Q&A with Ted Nudgent Fernandez Tac-an

23 October 2019 | Journal

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Hailing from the Philippines, Ted is the Culture and Arts Director of La Salle University (LSU), Ozamiz City. He had previously worked as a high school mathematics teacher, then was asked to teach performing arts, which led him to pursue practice-based theatre training at ITI.

Ted is also Associate Director of LSU Teatro Guindegan, where his work encompasses the roles of actor, choreographer, stage manager, production designer and director.

In Singapore, he has performed at the Singapore Writers Festival, Malay CultureFest and Neon Lights Festival.

Ted 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?

Before coming to ITI, I had been newly designated as the Director of the Culture and Arts Office at La Salle University, Ozamiz City. The office was responsible for all arts- and culture-related events and projects within the university and its partners. Shortly before that, I had taught mathematics in the Junior High School department, and arts and design in the Senior High School department of La Salle University.


Tell us how you found out about ITI, and why you chose to come here.

I learnt about ITI through my theatre director, Felimon Blanco. I was one of his pioneering members when he started Teatro Guindegan, a theatre company based in La Salle University, and I later became his associate director in running the company. 

When I started teaching Arts and Design in the Senior High School department, I felt empty-handed and wanted ‘proper’ or ‘practical’ training. I looked down myself somewhat as an untrained theatre and arts practitioner. So when ITI announced an audition in the Philippines, I really seized the opportunity to try.


What were some of your thoughts and emotions on your first day here?

Overflowing excitement, but layered with a little bit of fear — fear of ‘not being good enough’, fear of failing expectations, fear of crossing cultural boundaries, and my constant anxiety against my own ego. Also, to be honest, I was frustrated with the school’s physical structure. It was like I was studying in Singapore but not in Singapore. I was expecting fancy buildings or studios.


What is it like to train at ITI?

Literally, SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST! You need to be emotionally, physically, mentally ready before deciding to be here. It’s a crazy roller coaster ride. I don’t even know if I am sane enough to go back home.


Any reflections on your experience working with classmates from various countries?

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “it’s my culture” and use it as an excuse to explain myself. But working with my classmates, I learned how to communicate and negotiate these things. There are times when I’ll change the degree of how I adjust to them for us to go on with our daily studio work, and sometimes I won’t adjust at all. There are many instances when I’ll just see my classmates as classmates, that’s all, and just work with them as required.


You need to be emotionally, physically, mentally ready before deciding to be here. It’s a crazy roller coaster ride.


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

When our cohort had a misunderstanding and we wanted to resolve it, we sat in a circle with a water bottle, and whoever had the water bottle had the authority to speak. Most of us grabbed the water bottle and used it like a microphone. 

On a serious note, FYIP and clowning classes were my most memorable experiences at ITI. These were the modules that made me cry a lot in silence and almost made me give up — like I almost regretted being in this industry. But it was just tough love, I guess, or finding love in what we do the hard way.


How has your time here shaped you as an actor?

Attitude really matters most of all. Technique and training is nothing if we don’t know how to show the proper attitude, behaviour or respect for the space and the people around us, in whatever settings we may be in.


What are your plans for after graduation?

I will go back to the Philippines. Apart from being reinstated as the Director of the Culture and Arts Office at La Salle University and teaching, I’ve wanted to do farming. I’m still thinking about what seeds I will plant. You are all welcome to till the lands with me.


What would you say to someone coming to ITI?

Fail, fail again and fail better — it’s okay, you are safe in ITI.


Is there anyone you'd like to thank?

La Salle University, Ozamiz City for believing in me and supporting me with my living allowance while studying here.

The Tan Chay Bing Education Fund Scholarship for awarding me tuition fee assistance from 2018 to 2019.

The Möbius Fund for the assistance in times of drought. 

ITI family, especially the administration, staff and faculty for literally giving us foreign students the sense of having a family here in Singapore.

My family for the love and support that money can’t buy.


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Photos by Bernie Ng