Rhian is an actor from Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia. She performed in Pitapat Theatre’s production An Enemy of the People.At the Moment in 2015, and collaborated with ITI alumni on Pitapat Theatre’s site-specific production Theatre in Hotel in 2019, where she performed her original work, The One When He Was Late. Rhian has also facilitated improvisation workshops with Kasing Sining theatre group in the Philippines and Aaakar theatre group in Allahabad, India.
Rhian is a recipient of the Tan Chay Bing Education Fund Scholarship and a beneficiary of the Möbius Fund.
What were you doing before coming to ITI, and how did you choose to come here?
I was working in the post office in Singapore before coming to ITI. I had already heard about ITI from my first director, [alumnus] Seng Soo Ming, back in 2015, but at the time I didn’t have much of an idea about the school yet. The whole time [I was working], I still wanted to learn acting, but I kept delaying this plan. Then one day, I looked up ITI again. I had so, so much desire then and I said to myself that I couldn't wait anymore and had to learn acting now. So without too much deliberation, I applied.
Do you remember how you felt on your first day here?
I came in with a very pure heart. It was adventurous, and I was so excited to finally be in a learning state, not a working state anymore. I was looking forward to it and I was full of excitement to be meeting new people in a new environment.
What is it like to train at ITI?
ITI is a very small school, but inside it is a very big world. The training here challenges you physically and mentally. This is the place where you can fully peel off yourself, a golden place that allows you to fail — fail beautifully, to dig into your roots, look deeper into yourself and your work. It is serious and demanding here. But still lots of fun here, with the people! By the way, cleaning is always part of the training.
What have you learnt through working with your classmates from various countries?
Ramith, Prajith, Kyongsu and Aki inspire me a lot with their art. Their thoughts and ideas are distinct. We definitely have many differences in culture and personality, or we might have things we like and dislike about each other. But we’ve learned how to communicate, tolerate and understand each other.
ITI is a very small school, but inside it is a very big world. The training here challenges you physically and mentally. This is the place where you can fully peel off yourself, a golden place that allows you to fail — fail beautifully, to dig into your roots, look deeper into yourself and your work.
What are some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had here?
All life is happening here. I've had so many memorable experiences. But the 12-hour body pilgrimage in Wayang Wong is still my best experience in ITI. Perhaps because it was the last traditional art form I learned, this journey kind of concluding what I have learnt in the past, not just in ITI, but also my life in the past. In body pilgrimage, my world changed. It was a strong cleansing for me. And clowning class — it was so difficult, but I like difficulties!
How has your training here shaped you as an actor?
In acting class, Beto used to ask us, “How are you? How is your body, mind and heart?” And yes, we constantly check in with them because we practically ‘live’ with them. My body has practised the discipline, my mind has expanded, and my heart has become sensible and open. This allows me to go beyond my limitations. I learned to be a ‘NOW!’ actor, an ‘in the moment’ actor. To become a better actor is to become a better person. ITI also shaped my attitude as a person. Chin Huat’s mopping floor exercise on the very first day also symbolises a kind of humility for me. We learned a lot from each other here.
Do you have any post-graduation plans?
Unfortunately because of the pandemic right now, every plan has changed. But I am hopeful. My cohort and I are still planning to work on some projects together. I will also continue to deepen my own training and research as a performer and theatre-maker.
Do you have any advice for new students or people thinking of training at ITI?
Be prepared and disciplined. You can be very playful, but always remain serious and keep finding depth in the work. Embrace every dramatic or negative moment in ITI, it will help you grow and go further. And remain open, open to see the world!
Any special words of thanks for anyone?
Thousands of thanks to my dearest teachers, Sasi, Aarne, Simon, Chin Huat, Beto, Shifu, Karen, Guillermo, Leela and all the teachers with me in this journey, thank you for witnessing my growth and inspiring me so much. To my traditional art form master teachers, Mdm Lee, Venuji, Kapila, Yoshi sensei, Kuwata sensei, Besur, and my directors, thank you for sharing your amazing experience and guidance at ITI.
To my schoolmates, my WAAPA family, ITI alumni, thanks for your warmth, support and being fun all the time!
To my parents, my family in Singapore, my Sabahan friends and Soo Ming, thank you for always being there to listen and help. To BCCM Petagas and CC66, thank you for yourprayers, Lord be with you!
Thank you to all the ITI Angels who support the school and me. Thank you to ITI admin staff and Uncle for your dedication.
Aki, Ramith, Prajith and Kyongsu, seriously, Wo Ai Ni.
Photos by Bernie Ng