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Get to know Sharda Harrison from the play, 13.13.13

Get to know Sharda Harrison from the play, 13.13.13

#WomanCrushWednesday

Text: Megan Koh


Sharda Harrison stars in the local play, 13.13.13. We chat with the Singapore-based theatre maker for the stories behind playwright Shen Tan’s piece

You play Samantha in 13.13.13 in a story about a failing relationship. What were some personal experiences that you were inspired by?
My parents divorced. I believe, or in my opinion, my parents' marriage was perfect. Almost complete. I think they both had material wealth, emotional wealth and total balance. I suppose somewhere along the line there was an imbalance and that threw everything off kilter. This show is highly personal for me because I feel sometimes, even though in different circumstances, I am playing out their divorce. Over and over again. The human emotion is complex. And that is what keeps me going. I never underestimate how irrational emotions can make us.

Thomas Pang plays William, your love interest in the production. How is it like working with him and the rest of the cast?
Thomas is one of the most giving co-actors I've ever had the chance to work with. He is intelligent, emphatic and hard working. We have had time together as friends to get to know each other deeper through the lens of these characters. He challenges me. As I hope I challenge him. And together as a team, we motivate each other for every show. As with Jo Tan and Chanel Ariel Chan, they are a fun, loving and supportive cast and I could not feel more blessed. The creative team, my director Shou Chen and Shen the playwright, everyone has come together as a big creative family.

13.13.13 is a play written by new playwright Shen Tan. What drew you to the script and how do you go about choosing your projects?
I choose my projects by 'flowing'. I run a movement class called 'flow' and what that means is, allowing my instincts to make, lead or influence my decisions. I did the original script read in 2017 for 13.13.13 and found that something of me exists in my character Sam and I went with that understanding and 'knowing'. I can be picky about my projects based on instinct. If it doesn't feel right, I won't take it up. I am however moving more into outreach and education training work. Also working with lower income communities to bring drama and movement and build what I am calling 'creative classrooms'.

Apart from acting, you also co-run a production/education company, Pink Gajah Theatre. What are the similarities and differences in being front stage and back stage?
I don't know if I am good at backstage work. I am terrible at administrative work but that's why I have my co-producer Loh An Lin who works with me behind the scenes and helps to build the business ground up. I am thankful to her and for her belief. I also run the company with my mother, Ajuntha Anwari and my brother, Sean who helps me with the artistry and creative decisions. Although through Pink Gajah, I am still on stage , but yes there are a lot of back stage work hidden. In the admin, grant applications, partnerships and so forth. Learning how to market my workshops and trainings have been valuable and something that only being an actress alone would not have taught me. Being a woman on stage has given me the confidence to be the business woman I am growing into today.

You were a mentor and facilitator for the Singapore International Festival of Arts and was part of the winning ensemble at the M1-The Straits Times Life Theatre Awards 2016 for Hotel. What do you regard as your greatest achievement so far? And what do you hope to do next in theatre?
My greatest achievement so far in life is raising an abandoned baby crow and being with it all the way from fledgling to flight. It flew away. And that was my proudest moment. I've mentored, acted, created and directed. I adore all the students, co-actors and co-creatives I get to meet. My heart is with the environment. I hope one day, I get to tie in conservation and art in a profound way that can really cause change, and action.

What are your upcoming projects for the year?
We have launched our 2018 laboratory series which pairs artists together or in groups and Pink Gajah platforms their works as a phase one showing. It is a year-long residency program. Currently we are looking for funding. On that note we will host our Pink Gajah theatre fundraiser this year and are hoping for it to be at the end of November. We are also working with the Boys' Town. Pink Gajah has just finished a series of workshops with caregivers of family members with mental illness through Alecia Neo and her amazing mind. I think Pink Gajah is really going to go and grow into the social outreach aspect of training and art. It's something I've been dreaming of for years and here it is.

What is the biggest thing a Singapore audience can take away from the play, 13.13.13?
Human emotions are complex. Human beings are complex. And no matter how much we can relate or be distanced by these four characters, a part of us exists in each of them. With immense love sometimes comes immense expectations. How do we rid ourselves off that? I hope people reflect on this.

13.13.13 plays at TheatreWorks from now till 4 August 2018, tickets here.
For last week's #WomanCrushWednesday, click here.

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