Hailing from Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, Guei Sze (a.k.a. Zizi) found her passion for theatre at the very first drama lesson she received in secondary school. Since then, she has never looked back.
Zizi has worked extensively with Pitapat Theatre in Kota Kinabalu - a professional theatre company founded by ITI alumnus Seng Soo Ming. With the group, she has performed in numerous productions and toured to Kuala Lumpur and Taipei. In fact, Zizi’s performance in Pitapat’s Kakak has put her in the running for “Best Actress” in the upcoming 15th ADA Drama Awards.
In Singapore, she has performed in The Moonlit Smile at the Esplanade Moonfest (2016) and Speak Cryptic’s The Tribe as part of Club Malam at Singapore International Festival of Arts’ O.P.E.N 2016.
In the future, Zizi plans to continue her practice, exploring the intricacies of voice production and character work.
What was your experience of theatre prior to ITI?
I was once the drama club president in secondary school. After I finished secondary school, I joined an acting course taught by my first drama teacher in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah: Seng Soo Ming [ed’s note: Soo Ming is a TTRP graduate - ITI was formerly known as Theatre Training & Research Programme (TTRP) until 2011].
Afterwards, I continued studies for a semester on a performing arts degree programme at Shu Te University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. But it was not fully what I wanted. So, I left the programme and returned home to train under Soo Ming in his company, Pitapat Theatre, and performed in An Enemy of the People.At the Moment and EAT at 2015. In the same year, I applied to ITI, and I joined the 2016 cohort.
So, Soo Ming connected you to ITI; what convinced you though?
I came to know about ITI because of Soo Ming, and I think the training provided by Soo Ming was deeply influenced by ITI (TTRP). I enjoyed and learned a lot from his classes, and I wanted to go deeper into this kind of training and immerse myself in it. I also paid ITI a visit in 2014 with Soo Ming and saw the classes from outside the studio, and really liked the energy and spirit of learning that the students had. So I made the decision to come here.
Do you remember your first day of school here?
I was really excited and nervous to be in the studio with the students and faculty. The seniors were really nice and friendly. I was actually more curious about who my classmates would be. We had a tour around the school and had lunch with everyone. I knew I was in a new phase of my life and couldn’t wait to start the journey.
Share a little of the everyday reality with us.
It feels like I have started out as an empty glass trying to take in the water (knowledge) given by the teacher. And then I realise one empty glass is not big enough to take in the big ocean of water. So I prepare more empty glasses. Then it gets a little tiring when I can’t take in so much at a time. So I have to manage myself better, mentally and physically. Every day, after class, the time will just fly away. It gets tiring along the way or when there are too many things to receive at once. Studying here, I have to manage myself to be more open, present, passionate, to enjoy, play, have precision, curiosity, creativity, understanding, confidence, care, and be healthy… and more. It has been a great experience.
What has it been like navigating differences in an intercultural school?
Everyone has their own culture, beliefs and personalities. I remember a friend whom I really couldn’t come to an agreement with. After getting to know him better, I realised I had crossed his boundaries many times. Sometimes arguments may occur, but as a teacher once told me, it is not always about expressing yourself, and maybe you should try to understand the other person.
What are the moments in ITI that will always be etched in your mind?
Moments in yoga. I always try to remind myself to have pleasure, even in pain, while doing yoga. Beto [our acting head and yoga teacher] always reminds me, “sthira and sukha”, which means steadiness and ease, when he sees me looking very serious or pained. This is also one of the best lessons that I am practising in other aspects: to have pleasure in what I am doing.
I am now able to articulate with the tools I have, practice and play with them. I have grown so much personally and also in the work. I have come to understand and see things that I had never noticed or cared about before. I am so glad to be here.
How has your time here shaped you as an actor?
I knew I wanted to be a good actor long ago, but coming to ITI makes me think about it even more: What is a good actor? What do I want to say? Who am I representing? What is my culture? How will I express it? What are my aesthetics? All sorts of questions have slowly shaped the way I think about being an actor. I have changed physically and mentally through the training.
ITI has met my expectations. I am now able to articulate with the tools I have, practice and play with them. I have grown so much personally and also in the work. I have come to understand and see things that I had never noticed or cared about before. I am so glad to be here.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I am planning to work on some projects with my cohort after graduation. I would like to share my knowledge and gain more experience in theatre. I will continue my practice and I am searching for places to further deepen my tools.
Any advice for a new student or someone thinking of joining ITI?
You must have passion and be eager to learn to be able to grow. You are your own responsibility. Be prepared and immerse yourself in what you have chosen for your life.
Who are the ones who have led you here?
Firstly, to be here in ITI, I am very thankful for the support of my family to let me pursue my dream. Thank you Soo Ming for your trust and for guiding me to this path.
My gratitude to [ITI Director] Sasi who took me in to be part of ITI, the masters and the teachers who have shared their skills and knowledge with generosity, and who have worked a lot for us behind the scenes, my schoolmate Jalal, who has cared and shared about life with me, the various cohorts in ITI, the WAAPA visiting students and many more people I have met in these three years.
Last but not least, thanks to my small but mighty group of lovely classmates. Without them, this journey would not be complete.