Keynote speakers

Prof Tadashi Uchino
Performance Studies, Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies, University of Tokyo

Originally from Kyoto, Prof Tadashi holds an MA in American Literature from the Graduate School of Humanities, University of Tokyo and a PhD in Performance Studies. Currently a professor at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (Culture and Representation Course), his academic interests include contemporary Japanese and American theatre and performance studies.

Prof C.J. W.-L. Wee
Nanyang Technological University
C. J. W.-L.. Wee is Professor of English in the School of Humanities in the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He gained his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, and has also been a Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (now the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute), Singapore.

He has held Visiting Fellowships at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi, India; the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University; the Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University; and at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and the Humanities, Cambridge University. Wee has also held a Short-Term Residency at the Franklin Humanities Institute in Duke University, USA.

His current research examines the formation of and the relationship between contemporary visual art and art exhibitions, theatre, film, literature and urban culture in Singapore and in the larger region. He focusses particularly on the connection between rapid economic development in its "globalised" phase and the cultural-artistic sphere.

Wee's earlier work considered the relationship between national cultural identity in England and the colonial territories of its empire in the 19th and 20th centuries, and has worked on state culture in Singapore. He is the author of Culture, Empire, and the question of Being Modern (2003) and The Asian Modern: Culture, Capitalist Development, Singapore (2007). He is also the editor of The Complete Works of Kuo Pao Kun, Vol.4: Plays in English (2012), and the co-editor of Contesting Performance: Global Sites of Research (2010).

Work Demonstration Presenters

Alberto Ruiz Lopez (Mexico/Singapore)
Alberto Ruiz Lopez has been a teacher of various modules such as Acting, Movement, Graham’s Technique and Theatre Language for Dancers at the University of Guadalajara, Mexico since 1990. He is also a certified KundaliniYoga teacher.

A theatre practitioner who has directed and acted, he was also a former Director of the Company of Theatre from Jalisco. Beto has performed in productions such as The Divine Wind And Tears Lost In The RainAttempts On Her Life and Kuo Pao Kun’s The Spirits Play. In 2015, Beto performed in R vs J, a solo piece in Mexico.

As a director, he has helmed operas – Verdi’s La Traviata and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas – and plays such as Dario Fo’s Un Dia Cualquiera and Alfred Jarry’s King Ubu. His work extends beyond his home country of Mexico to Poland; Texas, USA; and Colombia.

A multiple award-winning recipient, Beto is a 2008 graduate of Intercultural Theatre Institute (ITI), then known as Theatre Training and Research Programme (TTRP). Beto also holds a Bachelor of Performing Arts from the University of Guadalajara, Mexico.

Andy Ng (Hong Kong)
Andy is an acclaimed actor who was lauded for his role in Tang Shu-wing’s Titus Andronicus (2012) that played in the Globe Theatre for the World Shakespeare Festival.

In 2009, he performed in the inaugural play, Kuo Pao Kun’s The Spirits Play, of the Traditions & Editions Theatre Circus, a theatre collective established by ITI alumni, as well as facilitated Creative Lab, a presentation of eight solo works that were the responses by eight artists to the play. The Spirits Play went on to the 12th Bharat Rang Mahotsav, a major theatre festival in India, after opening in Singapore. He has created works such as Whisper of Love presented by Unlock Dancing Plaza in Hong Kong and Ending the World commissioned by the Hong Kong Arts Festival 2006.

He has also spent time in Taipei for a cultural exchange project involving On & On Theatre (Hong Kong), Shakespeare’s Wild Sisters (Taiwan) and a Japanese company, each creating a new work based on a different section of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

From 2010 to 2013, Andy was a lecturer at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts from 2010 to 2013.

Aside from his ITI qualifications, Andy also holds a Master of Arts in East/West Theatre Studies from Middlesex University, U.K.

He is currently Artistic Director & Chief Researcher of Acting Research Centre in Hong Kong and a freelance actor, director and acting teacher of “Psychophysical Acting Training”.

Frances Barbe (Australia)
Dr Barbe is Senior Lecturer at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University. A director, performer and lecturer has also taught at QUT Creative Industries Faculty (Drama) in Brisbane, and University of Kent School of Arts (Drama) in the UK.

Alongside her academic work, she is an active practitioner, specialising in movement-based performance. She is trained in butoh and Suzuki's actor training method since 1992. Her research interests include performer training, intercultural performance, Japanese theatre and dance.

Li Xie (Singapore)
A freelance theatre practitioner, Li Xie performs, writes, directs and teaches at various institutions in Singapore, including School of the Arts (SOTA), LASALLE College of the Arts, and mentors National University of Singapore’s Chinese Drama group.

The former artistic director of Drama Box has undergone training from Odin Teatret, Biomechanics of Meyerhold by Gennadi Nikolaevic Bogdanov (Russia), Alexander Technique by Niamh Dowling (UK), Commedia Dell’arte by Antonio Fava (Italy) and Theatre of the Oppressed workshops by Headlines Theatre (Canada) and mask-making from Donato Sartori (Italy).

In her practice, Li Xie has directed and facilitated forum theatre pieces, working with youth and prisoners. Her directorial works and performances include House of Sins (written and directed); The Magnanimous Cuckold (adapted and directed) – a production inspired by Meyerhold’s biomechanics; the re-staging of the critically acclaimed one-woman performance The vaginaLOGUE; A Little White Sailing Boat for the Singapore Arts Festival); and Full Frontal: Coffin too big for the hole in Esplanade’s Huayi Festival.

Li Xie has also collaborated with the renowned Hong Kong Experimental Theatre Zuni Icosahedron on Hundred years of Solitude, staged in Hong Kong and Singapore. She was invited to conceptualise and direct a site-specific mystery theatre BODY X for the Singapore Writers’ Festival (2014) that was re-staged in 2016.

In 2006, She received the Young Artist award from the National Arts Council of Singapore and won “Best supporting actress” and “Best Director” accolades in The Straits Times Life! Theatre awards. Her first book of poetry and paintings was published in 2007. In 2012, Li Xie set up SOBX - School of Biomechanics, after 10 years of research, teaching and application, introducing her actor training system to Taiwan in 2013 for the first time.

Nelson Chia (Singapore)

Nelson is an actor, director and theatre educator. For more than two decades, he has been performing in English and Mandarin productions, taking on major and leading roles. He has directed 26 major productions and was the first local artist to be commissioned for three years consecutively by the Esplanade to present at the Huayi Chinese Festival of Arts. He is a two-time winner of both the "Best Actor" (2011 and 2013) and "Best Director" (2014 and 2015) categories at the ST Life! Theatre Awards.

In 2012, Nelson co-founded Nine Years Theatre (NYT) with his wife Mia Chee. Within a few years, NYT has grown to become one of the key players in the scene.

Through his direction, the company has not only managed to revive an interest in production of classics within the Mandarin theatre audiences, but has also raised an awareness of training among the acting community.

Nelson has been training regularly in the “Suzuki Method of Actor Training” and “Viewpoints” since 2008. He studied these methods with the SITI Company in New York and the Suzuki Company of Toga in Japan, and has performed at the Toga Summer Festival.

In 2013, he created the NYT Ensemble with an aim to establish a company of ensemble actors who train regularly, in a systematic way, and create together over an extended period of time. To date, NYT Ensemble is the only actor ensemble of this nature in Singapore.

Nelson is currently the artistic director of Nine Years Theatre, and the director of the NYT Ensemble.

Themis Lin Pei-Ann and Chongtham Jayanta Meetei (Taiwan)
Themis and Jayanta are co-founders of EX-Theatre Asia, based in Miaoli, Taiwan. The company aims to explore a multi-cultural dialogue in theatrical expression and to establish a neo-classical performance style.

A graduate of ITI, Themis has varied performance experience. In 2004, she performed in Butterflies at the Singapore Arts Festival, and in Princess Cina at Indonesian Dance Festival in Jakarta and Solo, Indonesia. She also performed Day I Met the Prince at Asia Contemporary Theatre Festival in Shanghai in 2006 and Silk Road at the 2007 International Ulker Puppet Festival, Istanbul.

She has worked with PARC (Japan Center, Pacific Basin Arts Communication) a multi-language project, Shichinin Misaki, presented at the Poly-National Arts Carnival 2004 and 2006 in Yokohama, Kanazawa and Kyoto. In 2009, she acted in Kuo Pao Kun’s The Spirits Play, for the Traditions & Editions Theatre Circus, a theatre company collectively established by ITI alumni. The Spirits Play went on to the 12th Bharat Rang Mahotsav, a major theatre festival in India, after opening in Singapore. 

Having participated in numerous transnational and multilingual productions and communicational projects in various Asian countries, she senses the immediacy for creating a platform to bringing artists from different cultural background to exchange and explore a new theatrical language.  

Born in Manipur, India, Chongtham Jayanta Meetei grew up surrounded by various physical cultures such as traditional dance, martial art, and yoga. Graduating from National School of Drama, New Delhi, with a major in acting, he later went on to Taiwan, to continue exploring a theatre style beyond the language barrier to touch the soul. Jayanta aims to utilise his training in both traditional and modern acting to transform Asian classics, Western realism, and post-modern physical theatre into his own unique contemporary theatrical aesthetics. 

Work Presentation Speakers

Gopalan Nair Venu and Kapila Venu (India)
Gopalan Venu is Director of Natanakairali Research and Performing Centre for Traditional Arts and Artistic Director of the Kutiyattam Repertory Troupe. He received his training in Kutiyattam from Gurus Ammannur Madhava Chakyar and Ammannur Parameswara Chakyar in the traditional Gurukula System. He is active in the field of Kutiyattam as a performer, researcher and director. The nine-hour long Kutiyattam play, Sakuntala, which he directed has been presented in Italy, Switzerland, France and Japan. Venu has also written several books on the traditional art forms of Kerala. He was nominated as one of the four honorary directors of “World Theatre” along with eminent Swedish theatre director Peter Oskarson and Beijing opera master Ma Ke for “The World Theatre Project”. In 2000, his brainchild, the International Acting Laboratory or Abhinaya Kalari, was inaugurated. Venu has Professional Certification in the Gurukula system (Guru status). The Gurukula system is recognised by UNESCO.

Kapila Venu was initiated into Kutiyattam at the tender age of seven by the legendary master Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar. She regularly performs at important festivals and other venues throughout India and internationally such as in Japan, Europe and New York. She was described as “astounding” and her performance “extraordinary” by the New York Times (9 Sep 2012). She is also frequently invited to conduct workshops. Kapila has Professional Certification in the Gurukula system (Guru status). The Gurukula system is recognised by UNESCO.

Ivan Heng (Singapore)
Theatre director, actor, playwright and designer, Ivan Heng was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 2013. His works have played festivals and theatres in more than 20 cities around the world.

Ivan’s theatre training spans both Asian and Western traditions: directing with Kuo Pao Kun; Ballet and Contemporary Dance as a Dance Arts Singapore scholar; Peking Opera with Hong Kong Tang’s Opera Troupe and Leling Peking Opera and Chinese Theatre Circle in Singapore. He is also resident at the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, and a participant at London’s Royal Court Theatre 10th International Summer Residency.

In 1990, Ivan became the first recipient of the BAT Arts Scholarship to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (Glasgow). He graduated as top student, winning the Royal Lyceum Theatre Award and the Margaret Gordon Award for his portrayal of Shakespeare’s Richard III, as well as the Dorothy Innes Prize for Best Studentship. In 1993, he moved to London where he worked in film, television and radio, and founded the Tripitaka Theatre Company. After touring extensively throughout Europe, Heng made a decision in 1998 to return Singapore to create theatre that was closer to his heart and home, and to make a contribution to Singapore’s nascent arts scene.

In 2000, Ivan founded W!LD RICE. His projects for the company include directing Cooling Off Day, Jack & the Bean-Sprout!, The Asian Boys Trilogy, The Optic Trilogy, Romeo and Juliet, among many others; and acting in The Importance of Being Earnest, Emily of Emerald Hill and Animal Farm. More recently, he designed costumes for The House of Bernarda Alba.

Other highlights of Ivan’s pioneering career include acting in Army Daze, Beauty World (both original casts) and M. Butterfly (India, Canada, Singapore); conceiving and directing Ah Kong’s Birthday Party (Singapore’s longest-running play); and co-directing and performing in Hotel Grand Asia, a three-year intercultural collaboration involving 16 theatre artists from 7 cities at the Setagaya Public Theatre in Tokyo. In 2008, he conceived and directed Generation/s, a first time inter-cultural collaboration between Russia and Singapore as the main event of Spotlight Singapore in Moscow, 2008.

In 2006, Ivan founded and curated the inaugural Singapore Theatre Festival, a biennial new writing festival presented by W!LD RICE, to develop, present and promote Singapore Theatre.

He has also served as Creative Director of Singapore's National Day Parade 2009, and for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, Singapore 2010.

Ivan’s other awards for excellence in theatre include the Edinburgh Fringe First, Scottish Daily Express New Names of ‘93 Award, Edinburgh Spirit of the Fringe 1995, Singapore Young Artist Award 1996, the Singapore Youth Award 1998, the Straits Times Life! Theatre Award for Best Director 2002, and the inaugural Singapore Tatler Leadership Award for Culture (2006).

Seng Soo Ming (Malaysia)
Soo Ming is an actor, director and theatre educator based in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

He founded PITaPAT Theatre in 2012 and directed the first two theatre productions of the theatre company in 2013; Wanted!! and Die Die Tak Bayar, which were performed in multi-languages.

Soo Ming was one of the acting teachers at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC) in 2010. Upon his graduation from ITI, Soo Ming collaborated with fellow graduates, Alberto Ruiz and Zachary Ho, in Unbound: Prometheus and the Monkey King performed in Malaysia. In 2009, he was in Creative Lab, a presentation of eight solo works that were the responses by eight artists to Kuo Pao Kun’s The Spirits Play, the inaugural play of the Traditions & Editions Theatre Circus (TETC), a theatre collective established by ITI alumni. He also performed in TETC’s second production, The Juggler’s Tale, featured as part of Esplanade’s The Studios series in May 2011. Soo Ming was selected to be in Stan Lai’s production of The Village, which was presented at Esplanade’s Huayi Festival in 2009 and later toured in California and eight cities in China. In 2010, he performed in Pilgrims and a Loser and Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis at KLPAC.

In 2015, Pitapat Theatre presented An Enemy of the People – at the Moment directed by Soo Ming. That same year, he was also a recipient of the Krishen Jit-Astro Fund. Soo Ming directed Kakak in 2016 – a production of the Kota Kinabalu Arts Festival. In 2017, Soo Ming won “Best Director” at the 14th ADA Drama Awards for An Enemy of the People: At the Moment.

Panel Discussion Moderators

Natalie Hennedige (Singapore)
Natalie Hennedige is the Artistic Director of Cake Theatrical Productions, a contemporary performance company based in Singapore. A recipient of the National Arts Council Young Artist Award in 2007 and the JCCI Singapore Foundation Culture Award in 2010, Natalie conceptualises, writes and directs works in theatre and other media. Constantly collaborating with artists from across disciplines such as visual arts, film and video, performance art and dance, Natalie engineers contemporary works that are artistically adventurous and that defy classification, playing at conventional performance venues, unusual spaces of creative experimentation and in public spaces to create performance-based experiences.