Profile: Ethel Yap

Published on 29 February 2016

Despite the challenges, actress/singer Ethel Yap never gave up on her career choice.

BY daphne ong

Ethel Yap takes on ingénue roles with ease, thanks to her fresh face and clear voice. She has strutted her stuff in musicals like Beauty World, appeared in Singapore films like Our Sister Mambo, and even crooned her compositions alongside 10 felines in kitty café, The Company of Cats.

Yap attributes her affinity for music and theatre to early exposure in these fields. Abandoning her initial teaching aspirations, she switched to Theatre Studies halfway through her course in English Literature at the National University of Singapore. “My parents needed some convincing, but I needed to convince myself too that it wasn’t the wrong choice to make.”

Like most young artists, she struggled to find a footing in the industry when she arrived back in Singapore after obtaining her master’s in Musical Theatre from London’s Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. “It was really hard! I spent a few months parked in front of the computer checking audition notices and sending out my CV. I wondered if I had made a huge mistake.”

Three years on, Yap has distinguished herself with her strong vocals and acting chops, shining not only in musicals but also in non-singing roles like her well-received performance in Pangdemonium’s Tribes as a young woman who slowly loses her hearing.

Glowing reviews aside, Yap has faced her share of challenges. “Accepting rejection and dealing with it, like every freelancer!” she exclaims. “Body image is another. Appearance matters to some people, and when you’re constantly putting yourself out there and leaving yourself open to others’ judgement, it can be hard to not let it determine your worth or consume you.”

What does consume her in positive ways is her music, which led to her involvement in Noise Singapore’s Music Mentorship programme, an initiative by the National Arts Council to develop the creative talents of young people. The nurturing and highly-collaborative environment inspired Yap, who relished connecting with other musicians and creating works together. Today, she continues to write and perform her own folk-and-acoustic pop songs.

Ever seeking the next challenge, Yap will soon tackle Mandarin musical Liao Zhai Rocks! by The Theatre Practice. While this is not her first time performing in a Mandarin musical, it will be her first in a lead role. “They know my Mandarin is rickety but they still believe in me! I will be brushing up on it before the show opens.”

Liao Zhai Rocks! opens 31 March at the Drama Centre Theatre. Visit www.sistic.com for ticketing details.

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