Remembering Phillip Zarrilli

8 May 2020 | Journal

Remembering PZ 2

Phillip Zarrilli was a scholar, actor, director and teacher who was exceptional for his early adoption of traditional Indian theatre methodology, in the making and thinking of contemporary theatre practice. He dedicated most of his lifework to theatre scholarship and actor-training; particularly intercultural theatre. He was instrumental in conceiving, building and teaching ITI’s pedagogy and curriculum for intercultural actor training. 

Phillip first came to Singapore in the late 1990s, and was invited to serve on ITI’s (known then as TTRP) board of advisors. He was then invited to teach in 2003 and directed Ota Shogo's The Water Station for ITI at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay in 2004.  

Since then, he has taught many more cohorts, and directed another three productions, with the most recent being Lie With Me, written by Kaite O'Reilly. In October 2019, Phillip also launched his final book (Toward) a Phenomenology of Acting (Routledge) at ITI, in an event jointly hosted by NUS and LASALLE College of the Arts. 

Phillip had a deep and abiding love for his students and was dedicated to the development of their skills; focusing on precision and detail of action and an in-depth understanding of the material. In the studio, he was always both gentle and completely uncompromising.    

As we mourn and celebrate the life of a dear friend and mentor, we are also grateful to have been a part of his journey. Phillip’s work and teaching will always influence ITI’s approach to actor training. ITI is honoured to be part of Phillip Zarrilli’s legacy. 


... my love for ITI is boundless, and it has been such a gift to be part of ITI for so long. Every moment there a treasure and gift. The love and support there are boundless and it comes from people who really CARE about individuals as individuals, as an ensemble, and as always being respectful and humane in our work.

— Phillip Zarrilli, letter to ITI Director T. Sasitharan, 16 Mar 2020


Images (from left to right): Photo by Kaite O'Reilly during the launch of (Toward) a Phenomenology of Acting in 2019; The Water Station at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay in 2004.