Actress Oon Shu An on tackling world change, post-pandemic theatre and... fidget toys?
In the latest episode of CNA Lifestyle's podcast series Pyjama Party For 2, actress Oon Shu An talks about going back on stage, spreading hope and what helps her see light during the pandemic.
One of the things that Oon Shu An has recently developed a penchant for is fidget toys: Little gadgets that occupy your hands in a sensory manner.
“I’ve totally gotten into fidget toys recently!” the actress shared during a recording for CNA Lifestyle’s podcast series Pyjama Party For 2.
“I bought a bag (of them), I think there were 30 of them in it – different ones. Once in a while, I’ll just take things and start tapping them.”
And, since she’s also into slime, “I’ve been playing with a putty one recently. It’s just so great. It’s so relaxing.”
Other random things she’s bought lately are a mini vacuum cleaner – “I thought it’d be good for my keyboard” – and a card game called We’re Not Really Strangers. “It's supposed to facilitate deeper conversations with friends, family, partners – that kind of thing.”
We can probably all relate to the need for distraction during this pandemic period. After all, it’s a tough time for many, even if we ourselves have been fortunate.
For Oon, it has been a time of "learning how to take care of my mental health” and “figuring out how to best channel my energy”.
She regularly shares posts of other people’s experiences on social media about instances of kindness, awareness and positivity.
“A lot of these stories gave me a lot of hope, because they gave me a different understanding of how to approach these issues,” she shared. “And it also just reminds me that as people, we’re really trying our best in a world that was not made for everybody. And it's like, ‘How do we find our way through that? And how do we make it better for the next generation?’”
In particular, she’s been thinking more about the issues facing society, especially systemic issues such as discrimination.
“I was already looking into this stuff before and trying to educate myself, but more so during the pandemic,” she said. “I really started looking, learning more about what systemic issues are and how to understand those, and rejigging my understanding of the issues that we face. ‘What I can I do about it? What is within my control, and what can be done, and who is doing the work to push things forward? And how I can support that in some way?’”
As a theatre actress, she’s also acutely aware of the dire straits that theatre companies are in. In July, she returned to the stage in the play Lungs, her first since the pandemic started. While she was happy to be back “performing in front of people… in the same room together, experiencing all these emotions together”, there’s now an added financial strain on the theatre industry.
COVID-19 testing kits “are really expensive… and theatre is running at 25 per cent capacity. The theatre companies have to cover that,” she said. “So, it’s rough, man. My heart really goes out to all the companies.”
Theatre is still one of her favourite ways of performing, even though she’s done television, film and even hosting online shows. And even after all these years of acting on stage, she still gets pre-show jitters.
“I don't know if this is too much information, but before every show, you can probably find me in the bathroom! It’s just nerves!”
But being on stage isn’t the part she enjoys most. “Actually,” she divulged, “the rehearsal process is my favorite part. I also enjoy the performance, but a large part of the reason I love it so much is because of the rehearsal process, because I feel like that's the part where you get to discuss things, problem-solve, talk and connect, and really deep-dive into whatever it is that the play is talking about. And I find that so fulfilling.”
Listen to the full Pyjama Party For 2 podcast to find out the most important thing Oon Shu An is looking for in a romantic partner, what a “relationship jar” is and why she loves eating chewy things.
New episodes of Pyjama Party For 2 are published every Sunday at cna.asia/podcasts.