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Christina Sergeant was an American theatre director, actress and educator. Upon arriving in Singapore in 1983, she quickly established herself as a keen proponent of local theatre. She was Artistic Director at the Singapore Theatre Repertory Showcase (STAR) and Mime Unlimited. She also co-founded the Actors Theatre Circle with theatre doyenne Shirley Smith in 1989.
While a versatile actor and director, Sergeant was probably best known in the industry as a passionate arts educator. She taught drama at Lasalle College of the Arts, Raffles Girls School, and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). She was also a member of the theatre faculty at the School of the Arts (SOTA).
Sergeant won Best Director at the Life! Theatre Awards in 2011 for her work on the play Metamorphoses. The production, Further North, Deepest South by The Finger Players and Mime Unlimited also won the Best Ensemble Acting award and the Best Production award in 2005 under her direction. Sergeant died at the age of 57 on 17 February 2013.
Born in Massachusetts in the United States of America in 1955, Christina Sergeant was a renowned theatre director, actress and arts educator in Singapore. She graduated from the University of Houston in 1978 with a Bachelor of Arts in Drama and studied mime for two years between 1979 and 1981 at the Ecole de Mimodrame Marcel Marceau in Paris. Sergeant met her Singaporean husband B.K. Tan in Houston, Texas. The couple married and moved to Singapore in 1983.
From the start of her career, Sergeant had a strong interest in arts education. As early as 1981, she conducted numerous mime, acting, improvisation, movement, speech and drama, presentation and poetry workshops in Singapore, the United States, Malaysia and Hong Kong as well as in various countries in Europe and Africa.
So when she arrived in Singapore, she soon became involved in the local theatre scene. One of her first productions was Mime Over Matters, which she staged with composer John Hawksworth in 1984 at the Bistro in Tanglin Mall. The following year, she was appointed Artistic Director of the now-defunct community theatre group, Singapore Theatre Repertory Showcase (STAR), which was, at the time, Singapore’s largest community theatre. She held the role from 1985 to 1988.
In 1989, Sergeant co-founded the Actors Theatre Circle, a professional theatre company that focused on women’s stories and issues, with theatre practitioner Shirley Smith. That year, she staged and appeared in Skirmishes under the company. The production was noted as the Best Play at that year’s Drama Festival Fringe.
A significant achievement in Sergeant's career was when she established her company, Mime Unlimited, in 1993. She banded with students and fellow actors to stage mime performances—a genre that was rarely seen in Singapore at the time. She managed the financing of the company by conducting mime workshops and staging shows at hospitals and malls.
Sergeant was a woman who wore many hats. She took on multiple mentorship roles in the Singapore arts circle, and this made her one of the most recognised and respected names in the industry.
Between 1991 and 2007, she was the Comedy Skills, Mime, and Stage Movement and Commedia dell‘arte instructor at Lasalle College of the Arts. She was also an instructor at Julia Gabriel Speech and Drama Centre from 1992 to 1996.
From 2007 to 2009, Sergeant took on the position as facilitator for the National Arts Council's Arts Education Programme. Here, she acted as a commissions and physical theatre consultant. After her stint at the National Arts Council, she returned to Lasalle to reprise her role as the instructor of Comedy Skills, Mime, and Stage Movement and Commedia dell’arte.
Her contributions to arts education was fuelled by her passion for cultivating interest in theatrical arts amongst the youth. Sergeant loved teaching and had a genuine urge to share her knowledge and expertise. She believed that it was the duty of an artist to pass on what they have learnt.
Other than teaching students, Sergeant made major inroads into arts education by equipping potential instructors with the right support framework. She was a founding member of the Singapore Drama Educators Association and served as its Vice-President from 2005 to 2011. She also co-created Youth Theatre Singapore, a theatre training programme for young actors. The last teaching post she held was as the Performance and Practice, and Theory and Context instructor at the School of the Arts (SOTA).
While mentoring young theatre practitioners, Sergeant managed to continue her involvement in artistic creations. Her most noted directorial works include Cinderella Dreams (2002), Further North, Deepest South (2005), The Hypochondriac (2009) and Ashputtel – The Story of Cinderella (2012).
She was a talented actress, taking on roles as varied as that of a psychiatrist in Luni-id Theatre's production Agnes of God in 2004, and as the Evil Witch in W!ld Rice’s pantomime Oi! Sleeping Beauty in 2005. She also appeared in Casting Back in 2012, playing alongside veteran Singaporean actress Nora Samosir to look back on their theatre careers over the past 30 years.
Her achievements included receiving the Life! Theatre Awards for Best Director for the production Metamorphoses by Collab Theatre in 2011. The production, Further North, Deepest South by The Finger Players and Mime Unlimited also won the Best Ensemble Acting award and the Best Production award under her direction in 2005.
Sergeant died at the age of 57 on 16 February 2013. She had returned from performing in Murder by Chocolate, staged in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, when she was taken ill and hospitalised. She is survived by her husband and three children.
Born in Massachusetts, United States.
Graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Arts in Drama.
Studied mime at Ecole de Mimodrame Marcel Merceau, Paris.
Married her husband B. K. Tan and moved to Singapore with him.
Staged Mime Over Matters with composer John Hakwsworth at Bistro, Tanglin Mall, Singapore.
Artistic Director, Singapore Theatre Repertory Showcase, Singapore.
Comedy Skills, Mime, and Stage Movement and Commedia dell‘arte instructor, Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore.
Instructor, Julia Gabriel Speech and Drama Centre, Singapore.
Directed Cinderella Dreams.
Performed in Agnes of God.
Directed Further North, Deepest South.
Performed in Oi! Sleeping Beauty.
Vice President, Singapore Drama Educators Association.
Facilitator, National Arts Council's Arts Education Programme, Singapore.
Directed The Hypochondriac.
Won the Best Director award for Metamorphoses at the Life! Theatre Awards.
Directed Ashputtel – The Story of Cinderella.
Performed in Esplanade production Casting Back with Nora Samosir.
Performance and Practice, and Theory and Context instructor, School of the Arts, Singapore.
Performed in Murder by Chocolate, Abu Dhabi.
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Christina Sergeant (2nd from left) and B. K. Tan (centre) with Sergeant's brother Todd on their wedding day. Spring, Texas, USA. 1983.
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Christina Sergeant performing in Conductors at the Ballet, Centrepoint Shopping Centre, Singapore.
TributeSG celebrates the arts community’s most senior members, and those who have made a lifetime of contribution to the arts. These artists, administrators, educators, patrons, and champions include many Singapore arts pioneers who laid the foundations of the vibrant arts and cultural scene we enjoy today. The many profiles in TributeSG let us into the minds and worlds of these pioneers, and help us understand our shared arts heritage. When we revisit their works and rediscover their journeys, we learn where we came from and how we came to be. Collectively, their stories tell the tale of the making of a nation’s artistic identity.
In putting together this collection, the TributeSG team consulted an external advisory panel, consisting of Arun Mahiznan, Choo Thiam Siew, J. P. Nathan, K. K. Seet, Kwok Kian Chow, and Iskandar Ismail. Those selected to be profiled in TributeSG met one of the following criteria: they were at least 60 years of age as of 12 Oct 2016, or deceased, or had received national recognition in the form of the Cultural Medallion. This journey of arts archival officially came to a close on 12 Oct 2016, after four years of extensive research, interviews and collation of information graciously provided by the TributeSG pioneers, their families and peers. TributeSG also benefited from enthusiastic help from like-minded friends and organisations who supported Esplanade’s cause—to remember, honour and celebrate Singapore’s arts pioneers.