Q&A with Lina Yu

4 March 2014 | Journal


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?

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. 

Q: Let’s talk about your experience here.

Coming to ITI and being new to acting allowed me to be open to a lot of possibilities.. I wasn’t set in my ways, so I was just accepting what the teachers had to offer. And along the way I realised how beneficial having that mindset was for my training, especially when working with different traditional art forms, or meeting new teachers or new directors. If you are open, then you can offer, and at the same time, receive from what they are offering. It’s a two-way communication. Because ITI invites teachers from all over the world to work with us, we get exposed to different ways of working and different kinds of theatre. And I think that it has cultivated in us an open flow of communication trans-culturally with the people we work with.

Q: Is there a memorable experience that you would love to share?

The journey for me in the past two years has been an immense roller coaster ride. I mean there are thrills and yet there are times when you feel other things… Every day is a challenge. You are constantly reviewing your attitude for that day. I mean “attitude” not in the sense of how we behave, but how we see things, what’s your take on things, what are your responses to certain things. And because we are in an intercultural environment, that means that every day we work with people who come from a different culture, so when there are moments of differences, you think about your approach in handling the issue.

I think the important thing for me is to always think that others come with good intentions. I know it is not easy, and it is always disheartening when you see that people choose to believe bad things of others more readily than good ones. But regardless, I would still like to believe that when another says something, it comes from a good place. If someone says something that perhaps sounds opinionated, you need to think of the possible reasons why this person is saying something like this. And that helps you understand that person better or perhaps their culture better.

In any case I prefer to live with hope over negativity.

Q: So how does this affect you?

It messes you up. (Laughs) I think it messes you up but then I think there’s a period when you look back. Ok, so what do we get from that… you know… I do not know if it makes sense, but it’s structure out of chaos? I mean, even if something is chaotic, it’s not necessarily a gone case. There is a certain tension or structure behind that. And then when you find the intention behind it, I think it feeds into our acting activity, when you are exploring a relationship on stage or why certain characters do certain things. When a scriptwriter or playwright writes something into a character, you then think about what’s the drive behind that action or that speech itself. So, through everyday life, I think we learn more about acting as well. And it also takes away the very simple thought of right and wrong. Because I think, as human beings, we don’t have to be necessarily right or wrong, it’s complex. For example someone can be lazy and be a perfectionist at the same time.

Q: Who are the characters that you play in Pericles?

In Pericles, I play Dionyza, Queen of Tharsus, who goes through the good and bad times of her country, experiences hope, disappointment, love, jealousy, betrayal and hate, and takes her choice of action in the end. I also play Gower the narrator in parts, Pandar the “business-man”, as well as lords, gentlemen, knights, sailor, and a messenger. It is mind-bogglingly good fun!

Q: So, what do you feel about graduating?

Yay!! I think there’s happiness, definitely, but there’s sadness as well as fear and excitement. I think this is one of the best acting programmes that Singapore has to offer. So it’s definitely a sad thing to leave this place. But, happy and excited in a sense that now we can take what we’ve received from the school and test it out in front of the public..

A school is always a sheltered and protected environment, so to leave this place, this shelter, there’s always a sense of uncertainty. But, I don’t think it’s a bad fear, because it allows us to be prepared to face our challenges and get our adrenalin pumping!

Q: Do you feel ready to face these challenges?

Hmm, let me think… I feel that the theatre scene in Singapore is evolving. Especially when new venues are opening, for example Victoria Hall, which I hope will give further exposure of performance arts to the local people, as well as for tourists to catch local productions. I think we are graduating in a time when there’s the possibility of a lot of changes happening in the local scene. So, I think for a while, I’ll just let the waves take me.

In that sense, considering what’s happening I don’t think anyone will be ready. Because you’ll never know what will happen, you’ll never know what are the kinds of changes that might happen, you’ll never know if the appetite for a performance arts in Singapore is going to change. So I think I’ll just take it as it comes.

Q: Do you have any advice for current students?

For current students, to just accept things as you meet them. That’s not to say to blindly accept it. I mean, if there’s something you don’t understand or you feel is weird, voice it out, but at the same time don’t reject whatever that’s being offered to you. Things will get difficult. It will get tough, physically as well as otherwise. But if you think of this as a pressure cooker to prepare you for and to be ready as actors when you graduate, then I think it becomes good pressure.

Q: Anything else you want to say?

I think the thing I want to say to my fellow colleagues, my current juniors and perhaps my future juniors is to ‘live life’. It is important to do that in order to find yourselves on stage.

Before coming here, I’ve been through different professions and environments, and having studied overseas, I've had my fair share of being a foreign student and experienced culture shock myself. My experiences in life have been invaluable in my acting journey, and I wouldn’t trade my time before ITI for anything else in the world.

So live, breathe, and experience the world. Live life!

Lina blog 2Photo: © The Pond Photography