Cohort 8

Q&A with Vanessa Wu

Born in Saigon, raised in Penang, training now in Singapore – Vanessa’s growing up years may have been multi-faceted, but her life goals were clear since young. Vanessa is one of the lucky ones who knew, since early on, what her singular calling is to be – and for this diminutive chilli-padi, it is to be an actor.

In the pursuit of her dreams, Vanessa gave up school at 13, worked odd jobs to lend a hand to her family, while trying to find her way into the professional performing arts. This, she did in 2012, when she interned for Shanthini Venugopal’s The Jumping Jellybeans, a children’s theatre company based in Kuala Lumpur. That year, Vanessa was also cast in Bites of Delights, a children’s musical theatre production directed by Ghafir Akbar.

In 2013 and 2014, Vanessa worked at The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC) as a production assistant, and was also a stage manager for the opera, Carmen, as well as for the KLPAC orchestra. During her KL years, she also acted in Joe Hasham’s productions of Broken Bridges the Musical and Sinbad the Musical, as well as What If, Life Unscripted and Theatre in the Red for Short+Sweet Festival Malaysia (Theatre and Musical).

In Singapore, Vanessa performed in Speak Cryptic’s The Tribe, as part of Club Malam at SIFA The O.P.E.N. Festival 2016. She also collaborated with performance/sound art collective The UFO Project for Neon Lights Festival 2016.

At 22 now, Vanessa feels she is still in search of her essence as an actor and of the kind of theatre she hopes to pursue.


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Q&A with Tan Weiying

Weiying first encountered the magic of theatre through the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Arts & Cultural Troupe (SHHKACT), at age 5, when she watched the clan association’s teachers take to the stage for their annual performance. That same power drew her to pursue professional training in theatre. “Theatre has helped me open up to the people around me, and it keeps me grounded,” says the Bachelor of Science graduate.

ITI’s award-winning alumni – M1-The Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards winner Peter Sau, Golden Horse award recipient Yeo Yann Yann, former Theatre Practice resident artist Felix Hung Chit Wah and recent graduate (and fellow Tan Chay Bing Education Fund recipient) Lina Yu – helped seal Weiying’s decision to train at ITI, “I identified with them, and I wanted to be a part of it,” says Weiying.

In 2015, apart from training at ITI, Weiying also worked with and guided the Women’s Executive Committee of Bukit Timah Community Club to perform at Scenes – Drama Box’s forum theatre festival.

Post-graduation, Weiying hopes to continue work in devised theatre, aiming to use the approach to reach out to communities and the young.

Weiying’s training at ITI is generously supported by the Tan Chay Bing Education Fund.

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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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