Going From Passion to Profession
Tan Wen Hui
Alex Tan, Singapore’s first-ever magical mask changer, opens up to Tan Wen Hui about his job and life experiences.
Can you name a Singapore job that allows you to party and play at the same time? Sure, a Marketing Executive is close enough to fit the bill, but what about a magician? That is what Alex Tan would say of his job as a magician; the man is paid to perform magic tricks at birthday parties and coveted events. In return Alex finds it fun performing magic tricks in front of a crowd, which translates to party time for him.
What’s more, Alex is arguably Singapore’s first-ever magical mask changer! An ardent fan of all things Chinese, it’s no wonder Alex went on to pursue the classic art of “Bian Lian”, or the Chinese Face Change. The classic art of “Bian Lian” is a uniquely Sichuan Opera act which requires the performer to change masks at the snap of his or her fingers…it’s amazing!
Mr. Alex Tan
Hi Alex, how have you been and what are you currently up to?
Alex Tan: Life is GREAT! I have been busy performing, amusing and amazing people everywhere in Singapore and around the world like what I have been doing for the past 15 years. Putting smiles on people's faces puts more than a smile on mine.
You stated on your website that you are Singapore’s first Magical Mask Changer. What inspired you to bring on this revered Chinese act and how long did it take for you to perfect your act?
Alex Tan: I have always been intrigued by all forms of performing arts. The mystic and secrecy behind the “Bian Lian” act prompted me to search for the right channel to master the art. In a nutshell, I was blessed to share the same stage with a retiring Master Face Changer from China at a show and through our conversations; we discovered that we have many similar beliefs in our interpretation of the art! That includes my background in magic and performing arts made me a right candidate to carry on the torch of the art of face changing. I spent three years mastering the art which includes sewing traditional opera costumes, painting faces, rehearsing opera movements and understanding the different characteristics of the faces. Surprisingly, the actual split second transformation of the faces is easy!
Let’s talk about your entertainment job. Is being a magician tough, especially in a practical society?
Alex Tan: I would not think of what I am doing as a job – I am paid to party and play! When I started doing magic at the age of six, it was the mystery and secrets behind the tricks that charmed me. When I started learning the tricks and began performing for people to see, it was the laughter from the audience and the awe on their faces that made me want to do this for the rest of my life. Magic is something that I truly enjoy doing that helps me put food on my table and makes every fortunate thing in my life possible. There is really nothing I can complain about no matter how tough the going gets since I am "playing" most of the time!
So, how did you first started out as a magician?
Alex Tan: I performed my first trick for my father and he was amazed and that got me hooked. I did the “Cut and Restore” rope trick and I learned how to perform it form a TV programme.
Most magicians draw inspiration from one another. Where do you draw your influences from and how does this influence you as a performer?
Alex Tan: My inspirations can come from anyone and anywhere, not necessarily magicians. Ideas can be triggered off from anything in everyday life, because ideas and inspirations do come from anywhere and everywhere. And perhaps because of this, I have my own unique interpretation of magical effects.
Apart from magic, what else inspired you to become a magician?
Alex Tan: Apart from magic, it's the ability to evoke emotions in people on stage, not having to live my life on a desk bound job and having total control of my time that inspired me to become a magician.
As a magician, what are the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
Alex Tan: I am someone who believes that nothing is ever easy, but that is what makes my journey an exciting one! Frankly speaking, destination matters to me less than the journey itself. So far I am enjoying the ride.
The main challenge here would be the ability to convince an audience that a show is not about the audience trying to "catch me if they can" so that they may suspend their beliefs in order to experience a sense of wonder and hope.
What is the most memorable thing that happened to you while performing live in front of an audience?
Alex Tan: Well, the funniest thing that happened to me was when a young boy with his parents came up to meet me after a show and requested me to make a baby appear in his mother’s tummy so that he can have a younger brother. Both his parents looked at me in an awkward manner and the father said: "That's something that the best magician cannot do because that's a trick only your daddy is capable of!"
Based on professional capacity, what advice would you give to aspiring magicians?
Alex Tan: Being a magician requires a high level of discipline, hard work, devotion, commitment and most importantly passion. Being motivated and passionate about what you want to achieve coupled with motivation and dedication, I would say that nothing is impossible.
Most importantly, you have to genuinely enjoy what you do. Be yourself, because no-one can be a better you!
In your free time, what do you do to rest and relax?
Alex Tan: I enjoy hanging out with my friends, reading and listening to music. I do enjoy long distance running and working out at the gym.
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entertainment career, singapore entertainment industry, performer jobs, magician jobs