Q&A with Nour el Houda Essafi (a.k.a. Yiseong)

25 October 2019 | Journal

yiseong 1

Nour el Houda a.k.a. Yiseong began her performing arts training at a young age, learning classical ballet, violin and piano at a specialised performing arts school in Paris. She later trained in forms such as Cambodian Khmer dance and Indian Kathak, and learned to play Taiko drums with Paris Taiko Ensemble.

Coming to ITI has been a life-changing decision that has enabled Yiseong to rediscover herself, her roots, and the definition of what an artist should be.

Yiseong is a beneficiary of the Möbius Fund.


What were you doing before coming to ITI?

I was doing several activities at the same time: I was assistant director, assistant to the sound designer and stage manager for a friend’s movie, teaching French to several Korean students, and hand-making bags, purses and miniature board games as a personal project.


How did you hear about ITI, and what made you choose to come here?

I was advised by a theatre director friend to join ITI. What made me come to ITI was the elaborate curriculum, the traditional Asian forms, the teachers’ very different approaches to theatre techniques, and above all, a teaching far from Western method acting.


Think back to your first day here: what were some of your thoughts and emotions then?

My first day in ITI was pretty positive and joyful as everything went very well. I could feel the entire administration was here to support us through the journey and that they were experienced, that it was not just an academic type of organisation. Joy, hope and support.


What is it like to train here at ITI?

Hahaha, challenging. Mentally and physically challenging and tiring. But with so much satisfaction at each step climbed and each new way learned.


Share something you’ve learnt from working with your classmates from various countries.

I came to the conclusion that no matter how easily you can get along with new people from all over world and how close your heart is to different cultures, being with my classmates for almost 24 hours a day for 3 years has taught me even more the meaning of the words ‘cultural’, ‘differences’, ’tolerance’, ’cohort’ and ‘ensemble’. Again, I learned not to take things for granted.


What are the most memorable experiences you’ve had at ITI?

I genuinely cannot answer this question without having to make a list. Each term had several memorable experiences. Laughter has always been part of my most memorable moments.


How has what you’ve learnt here shaped or changed you as an actor?

I learned, or shall I say confirmed, through my classmates that within each culture resides a complex diversity and each individual is even more rich with differences.

As an actor I gained a proper foundation, and enough confidence and material to shape my approach for upcoming projects in a different way if necessary.


How has your ITI experience been, compared to your initial expectations on Day 1 of Year 1?

My experience of ITI hasn’t been too different from what I initially expected from the journey, but the (already high) level of struggle and challenges to overcome was a bit higher than I thought. It wasn’t my first time adapting to a whole new life but this one was very new to me.


I learned, or shall I say confirmed, through my classmates that within each culture resides a complex diversity and each individual is even more rich with differences.


What are your plans for after graduation?

First, I will go back to France and give myself a proper 2-week vacation in my homeland. Then, I will go through the projects I put aside before coming to ITI and those I planned during my diploma in Singapore, and organise and select the ones I will develop and work on.


What would you say to a new student or someone thinking of joining ITI?

“You are planning to join ITI? Good! If you expect it to be hard, you are only 50% there; it will always be twice as hard as you think. Then you will realise it is completely worth it. Welcome to ITI.”


Any special thanks or words for teachers, family, members of the arts community, supporters, etc?

I am thankful to absolutely everyone who has been a part of my journey in Singapore and ITI, who either gave me support or taught me something, whether it was for an instant or every day during these 3 years. For my family and friends’ support from overseas in France, Korea, Prague and Japan, I am immensely grateful.



yiseong a line


Photos by Bernie Ng