Q&A with Teo Dawn

Like many Singaporean students, Teo Dawn found herself questioning her next steps after the completion of her junior college education. But instead of moving from one school to another after six years in Dunman High School’s IP programme, Dawn decided to take the time to deliberate. In a two-year break from the pursuit of education, Dawn worked on theatre productions, such as with Buds Theatre Company, contributed editorially to online platforms, gained some real-life experience with internships, before deciding to join ITI in 2015.

“I had read of ITI when The Straits Times wrote about the reboot of the programme [in 2011], and took interest. Subsequently, I did my own research about the training and really wanted to learn more about the traditional forms together with the contemporary. I think the rigour and the disciplines really attracted me,” Dawn recalls of her journey to her three-year professional theatre training, “but what sealed the deal was watching Cloud Messenger [in 2014] devised and performed by the graduating cohort of ITI students that year. The stories of sincerity and human spirit really touched me; I want to be able to do that with storytelling.”

Q: What were you doing prior to coming to ITI?

I was on a two-year gap break after Junior College to explore what I wanted to pursue in life. There were theatre productions and work opportunities with Buds Theatre , writing on the sidelines, as well as internships.

Q: Do you recall your first day here – what were some of your thoughts and emotions then?

Excitement, uncertainty but full of readiness. The unfamiliarity of being among classmates of so many backgrounds, ages and experiences scared me a little, but I got over that. I really wanted to go through this training, and this was the only school I applied to, so to be in ITI is great.

I remember all the reasons for being in ITI shared by everybody in the room that first day; that moment really inspired me and made me feel like this is where I belong.

Q: What is it like to study here in ITI?

It is a small family. You just have to deal with all the things you do not like and compromise. There is simply no way around it. But it is pretty awesome to have our campus among greenery and so much quiet. I like how I am given so much space to take the training into my own hands and what I gain is what I make out of it. It makes the hard work very satisfying.

The best part is always having such kind and inspiring teachers who share so generously with us about their craft. They give me more reason to believe in myself, my craft and to keep discovering more.

Q: What’s something you’ve learnt from working with your classmates from various countries and cultures in these three years?

Everyone has their own stories and are all different individuals, but if we all choose to work towards a similar goal like making great art, we can. Important lesson too: learn to leave your egos outside of the studio.  

Q: What are the most memorable lessons and experience you’ve had in class?

There are just so many to choose from, but I think those experiences that I hold very close to my heart are personal. In Year One, our then-voice teacher Robin got us to write our own pepehas (a Maori self-introduction); in Year Two, Acting Head Beto got us to rediscover our family tree.

In those two separate occasions, it brought the class so close together. Doing these exercises a year apart made me discover more about the individuals I am sharing this training with. They were such vulnerable and intimate moments; the trust was so beautiful.

Q: How has what you learnt here shaped or changed you as an actor?

Coming here has only reinforced what I believe in as an actor – discipline, humility and the constant openness to give will take you a long way. Also, how kindness might just be the secret to how you connect with another person and inspire.

Q: What will you look forward to after graduation? What are your plans?

I hope to start going for auditions towards the end of the year and work as an actor in the industry. As I mature further, I would love to develop my own works and travel with them. I’d also want to continue everything I am doing on the side to keep myself creative – be it design or writing.

Q: What would you say to a fresh, new student or someone thinking of joining ITI?

Always remember what you came for, and that nobody else owes you your training, you do. The world is your oyster and in the palm of your hand.

Q: Any special thanks or words for teachers, family, other arts community folks, etc?

I would love to thank Ms Elizabeth Teo for believing in my pursuit ever since my junior college days, even when no one else in school did.

For the community, thank you for always sharing and being so caring. The support every time I needed it really keeps me going and believing in this artistic community I would like to be a part of.

Special love to Rayann and Pavan from Skinned Knee Productions for helping me with my school fees; Buds Theatre Company for giving me this gift of theatre; young&W!LD for the opportunities; Ahmad and Rosie for the constant listening.

Thank you to Sasi, the faculty, all visiting teachers and all the kindness everyone has shown. I will push myself to be a better person, to truly be an artist.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.