By Liew Hanqing
A LEAP of faith took them to Singapore to pursue dreams of becoming professional actors.
But with schedules packed with classes and rehearsals, Australians Karina Sindicich, 23, and Matthew Heys, 34, are having trouble finding enough part-time work to make ends meet.
The final-year students at Lasalle College of the Arts both have scholarships that pay for about half their annual fees of $19,360 each, but finances are still tight.
To their surprise, classmates and friends in Singapore have rallied to organise a comedy performance to raise money for their school fees.
Tickets are at $20 apiece, and all proceeds from the show go to the students.
Miss Sindicich and Mr Heys, who are both enrolled in Lasalle's three-year bachelor's course in acting, will also be performing in the event on 18 Feb, which features actors from the Madhatters Comedy Company and Skinned Knee Productions.
They are well-prepared for the spotlight - theirs is a performance-based programme that trains students in acting, voice and movement techniques, and imaginative, improvisational and research skills.
Said Miss Sindicich: "Our classmates know that we work to support ourselves and it's lovely to know that support is coming in from everywhere, and that the faculty is behind us."
Miss Sindicich and Mr Heys each juggle several part-time jobs outside school.
Miss Sindicich teaches children drama and English, plans parties, and occasionally performs at a club.
Mr Heys also holds several part-time jobs, like teaching English, speech and drama, and movement.
But the number of hours they can work is limited because classes and rehearsals often last from early in the morning to late at night.
Help, however, soon came in the form of a classmate's bright idea. Mrs Kluane Saunders, a fellow acting student at Lasalle, mooted the idea of raising money for them through a benefit performance.
Together with her husband, Mr Daniel Saunders, a member of the Madhatters Comedy Company, the idea gradually became reality. Skinned Knee Productions, a performance group consisting of Lasalle alumni members, was later roped in for the event.
Said Mr Saunders: "Having a financial burden on top of this draws focus from the purpose of the course, and we felt that this was an area in which we could help."
The benefit performance will be a comedy improvisation show, in the style of the hit US TV programme, Whose Line Is It Anyway. Response so far, Mr Saunders said, has been heartening.
He said: "We have had a fantastic response from everyone - not just people who know Karina and Matt - but from people in the wider theatre community as well."
Mr Heys, a former environmental engineer, dropped everything and made his way to Singapore to pursue his dream of being a performer.
His previous job, he said, was just a "meal ticket" to him.
"Coming to Singapore was like stepping through a door, not knowing what was on the other side," he said.
Miss Sindicich said she decided to study in Singapore to broaden her life experience.
And in spite of financial hardship, both say they have learnt important lessons in the process.
Said Miss Sindicich: "Being far away from my support network - my family and friends - has made me become a stronger person."
Added Mr Heys: "I've developed a lot of mental strength in learning how to manage my life... I have to work really hard to manage my home life, yet come in and do good work at school.
"(This experience) has made me a fuller person."
This article was first published in The New Paper.