Margaret Chan



Margaret Chan (Dr) (b. 1949, Singapore–) is an actress and writer.1 As a stage, television and film actress, she has played iconic roles such as the titular figure in the local play Emily of Emerald Hill. Chan has also worked as a journalist, food critic and restaurant reviewer, and is currently an associate professor at the Singapore Management University’s School of Social Sciences.

Early life and education
The third of four children, Margaret Chan was born to a Peranakan mother and Hokkien Chinese father.2 She has an elder brother, an elder sister and a younger sister.3 Coming from a Peranakan family, Chan speaks fluent Malay.4


In 1972, Chan graduated from the University of Singapore (now known as the National University of Singapore) with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.5 After graduation she won a beauty contest6 and subsequently married her husband, John.7

Chan and her family relocated temporarily to London in 1996 due to her husband’s work commitment. With a small grant from Shell,8 Chan pursued her postgraduate studies at the University of London, where she obtained a Certificate of Teaching in Higher Education (Distinction) from the Royal Holloway and a Master of Arts (Distinction) in performance studies from the Central School of Speech and Drama in 1998.9 She received the Overseas Research Students Award and the Thomas Holloway Founder’s Scholarship, and went on to earn her doctorate in theatre/performance studies in 2002 at the Royal Holloway, University of London.10

Journalism and food writing
Chan made a name for herself as a food critic and restaurant reviewer when she was a writer for local newspapers. She started out in 1975 as an editor for the Metrication Digest and Our Metric Way before joining New Nation as a journalist and restaurant reviewer in 1978. She became the editor of New Nation’s Trend Pages in 1981, but later left journalism and ventured into freelance writing and acting.11


As a freelance writer, Chan has written for a number of publications including New Nation and Sunday Plus (now known as The Sunday Times), where she contributed restaurant reviews. From 1988 to 1990, she was the editor of Wine & Dine, a gourmet food and wine magazine, and provided food consultancy in the early 1990s.12

In 1990, Chan received the title of Commandeur de l’Association Internationale des Maîtres Conseils en Gastronomie Française from the French government. Four years later, she was awarded the Premio Internazionale Caterina de Medici XI Edizione by the Chefs and Restaurateurs Association of Italy.13 In 1992, she published a guide to Singapore restaurants, entitled Margaret Chan’s Foodstops.14

Performing arts
Chan’s stage career began in the early 1970s, and she had her first professional lead role in 1977 in The Sword Has Two Edges for which she received rave reviews.15 As a stage actress, Chan is best known for her role as the titular character in Stella Kon’s play, Emily of Emerald Hill.16 Being the first Singaporean actress to play the role in 1985, Chan has been described as the “definitive” Emily and she has since reprised the role several times.17 She was invited to present Emily at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1986.18


Chan’s acting portfolio extends beyond stage work.19 In 1991, she was involved in Singapore’s first full-length English-language film, Medium Rare, as co-scriptwriter and actress.20 She also had roles in subsequent English local films including Army Daze (1996)21 and Forever Fever (1998).22

Chan also has extensive experience in television. She is one of the few local actresses who have taken on leading roles in television productions of three different languages.23 In 1994, she had a principal role in Singapore’s first English soap opera, Masters of the Sea, as the Peranakan matriarch Tan Geok Neo whose famous line “I’ll crrrrush you like a cockroach” is still often quoted. The following year, she became the first English-language actress to cross over from Channel 5 to the Chinese-language Channel 8 for a leading role in the Mandarin drama series, The Golden Pillow.24 Her villain roles in both Masters and The Golden Pillow earned Chan the sobriquet of being the “number 1 villian of all time” in Singapore.25 In 2002, she became the first non-Malay Channel 5 actress to cross over to the Suria Channel for the Malay drama series, Anak Metropolitan (Metropolitan Child).26

More recently, in 2014 Chan played Maria Josefa in The House of Bernarda Alba, by theatre company Wild Rice. The production is a classic work by Spanish author Federico García Lorca, which Singaporean playwright Chay Yew adapted into English.27 In 2016, Chan also had a role in Nadiputra’s bangsawan (Malay opera) entitled Raden Mas. The production is based on the legend of Radin Mas Ayu, a 16th-century Javanese princess living in Temasek.28

Chan has sat on a number of national committees in the arts and creative industries. She was a member of the Arts & Culture work group of the Creative Industries Workforce Skills Qualifications (CI WSQ) initiative in 2007, and a member of the Arts & Culture Manpower, Skills & Training Council (AC MSTC) from 2008 to 2010. She was also appointed as a member of the Arts Consultative Panel formed by the Media Development Authority from 2010 to 2015.29

Academia
Chan joined the Singapore Management University in 2001 as a senior manager in the now-defunct Communications Studies Centre. She was promoted to assistant director in SMU’s Office of Student Life within a year and then became an associate director in 2005.30 Her research interests include Chinese spirit medium worship and Chinese popular religion. In 2006, she published the book, Ritual is Theatre, Theatre is Ritual: Chinese Spirit Medium Worship,31 which investigates the practice of the tang ki spirit medium worship in Singapore, Fujian (China), Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.32 She has presented papers on this topic in numerous seminars and conferences in the region. Chan is currently an associate professor of theatre/performance studies (practice) in the Singapore Management University’s School of Social Sciences.33


Family
Husband: John

Children: Cara and Jonathan34

Selected works
Publications
1992: Margaret Chan’s Foodstops

2006: Ritual is Theatre, Theatre is Ritual: Chinese Spirit Medium Worship

Theatre35
1975: Senhora Miranda, Goa, University of Singapore Drama Society

1977: Cocada, The Sword Has Two Edges, Experimental Theatre Club
1979: The Seven Ages of Man, Experimental Theatre Club
1982: Samseng and the Chettiar’s Daughter, Singapore Arts Festival
1985: Emily Gan, Emily of Emerald Hill, Singapore Arts Festival
1986: Emily Gan, Emily of Emerald Hill, Commonwealth Arts Festival, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh and Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Traverse Theatre
1987: Tay Pei En, Quarter to Midnight, Drama Festival
1988: Edith Piaf, Piaf, TheatreWorks
1988: Mummy, Beauty World, TheatreWorks
1989: Green Socks, TheatreWorks
1991: The Altar, Practice Theatre Ensemble
1992: D’Rama Drama, The Substation’s Guinness Garden Performances; Old Miss Lee, The Evening Climb (Mandarin), Practice Theatre Ensemble
1993: Lao Jiu, TheatreWorks; Death in Tuas, TheatreWorks
1994: Emily Gan, Emily of Emerald Hill, President Wee Kim Wee Tribute Performance; Lady Bracknell, The Importance of Being Ernest: The Musical, Bob Nimmo Productions; No Parking on Odd Days, Practice Theatre Ensemble; Linda Loman, Death of a Salesman, Singapore Repertory Theatre
2001: Madam Arcai, Blithe Spirit, Wild Rice
2009: Bullfrog, Honk, Singapore Management University
2010: Emily, Emily of Emerald Hill, Singapore Arts Festival
2012: Emily, Emily of Emerald Hill: Singaporean Identity on Stage, Peranakan Museum
2014: Maria Josefa, The House of Bernarda Aba, Wild Rice
2015: Mama, Mama, Big Bird, and the Cat, Singapore Management University
2016: Naluri Jahat Tengku Halijah, Bangsawan Raden Mas, Sri Mamanda Bangsawan

Television lead roles36
1990: Presenter, Fast Forward, educational video series for the Singapore National Productivity Board

1991: Easy Maths, educational video series for the Singapore National Productivity Board
1993: The Ra Ra Show, Singapore Broadcasting Corporation
1993: Mum’s Not Cooking Tonight, Singapore Broadcasting Corporation
1994: Tan Geok Neo, Masters of the Sea, Television Corporation of Singapore
1995: Tan Geok Neo, Troubled Water, Television Corporation of Singapore; Lin Yuehao, The Golden Pillow (Chinese), Television Corporation of Singapore
1997: Presenter, Appetite for Asia, Channel 5, Australia
2001: House of Chow, MediaCorp Singapore
2001: The Brand New Towkay, MediaCorp Singapore
2002: Anak Metropolitan (Malay), MediaCorp Singapore
2004: Aku Hero (Malay), MediaCorp Singapore
2007: Maggie & Me, MediaCorp Singapore
2010: Mrs Lim, Anything Goes, MediaCorp Singapore
2013: 50 Years of Television, MediaCorp Singapore

Films37
1990: Homeland38

1991: Medium Rare
1996: Army Daze
1998: Forever Fever

Scriptwriting39
1987: Creator, Deliciously Singapore, cooking series in Mandarin

1991: Scriptwriter, Medium Rare; script consultant, Easy Maths educational video series for the Singapore National Productivity Board
1992: Playwright, D’Rama Drama: A New Look at the Ramayana
1997: Scriptwriter, Appetite for Asia, Channel 5, Australia



Author

Serene Cai




References
1. Chan, M. (2016, February 2). Curriculum vitae. Retrieved 2016, June 21 from Singapore Management University website: http://www.smu.edu.sg/sites/socsc.smu.edu.sg/files/socsc/pdf/Margaret%20Chan%20CURRICULUM%20VITAE%203%20Feb%202016.pdf
2. Chia, A. (2010, May 20). Evergreen Emily. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Margaret Chan and the baby sister she almost did not have. (1991, June 30). The Straits Times, p.19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Suhaila Sulaiman. (2002, February 24). Bibik boleh! The Straits Times, p.18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Chan, M. (2016, February 2). Curriculum vitae. Retrieved 2016, June 21 from Singapore Management University website: http://www.smu.edu.sg/sites/socsc.smu.edu.sg/files/socsc/pdf/Margaret%20Chan%20CURRICULUM%20VITAE%203%20Feb%202016.pdf
6. Margaret Chan and the baby sister she almost did not have. (1991, June 30). The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Lee, S. C. (1992, May 18). Chan merry Chan. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Tan, H. Y. (2006, June 25). The many lives of Margaret Chan. The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Chan, M. (2016, February 2). Curriculum vitae. Retrieved 2016, June 21 from Singapore Management University website: http://www.smu.edu.sg/sites/socsc.smu.edu.sg/files/socsc/pdf/Margaret%20Chan%20CURRICULUM%20VITAE%203%20Feb%202016.pdf
10. Suhaila Sulaiman. (2002, February 24). Bibik boleh! The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chan, M. (2016, February 2). Curriculum vitae. Retrieved 2016, June 21 from Singapore Management University website: http://www.smu.edu.sg/sites/socsc.smu.edu.sg/files/socsc/pdf/Margaret%20Chan%20CURRICULUM%20VITAE%203%20Feb%202016.pdf
11. Chan, M. (2008, December 14). Curriculum vitae. Retrieved 2016, July 20 from Singapore Management University website: http://www.mysmu.edu/staff/margaretchan/documents/Margaret_Chan_CURRICULUM_VITAE_Dec_2008.pdf
12. Chan, M. (2008, December 14). Curriculum vitae. Retrieved 2016, July 20 from Singapore Management University website: http://www.mysmu.edu/staff/margaretchan/documents/Margaret_Chan_CURRICULUM_VITAE_Dec_2008.pdf
13. Chan, M. (2008, December 14). Curriculum vitae. Retrieved 2016, July 20 from Singapore Management University website: http://www.mysmu.edu/staff/margaretchan/documents/Margaret_Chan_CURRICULUM_VITAE_Dec_2008.pdf
14. Chan, M. (1992). Margaret Chan’s foodstops. Singapore: Landmark Books. (Call no.: RSING 647.955957 CHA)
15. Oon, V. (1977, August 26). Breathes life into history... New Nation, pp. 10–11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.  
16. Kon, S. (1996). Emily of Emerald Hill. Singapore: Constellation Books. (Call no.: RSING S822 KON); Cheah, U. H. (2010, June 10). Reprising the definitive Emily. The Business Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
17. Cheah, U. H. (2010, June 10). Reprising the definitive Emily. The Business Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Hoe, I. (1986 August 3). Emily abroad wows critics and gets coveted invite. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Chan, M. (2008, December 14). Curriculum vitae. Retrieved 2016, July 20 from Singapore Management University website: http://www.mysmu.edu/staff/margaretchan/documents/Margaret_Chan_CURRICULUM_VITAE_Dec_2008.pdf
20. Goh, J. (1991, May 17). Filming of S’pore’s first full-length movie completed. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Choo, M. (Producer), Ong, K. S. (Director), & Chiang, M. (Writer). (1996). Army daze [Motion picture]. Singapore: Cathay Film Distributors. (Call no.: RSING 791.43 ARM)
22. Goei, G. (Producer, writer, director), Chiang, J. (Producer), & Tan, C. C. (Producer). (2011). Forever fever [Motion picture]. Singapore: Tiger Tiger Pictures Pte Ltd. (Call no.: RSING 791.4372 FOR)
23. Chan, M. (2008, December 14). Curriculum vitae. Retrieved 2016, July 20 from Singapore Management University website: http://www.mysmu.edu/staff/margaretchan/documents/Margaret_Chan_CURRICULUM_VITAE_Dec_2008.pdf
24. Chan, B. (2008, August 3). Masters then and now. The Straits Times, p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Seah, Q. (2010, June 21). How to be a villain; Veteran villains Margaret Chan, Jerry Yeo and Shaun Chen tell us that narrowed eyes, maniacal laughter are just the tip of the iceberg. Today. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
26. Chan, B. (2008, August 3). Masters then and now. The Straits Times, p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Happenings – arts. (2014, March 21). The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
28. Nabilah Said. (2015, April 8). Reviving Malay opera with an epic. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/  
29. Chan, M. (2016, February 2). Curriculum vitae. Retrieved 2016, July 21 from Singapore Management University website: http://www.smu.edu.sg/sites/socsc.smu.edu.sg/files/socsc/pdf/Margaret%20Chan%20CURRICULUM%20VITAE%203%20Feb%202016.pdf
30. Tan, H. Y. (2006, June 25). The many lives of Margaret Chan. The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Chan, M. (2006). Ritual is theatre, theatre is ritual: Chinese spirit medium worship. Singapore: Wee Kim Wee Centre, Singapore Management University; SNP Reference. (Call no.: RSING 299.51 CHA)
32. Chan, M. (2008, December 14). Curriculum vitae. Retrieved 2016, July 21 from Singapore Management University website: http://www.mysmu.edu/staff/margaretchan/documents/Margaret_Chan_CURRICULUM_VITAE_Dec_2008.pdf
33. Chan, M. (2016, February 2). Curriculum vitae. Retrieved 2016, July from http://www.smu.edu.sg/sites/socsc.smu.edu.sg/files/socsc/pdf/Margaret%20Chan%20CURRICULUM%20VITAE%203%20Feb%202016.pdf
34. Suhaila Sulaiman. (2002, February 24). Bibik boleh! The Straits Times, p.18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Chan, M. (2016, February 2). Curriculum vitae. Retrieved June 21, 2016, from http://www.smu.edu.sg/sites/socsc.smu.edu.sg/files/socsc/pdf/Margaret%20Chan%20CURRICULUM%20VITAE%203%20Feb%202016.pdf
36. Chan, M. (2016, February 2). Curriculum vitae. Retrieved June 21, 2016, from http://www.smu.edu.sg/sites/socsc.smu.edu.sg/files/socsc/pdf/Margaret%20Chan%20CURRICULUM%20VITAE%203%20Feb%202016.pdf
37. Chan, M. (2016, February 2). Curriculum vitae. Retrieved 2016, July 21 from Singapore Management University website: http://www.smu.edu.sg/sites/socsc.smu.edu.sg/files/socsc/pdf/Margaret%20Chan%20CURRICULUM%20VITAE%203%20Feb%202016.pdf
38. Ong, S. C. (1990, January 26). $3.2m Omnimax film tells a gripping story of Singapore. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Chan, M. (2008, December 14). Curriculum vitae. Retrieved 2016, July 21 from Singapore Management University website: http://www.mysmu.edu/staff/margaretchan/documents/Margaret_Chan_CURRICULUM_VITAE_Dec_2008.pdf



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Personalities>>Biographies
Personalities
Actresses--Singapore--Biography
Chan, Margaret, 1949-
Journalists--Singapore--Biography