Interviews

Q&A with Henrik Cheng

A native of New York City, Henrik has experienced the gamut of theatre roles – having been backstage crew while in Queens College in the City University of New York, as a technician working the light boards, and directing site-specific works in New Orleans (a passion he discovered while attending La MaMa’s symposium in Italy).

A chance encounter with Singaporean artists at La MaMa’s symposium led him to question the Asian American-centric approach, and limits, of his practice. From there, it has been a 9,521 miles journey to Singapore – one that will be a new jumping-off point when Henrik graduates later this year.

In his time here, Henrik has facilitated Speak Cryptic’s The Tribe at SIFA O.P.E.N. 2016, content creating and performing in Alamat Bahru with Wright Assembly, and performing in Pretty Butch at M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2017.

Henrik gravitates towards performing work that provides hope, is healing, or encourages positive, proactive change.

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Q&A with Uma Katju

A working, experienced actor from New Delhi, Uma enjoys the challenges of traversing different theatre and performance forms, and is especially drawn to mask-work, realism and the traditional arts. Her study in mask began in 2013 through training in clowning under Reinhardt Horskotte and Michael Moritz. A classically trained singer, Uma hopes to explore the theatricality of music in the future. In Singapore,  she has performed in Chowk’s Pallavi and Space (2016), and co-created and performed The Moonlit Smile at the Esplanade Moonfest (2016).

Uma holds a research degree in Political Science from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.  
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Q&A with Desmond Soh Jin Kai

First captured by the power of theatre in River Valley High where he was a student, Desmond went on eventually head the school’s Chinese Language Drama and Debate Society (CLDDS), participating in numerous performances.

From that start, Desmond deepened the drama connection as part of Drama Box’s youth wing, ARTivate, where he is a graduate of its second cohort in 2014. He has also served as the director’s assistant (movement) for Kopitiam (2016), a programme of the Esplanade’s “Feed Your Imagination” series.

After he graduates from ITI, Desmond plans to continue his work in acting, exploring theatrical structures and how they can create spaces for conversations in the community.

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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.”

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Q & A (Part II) with Denise Mordeno Aguilar

Denise graduated from ITI in 2014 and has been busy since her return to her home country, Philippines. ITI spoke with Denise last, then on the eve of her graduation, to ask of her thoughts of her three years training journey. In this short 1.5 years since, Denise has been active teaching, performing and directing in Manila, Dumaguete, Ozamiz city and in her hometown of Cagayan de Oro. Denise has always believed in the arts as a powerful way to share stories that reflect the complexities of society, and of using theatre as a creative pathway to peace and community engagement – directions she has pursued and are fulfilling even right now. Recently honoured with the inaugural Lambago Art Awards presented by Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts, Denise reflects on how ITI remains a part of her practice today.


What highlights have there been for you since you graduated?

After I graduated from ITI, I was busy preparing and rehearsing my 45-minute solo piece Hope Floats which took root from my Final-Year Individual Presentation back at ITI. I didn’t quite know where to get started right after graduation, but I had, thankfully, signed up early for the inaugural Fringe Manila Festival so I got a chance to perform this solo work in February to March 2015 at De La Salle University in Pasay, Metro Manila. When I went back to my hometown, I was invited to perform Hope Floats on World Theatre Day (March 27, 2015) at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City. All Hope Floats performances were by donations only, with all proceeds turned over to my former classmate and friend who is fighting end-stage renal disease. Continue reading

Q&A with ITI Class of 2016

Part II with Kady Cheung, Soti Ramapati D., Cerys Ong and Liz Sergeant Tan

This year’s graduating cohort from Brazil (Anildo), Hong Kong (Kady), Singapore (Catherine, Cerys and Liz) and India (Ram and Soti) are on their final leg of training before they graduate. Though they come from diverse theatre experiences – carnival/street theatre, traditional Cantonese opera, community theatre or straight from school – over the last two years they have found common cause here – through intense sharing and learning.

These years, have clarified the different paths as each must take after they finish in ITI.

In this second of a two-part interview with the class, we speak with the four performing in
Group 2 of the Final-Year Individual Project (FYiP) (26, 27 & 29 May 2016).


Hong Kong citizen Kady Cheung is trained in traditional Cantonese opera and is seeking ways to recast the discipline of the older art form as contemporary theatre. In 2007 she initiated a group – Artist Mission – that focuses on theatre of the absurd. An active drama teacher, Kady plans to return to Hong Kong to continue her work in acting and, applying her new training to continue collaborations with people from varied cultural backgrounds through theatre.

Soti Ramapati Dvivid (a.k.a. Soti Rpd) from Uttar Pradesh, India has been working as an actor and director before pursuing training at ITI. This M.A. in Theatre Arts graduate from the University of Hyderabad, hopes, after graduation, to explore the intercultural, psychophysical, acrobatic and physical aspects in theatre-making, and to create a platform/space for those who share his interests in the performing arts.

Cerys Ong’s love for the stage was kindled in her kindergarten days. Through the school years, she has participated in numerous performances, as well as national storytelling and drama competitions. A former Theatre Studies and Drama humanities scholar at Victoria Junior College, Cerys is a bilingual performer, who has hosted events for schools and companies.

As a little girl, Liz Sergeant Tan was so full of energy, her only quiet time was when she was an enraptured, like everyone else, by her late mother’s [Christina Sergeant’s] mime shows. She’s been hooked on theatre since. Liz believes in the power of theatre, and hopes to devise works worthy shows of substance and magical spirit for both children and adults. A School of the Arts (SOTA) alumna, Liz has also performed in Manifest (January 2014) and Floating Bones (July 2014), and has acted in short films produced by Tisch Asia students.


Q: Why did you choose to come to ITI over three years ago and what has the experience been like?

Kady: After these years of training, I feel that I have moved closer to my goal – being a well-trained actor. I feel I’m ready, finally, to start work properly in theatre. In my third and final year, I will hardly spend any time in the “classroom” but I’m excited about this – to see how I might at last bring what I know to the stage.

Cerys: My time here has expanded my horizons – I now see that theatre can be so diverse and rewarding. My perspective on what an actor could be has changed, now that I know the range of skills sets and different modes of performances that exist. What we go through in training here is far wider and deeper than what I can find usually on stages in Singapore.

Soti: My time at ITI has been a search for my own identity – both physical and emotional. Sometimes it’s been a pleasure, sometimes it’s not been so.

Liz: The training here uncovers ourselves – it can be surprising what you find out about yourself. You also get a good taste of what it’s like out there in the professional [theatre] world.

Q: What have been the greatest or most memorable rewards in your three years here?

Cerys: The hardest I’ve laughed and cried in my entire life have been here in the ITI studios – it emerges from how the training has stretched me, both as an individual and as an actor. It’s hard to pick a single encounter that is the most memorable – I will probably have that answer in five years’ time!

Soti: My most memorable lessons here have been in Clowning, because I have found those skills the hardest. But the difficulties in learning can bring out the deepest emotions.

Liz: It’s truly surprising how many experiences one can have from this single building [ITI studios]. One of my most memorable is the Wind Dance [taught by Guillermo Angelelli], it was so immensely hard to master and so physically demanding, but also rewarding once you’ve gotten it. Another rewarding experience was when I felt, for the first time in my life, something larger than myself while performing.

Q: What are your plans after graduation and any advice for those looking to begin their journey with ITI?

Kady: After graduation, I will continue to work on scripting, collaborating and applying what I’ve learnt here; I would also like to share what I’ve learnt. For those thinking of joining ITI, I’ll say: it will be difficult, but don’t wait a minute more.

Cerys: I will probably pursue a degree after ITI. Having trained my body here, I would like to train my mind academically. Hopefully, I will be able to continue performing during term breaks. Eventually, I want to work in a cross-disciplinary field. For future students, my advice is: “Think carefully”. The commitment is tough and you will need guts and drive to keep going for three years here. ITI is the place where you’ll discover who you really are and what drives you.

Soti: First, I hope to develop and tour my FYiP (Final Year Individual Presentation) to different cities in India. It is about history, trauma and memory. To those coming to ITI, know this: ITI takes you out of your comfort zone, but if you keep focussed and work hard, you’ll be fine.

Liz: I realise how far I have to go yet to be an artist. After graduation, I will stay and work in Singapore for a year; in puppetry, children’s theatre and mask work. Then, I hope to get more training. ITI has opened my body and mind so that I can pursue many things. ITI is about serious, hard training, so if you’re enrolling, have lots of energy and the spiritual commitment to do it. Be prepared to have your definition of theatre challenged and changed! When you’re finally here, open your heart, begin a journal and always reflect.

Q&A with ITI Class of 2016

Part I with Anildo Böes, Catherine Ho and Ramassamy S.

This year’s graduating cohort from Brazil (Anildo), Hong Kong (Kady), Singapore (Catherine, Cerys and Liz) and India (Ram and Soti) are on their final leg of training before they graduate. Though they come from diverse theatre experiences – carnival/ street theatre, traditional Cantonese opera, community theatre or straight from school – over the last two years, they have found common cause here – through intense sharing and learning.

These years have clarified different paths that each may take after they finish in ITI.

In this first of a two-part interview with the class, we speak with the trio performing in Group 1 of the Final-Year Individual Project (FYiP) on 24, 25 & 28 May 2016.


Brazilian Anildo Böes has worked as a movement researcher under theatre director Inês Alcaraz Marocco for four years after graduation from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Prior to ITI, he co-founded Grupo Cerco theatre company with his mentor Marocco. With other collaborators, he co-created two acclaimed productions, O Sobrado and Incidente em Antares. Anildo is also part of Bloco da Laje, a collective of artists from Porto Alegre who hold public meetings in order to promote social inclusion and community creation. He has performed in many Brazilian cities and in various notable theatre festivals such as FILO and Porto Alegre em Cena.

Singapore-born Catherine Ho has always harboured a love for performance, even while working full-time as a sales and marketing executive. Before joining ITI, Catherine split her time between her professional and performing life and was on stage for TheatreWorks’ Lift: Love Is Flower The, in The Stage Club’s Voyage and Little Red Riding Hood, and attended workshops in Suzuki Method and Viewpoints, conducted by Nine Years Theatre. In 2014, Catherine decided to make the leap into full-time theatre.

Ramassamy S. (Ram) has always been enchanted by theatre since he was a child in Puducherry, India. He pursued it and eventually gained a Master of Performing Arts in Theatre and Drama from Sri Sankaradass Swamigal School of Performing Arts, Pondicherry University. As a theatre activist, Ram formed the Velippadai Theatre Movement in Kuruvinatha, his village in Puducherry, as a platform and avenue for innovative thinking, self-expression and critical engagement amongst students, youths and others in the rural community. This is the work Ram hops to pursue and develop further when he returns home next year after finishing at ITI.


Q: Why did you choose to come to ITI over three years ago and what has the experience been like?

Anildo: I came here with different expectations than how it actually turned out to be – such as spending over a month just re-learning how to walk (in Beijing opera) or how to stay still (in Noh) … but these have been good surprises in my learning.

Catherine: It has been a journey back to discovering myself – I came to be aware that I have to truly learn about myself, before I can learn about other forms and people. Three years seem like a long time when I started, but in reality, one’s training can go on forever and there will still be new things to take in.

Ram: I came because the vision and mission of the school resonated deeply with me. I’ve always believed that theatre-making is a social effort, not an individual journey. The openness of ITI has been invaluable in re-affirming that.

Q: What have been the greatest or most memorable rewards in your three years here?

Anildo: Here, you learn not just skills and techniques, but also experience discipline and joy.

Catherine: One of my biggest lessons here is that one can live on little and still be happy; even in a place like Singapore that chases a lot of wants. The time here has been like a slow, three-year meditation for me.

Ram: Working with the masters of four traditional forms have been turning points for me. It has made me think about what there is beyond the theatre I know.

Q: What are your plans after graduation and any advice for those looking to begin their journey with ITI?

Anildo: I will have a lot to share when I return home. Theatre is community and I have been far away from mine [Rio Grande do Sol, Brazil] for three years. I started this theatre group back home in 2008 that engages in street, or carnival-style theatre, that I would like to go back to. If possible, I’d also like to explore India and Southeast Asia after graduation.

My advice for those thinking of coming to ITI is to have faith – in the training. When you don’t, it is very easy to leave. It is not easy to keep the faith, but you learn how to, in different ways, every day.

Catherine: I would like to pursue work with the local theatre community. The training in ITI has prepared me to work in many kinds of theatre. For future students, I would say come as financially prepared as you can. That way, you don’t have to worry about your next lunch or rent. It will leave you with a clear mind to work – something that is a great advantage.

Ram: I will go back home [to India] to continue my community theatre work. I already have an active theatre group in my village where we organise 15-day long cultural gatherings; it’s a platform that uses theatre to unify people culturally, where theatre is not just an institution. To those thinking of joining ITI, first answer to yourself ‘for whom, for what and why’ you pursue acting.

 

All photos: MsBern Photography

“Simplicity” Q&A with Guillermo Angelelli

Actor, director and teacher, Guillermo Angelelli studied drama at the National School of Dramatic Arts in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and continued his training with teachers such as Carlos Gandolfo and Cristina Moreira.

He was one of the founders of Clu del Claun, a pioneering group that defied tradition in the 1980s and gained legendary status in Buenos Aires. In 1986, he began to develop training and research work with Iben Nagel Rassmusen of Denmark’s Odin Teatret, and is now a member of the Vindenes Bro Group (The Bridge of Winds) managed by Rassmusen.

Guillermo has been teaching since 1986 in drama institutions and at workshops, focusing on clowning, physical and vocal training in Argentina and other parts of Latin America, as well as Europe.

He has won many awards for his work in theatre including the Harlequin Award for Best Actor and Director for Asterion (1992), GATEA Award and Maria Guerrero Award for Best Actor for The Threepenny Opera (2004) and Hamlet (2004), and Maria Guerrero Award for Best Actor in Woyzeck (2006).

This March, he directs and co-creates Simplicity together with our graduating class. Inspired by the eponymous poem written by Jorge Luis Borges, Simplicity plays at the Drama Centre from 17 – 19 March 2016.

For more information, visit simplicity.peatix.com


Q: What were your motivations for choosing “Simplicity” – the poem – as the start point of this play? Continue reading

Q&A with Al-Matin Yatim

Singaporean Al-Matin Yatim first began his craft as an actor in 2007 when he joined Temasek Polytechnic’s then Malay theatre society, Titisan Temasek. Since then, he has worked with theatre and dance companies such as the National University of Singapore Malay dance group, PanggungArts, People’s Association, Teater Artistik, Teater Kami, TheatreLab, Cake Theatrical Productions and Chowk. He has also worked on collaborative works with Esplanade and Read! Festival by the National Library Board.

After he completes his three-year training at ITI, Matin hopes to share the idea of intercultural theatre on an international level and contribute back to society.

Matin was a recipient of the NAC-ITI Arts Scholarship (2013 – 2015).


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

I remember when I was in my first year, I told Sasi, Director of ITI, that being in ITI is tougher than my two years in National Service. Not because of its regimental nature, in fact ITI is far from it, but the demand that the training requires from the student physically, psychologically, spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. Continue reading

Q&A with Beto Ruiz

Beto (a.k.a. Alberto Ruiz Lopez) was a 2008 graduate of Intercultural Theatre Institute (ITI), then known as Theatre Training and Research Programme (TTRP). Prior to his training here, Beto had earned a Bachelors of Performing Arts from the University of Guadalajara, Mexico.

A theatre practitioner who has directed and acted, he was also a former Director of the Company of Theatre from Jalisco. Beto has performed in productions such as The Divine Wind And Tears Lost In The Rain, Attempts On Her Life and Kuo Pao Kun’s The Spirits Play. In 2015, Beto performed in R vs J, a solo piece in Mexico.

As a director, he has helmed operas – Verdi’s La Traviata and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas – and plays such as Dario Fo’s Un Dia Cualquiera and Alfred Jarry’s King Ubu. His work extends beyond his home country of Mexico to Poland; Texas, USA; and Colombia.

This year, the ITI alumnus returns full circle as an Acting and Movement teacher to the institute.

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