Shoko Kambara

Shoko Kambara, ACS Cobham class of 1993

"What I really noticed was that since there was a lot of coming and going in the student population at ACS, I was never given the 'new kid treatment'.”

A change of scene

Shoko and her sister Yayoi attended ACS Cobham in the early '90s. Shoko was the ultimate Third Culture Kid, speaking multiple languages and endured a childhood of constant moves. Her father was a banker and mother a teacher. She reckons she moved 18 times between her preschool and college years, starting at Seisen International School in Japan and after 3rd grade, relocating to California where she attended local public schools. Shoko recalls: "Looking back, I really struggled to fit in with my classmates in all the various schools I was in California because of my background. Most of my California schoolmates had never moved out of town... so, our perspectives on home, where we lived, and travel were completely different."

When she then moved to England, she was back at an international school, ACS Cobham, for grades 10 -12. Shoko found ACS to be more relaxing. "What I really noticed was that since there was a lot of coming and going in the student population at ACS, I was never given the 'new kid treatment'.”

After attending ACS as an AP scholar, Shoko managed to matriculate at the American Ivy League's Dartmouth College, graduating in only three years. She then pursued a master's degree in design at New York University, eventually becoming a theatrical set designer and has been in demand since.

While at ACS she participated in a number of musicals like Little Shop of Horrors and Blues Brothers whilst also playing for the volleyball team. She remembers her time at ACS Cobham fondly.

"One of the classes I always think of at ACS was IB English with Mr Stevens. I think in his class I really learned to dissect reading material and that is something that I use in my job all the time. I know that as a set designer it seems like my job is mostly visual art, but before all of that there is always the script and talking about the script, with the creative team, so it is really essential to be able to understand the book before I start drawing anything."


"My highlight during my time at ACS was the trip I took to Romania over spring break. Our school had partnered up with a local volunteer group and so a group of us - including our principal at the time, Mr Kay, and the dorm supervisor, Mr Brandse, went to and stayed at an orphanage in Romania and helped install radiators in a local school. We happened to be there during Easter so we participated in local Easter customs and during that week I ate everything from a fancy dinner sponsored by the Princess of Romania to a school lunch with the kids at the orphanage.”

In the arts, Shoko is a contributor in the non-profit/performance sector of community theatres.

Shoko has worked in variety of plays, musicals, and operas. Some of her designs include: Barber of Seville (Opera Philadelphia),  Animals Out of Paper (Hudson Stage Company) and the long time work with Derek McLane (he just designed Moulin Rouge on Broadway) as his associate set designer. Before isolation started, Shoko was working on a new TV show for HBO that was supposed to start shooting in September.

"There are times where it all seems a bit frivolous but I think that the entertainment industry at its best is a place for community-building, where we can share experiences that may not be available to us in our own lives and think about things from a different perspective."

Whilst future shows have been cancelled or moved to 2021, Shoko is using this time to watch TV shows and theatre recordings and has found a new appreciation for her industry and work.