has learnt how to make more friends and she is able to support people who don’t have friends. So yes, joining iStage really helps her to open up.

Q: You're moving to Singapore, it's a pity that we won’t see Maddie's wonderful performance for a while.
A: This week’s summer camp is the last week for us to attend iStage classes. We talked about this, the kids had the reaction like “oh no, this is my last week at iStage”. However, for any future camps in the summer time or during the holidays, we will definitely come and visit if they want to come back. I told them, “I am sure Penny and Ms Karina will love to have you guys back. We just need to figure out the time and dates.”

Q: Yes, we will always welcome them back to join us, but they still need to take part in the audition.
A: I think it is important that you guys do the audition. When the kids are younger, we shall support and treat everybody equally. That’s the one thing I love about iStage. It really is for everybody. It’s not about being the best, iStage works with all the students and cares about the kids. I think that is the mission that I really 100% buy into.

Q: Performing arts are not always about glory and leading roles. Sometimes the students have to be on a small stage with little or no audience, and sometimes the students are assigned to ensemble roles which have very few lines. Do your children care about that and how do you feel?
A: I did some performances when I was at school. But it wasn’t nearly as much as my kids have experienced in Shanghai both at iStage and their school. I think they should cherish the opportunities they have now in Shanghai. 

John has a really good friend who is an actor, he explains: “I go to like a hundred auditions and I am lucky if somebody calls me back for one. I get 99 rejections but it is worth it for that one possible yes.“ So it is never going to be like, you practice and then you are going to be a star, that is just the wrong message. 

I always tell my kids: “you just keep work on your best, and let yourself be good enough.” I always take them to the Broadway diner across the street (when we go to NYC to see the Broadway shows), look how many people work here because they need to make a living, waiting for the chance to finally get the role.


Q: Do you often take your children to watch musicals?
A: We go back to the US and watch Broadway shows every summer. We started with one show and now are up to two great shows. I never buy nice tickets, we normally wake up at 7:00 am, run to get the breakfast, then take the subway and sit in the line for 2 hours for the discounted tickets. 

You can watch a show with 40 US dollars tickets or 200 US dollars tickets. But for real fans, it doesn’t matter where you sit, you can watch it 5 times if you pay for 40 USD instead of 200 USD. For example, we watched 「The Mean Girls」 twice with 40 US dollars tickets. And I also tell them: “if you really want good seats, you have to earn them.” Just give them the perspective of how much things cost.


Q: Both of your girls are studying musical. Do they compete or compare with each other during the learning journey?
A: They encourage each other, but they are also aware which area they are strong in. For Maddie, it definitely is dance. She took more dance classes when she was younger. They do compare but we try to make it positive. If they have any weakness, they help each other. Maddie always helps Ellie practice all her lines and tries to give her tips. 

Maddie recognises her sister is fearless on the stage, and that’s something she wanted. But she does not care so much any more,I always tell her to concentrate on her strengths because we are all different. 

Everyone at iStage is different, but when you are on a stage, you have to support each other: if someone forgets their lines, you need to help them, not judge them. You never know when you could be the one who misses the step or forgets the lines.


Q: The sisters have very different personalities. You raise them really well.  What do you and John do in terms of the parenting to fit in their personalities?
A:Because Maddie is more sensitive and she is the older one, I spend a lot of efforts on her. Luckily Ellie has always been the easier one, she likes trying everything and never being upset. She loves her sister, so she is naturally happy to follow what her sister does. 

I always remind Maddie that Ellie is a younger sister, she could be annoying to copy what Maddie does, only because she looks up to Maddie so much. Ellie was born knowing that she has a sister, but Maddie is kind of like “I just enjoy my own time.” So I have to always keep that perspective in mind for Maddie. 

We definitely parent them differently, but I also tell them why. For example, if I buy a new t-shirt for Maddie, it doesn’t mean I have to buy one for Ellie too, vice versa. They do not alway get things at the same time, that’s not the way it works.


Q: What are your expectations for the future of your two daughters?
A: I just want them to find their passion which is really important. Right now, it seems to be arts, but anything can happen, so we don’t label them. I just hope that they can find one thing they really enjoy and get really passionate about.


Q: Last question, do you like iStage?
A: Of course, and you can tell from all the people I have recommended to iStage. 100% I love iStage! My kids cannot imagine living in Singapore without iStage, it breaks their hearts. Although they know there will be musical theatre in Singapore, nothing can replace iStage in their hearts!


In past three years, they really gained so much. We have a video of Ellie when she was doing her first performance at 5. It was like an instant love. 


Attending iStage programs is not work or classes, it’s just their lives. Even when we move, musical theatre will always be a part of their life in different ways. And they will always love any kind of singing, dancing and stages.