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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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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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Q&A with Pedro Simoni Talavera

Originally from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, Pedro is a trained concert violinist who has been playing the strings for 17 years. He was a member of the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the National Symphony Orchestra of Bolivia, and the Youth Symphony Orchestra of the Latin American Development Bank (CAF). As a classical musician, Pedro has performed in Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru. In 2005, he moved to France in a turn from music to literature, and obtained a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in French Literature, at Paris-3 Sorbonne Nouvelle University. After his studies, Pedro took on yet another art form – theatre – by joining La Boutonnière Theatre’s laboratory, helmed by Habib Naghmouchin. Prior to embarking on his training at ITI, he joined The Body’s Journey, a project of training, research and devising directed by ITI faculty member, Leela Alaniz, in Paris.

Q: Tell us about your journey from music to theatre.

Pedro: I’ve played the violin since I was a child. I think the main reason why I started acting was because I missed being on stage; I missed being creative and being able to share something with people, with the audience.

I studied literature when I was in Paris, but I got tired of all the theories and the analytical work. So I decided to give myself a chance to create again, that’s how I came to start acting four years ago. Continue reading

Q&A with Shakeel Ahmmad

Shakeel Ahmmad was born in Loni, a village in the southern state of Karnataka, India. He obtained a Diploma in Education from DIET College of Mysore and worked as a government teacher for five years before pursuing a Bachelor of Arts with the Karnatak University of Dharwad. Prior to ITI, he received professional actor training at Ninasam Theatre Institute, where he became versatile in traditional and contemporary techniques: Yakshagana Traditional Theatre, Kalari martial art, Yoga, Kolata folk dance, theatre design and contemporary acting. As an actor, he has also toured Karnataka with professional theatre companies before training in ITI. Shakeel is a recipient of an Asian scholarship sponsored by a private philanthropist.

Q: How did your journey in theatre begin?

Shakeel: I’m from a village where there’s a lot of folk theatre and as a child, I’ve loved watching them… I’ve never seen my father perform, but his friends were always telling me that he was a popular folk theatre performer.

I applied to the Ninasam Theatre Institute, which is a well known theatre school in my state. That’s where I had my first training in theatre at age of 23. After that, I worked for four years as a government teacher. But whenever I was on vacation, I’d practice theatre. Continue reading

Q&A with Kalaiselvi Grace

Kalaiselvi Grace is a versatile bilingual actress with stage, television, radio and film acting experience who is also involved in theatre and storytelling education in various schools in Singapore. Some of her acting credits include Macbeth in Tamil for RDG (2001), An Inspector Calls in Tamil for RDG (2004), Above Us Only Sky for M1 Singapore Fringe Festival (2008), Rhinoceros for Singapore Arts Festival (2008) and My Magic – an Eric Khoo film featured in Cannes Film Festival (2008).

Kalai Grace feels that training at ITI has deepened the roots and widened the spectrum of her craft. After graduation, she plans to stage Woman and Womb, her first solo exploration piece. She also plans to explore other acting opportunities in Singapore, collaborate with fellow ITI actors in creating intercultural art for both Singapore and the international audience, and also continue theatre education in schools.

Q: How has ITI shaped your identity as an actress?

Grace: Pre ITI, people told me that I can act. Their encouragement and appreciation along with my interest made me act. I tried all roles offered to me – housewife, mother, gangster, witch, lesbian, prostitute etc. Even when they were minor ones, I still took the role. I was an active and eager actress whose acting knowledge came mostly from observation and trying. Continue reading

Q&A with Giorgia Ciampi

Giorgia Ciampi was born in 1989 in Florence, Italy from an Italian father and Greek mother. She volunteered for 3 years as assistant director of Florentine theatre company ‘Perelandra’. At 18 years old, she obtained a place at the University of Exeter where she graduated with a BA in Drama and subsequently with an MA in Actor Training and Directing under the supervision of renowned theatre practitioner/pedagogue Phillip Zarrilli. Her roles ranged from playwright to director, stage manager, composer and performer. Giorgia feels that her experience in ITI has completed her Western training with the practice of Asian traditional trainings in an intercultural environment, and that the meeting and interaction of cultures through the actors’ body-minds is a very important strand of her current enquiry.

Q: What made you decide to come to Singapore?

Giorgia: When I was in England, I was involved in works that were less text-based, it was more experimental, more physical theatre than what I had experienced so far in Italy, and that really appealed to me because it was the opposite from what I was familiar with, and I started to get a taste of what it was like to train as well. Especially with a particular module called the Intercultural Performer Training with Phillip Zarrilli, where he taught us a training method, which included different Asian martial arts – yoga, Taichi and Kalaripayattu – and this was a very new concept for me, to work through the body that way. I was fascinated by it, so after university, I wanted to go to India and continue to train in Kalaripayattu. Continue reading

Q&A with Lina Yu

 

Lina is excited to embark on her final year productions as one of the first batch of graduating students from ITI. As a Tan Chay Bing Education Fund Scholar, she looks forward to putting the training she has received in ITI into application. Prior to ITI, Lina received the Japanese Government Scholarship to study in Tokyo, where she was trained in Music Business, Vocals, Computer Music Creation and Recording. She has also performed as a vocalist in various live events in Tokyo. Upon her return to Singapore she decided to commit herself fully to the arts after a stint in the corporate world, taking up acting with NYU Tisch Asia before she applied to and was accepted by ITI.

Q: How did your journey in theatre begin?

Lina: Initially, I was involved in music-related activities. In the process, I  realised that I needed more exposure in terms of performance and stage-craft. That’s when I started taking acting classes at Tisch Asia. Before I knew it I became addicted, as I found that acting provided a different creative outlet for me other than music. After Tisch, I attended  the Philippe Gaulier Master Class in Melodrama, which is where I learned that ITI was reopening. I then came to Emily Hill, attended some orientation classes, and applied for the first intake. That’s how my journey began.  Continue reading