Keynote speakers

Prof Tadashi Uchino
Performance Studies, Intercultural Studies, Gakushin Women's College

Uchino received his MA in American Literature (1984) and Ph.D. in Performance Studies (2001), both from the University of Tokyo. He was a professor of Performance Studies at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (1992-2017) and is currently a professor of Performance Studies at the Department of Japanese Studies, Faculty of Intercultural Studies, Gakushuin Women’s College.

Uchino is a leading performance studies scholar, whose border-crossing between Japan and the US, Japan and Europe, and Japan and other parts of Asia, including India, has been critically acclaimed in various interdisciplinary quarters of academics, artists and activists.

His publication includes The Melodramatic Revenge: Theatre of the Private in the 1980s (in Japanese, Tokyo: Keiso Publishing,1996), From Melodrama to Performance: The Twentieth Century American Theatre (in Japanese, Tokyo: U. of Tokyo P, 2001), Crucible Bodies: Postwar Japanese Performance from Brecht to the New Millennium (2009, London: Seagull Books) and The Location of J Theatre: Towards Transnational Mobilities (in Japanese, 2016, U of Tokyo Press).

Twice a recipient of the Fulbright Grant (1986-7, 97-8), Uchino has served in many Japanese academic societies, and is currently a board member for the Society of Studies of Culture and Representation (06- ). He was a contributing editor for TDR (1998-2013) and is currently an editor for Dance Research Journal of Korea. His expertise is widely recognised in performance communities and is a member of the board of directors for Kanagawa Arts Foundation, the Saison Foundation and Arts Council Tokyo, and a member of the selection committee for Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize and a member of ZUNI Icosahedron’s Artistic Advisory Committee.

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 since 1990. He is also a certified Kundalini Yoga 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 HamletMachineAttempts 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 led 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, Argentina, 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, as well as a Diploma in Pedagogy for Acting.

He is currently the Head of Acting at ITI.

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)
Frances is a director, choreographer and performer who has worked all over the world. Her training combines western dance and theatre with contemporary Japanese approaches including butoh dance and Suzuki’s actor-training. She is Senior Lecturer at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) in Perth where she runs the Bachelor of Performing Arts course.

Her recent work includes Exquisite, a movement-based performance work created with Chinese dancer, Min Zhu and dancer-actor Brian Lucas. The work evolved from a close collaborative team of creatives including designer Rachel Konyi, dramaturge Kathryn Kelly and composer Mace Francis. In 2016 she directed The Astronaut at The Blue Room Theatre and created a site-specific work for a winery commissioned by Remnant.

From 1996 – 2011, she was based in the UK and Europe where she toured with Tadashi Endo’s Butoh Mamu Dance Theatre and established her own company, Fran Barbe Dance Theatre. She was a research fellow, then lecturer, at University of Kent in the UK where she completed her PhD “The Difference Butoh Makes”. She was artistic director of two international butoh festivals in London in 2005 and 2009. She ran Theatre Training Initiative in London from 2000 until 2010.

She runs a study tour for WAAPA students each year allowing a small group of selected students to visit ITI for 10 weeks of training and is cultivating a research hub at WAAPA, Edith Cowan University, around performer training and intercultural practice.

Li Xie (Singapore)
Currently a freelance theatre practitioner, Li Xie performs, writes, directs and teaches Russian Director Vsevolod Meyerhold ’s Biomechanics in LASALLE College of the Arts and SOTA (School Of The Arts Singapore).

She has undergone training from Odin Teatret, Biomechanics by Gennadi 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 2012, Li Xie set up SOBX - School of Biomechanics for Theatre. After 11 years of research, teaching and revising the system by incorporating “Heart Sutra”, she brought her unique actor training to Taiwan in 2013 for the first time.

Her works include The VaginaLogue, Little White Sailing Boat, House of Sins and mockumentary newspaper theatre NewsBusters!. In 2011, she collaborated with the renowned Hong Kong Experimental Theatre Zuni Icosahedron to stage Hundred Years of Solitude in Hong Kong and at the Singapore Arts Festival.

Formerly associate artistic director of Drama Box (Singapore) for community theatre, Li Xie has worked with youth, women, elderly, and prisoners from Singapore Selarang Drug Rehabilitation Centre. She has also directed, written and facilitated forum theatre pieces dealing with issues such as SARS, AIDS, domestic violence, discrimination, palliative care, immigrants and problem gambling.

She was the recipient of the Young Artist Award conferred by the National Arts Council of Singapore in 2005 and won the “Best Director” accolade in The Straits Times Life! Theatre Award 2009.

In 2014, she was invited to conceptualize a site-specific mystery theatre BODY X for the Singapore Writers Festival. Her immersive and participatory community performance The Lesson (Singapore International Festival of the Arts 2016) was nominated for “Best Director” and “Production of the Year” in The Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards. In 2016, The Lesson toured to Taiwan.

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/India)
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

Abhilash Pillai (India)
Abhilash Pillai (Dr.), present associate professor at the National School of Drama (NSD) in New Delhi, has had a wide and varied career in theatre.

He has directed plays in different countries in various languages, contributed articles on theatre in leading publications, participated in seminars, and conducted workshops in different regions of India and abroad.

Abhilash’s productions draw on a wide array of materials but are presented in a contemporary aesthetic style. He has been involved in several collaborations both international and national as director and has initiated the first ever collaboration in India connecting NSD and the Grand Circus, Kerala, culminating in Clowns & Clouds, which he directed.

Abhilash has been chief technical coordinator of BRM (the international theatre festival of India) from 2008 to 2013 and curator/artistic director for national and international theatre festivals in Kerala from 2009 onwards. He has authored the biography, C.N. Sreekantan Nair – A Vision and Mission of a Theatre Activist (2007) published by the Central Sahithya Akademi.

A visiting faculty and board member in multiple universities, Abhilash initiated the inaugural student exchange programme between Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), London and NSD when he was dean at the latter institution (2008 - 2011).

Abhilash holds a Ph.D. from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; a diploma in theatre production and stage management from RADA, London; a postgraduate diploma in design and direction from NSD; and a graduate degree in theatre arts from Calicut University, Kerala.

He is a recipient of various honour awards, including the Sanskriti Award (2002-03) and Kerala Sangeet Natak Award (2012) for his achievements in the field of theatre.

Gopalan Nair Venu and Kapila Venu (India)
Gopalan Venu is a performer, teacher and scholar of Kutiyattam (Sanskrit theatre) and a senior disciple of Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar. He is also the founder of Natanakairali (Research and Performing Centre for Traditional Arts) and co-founder of Ammannur Chachu Chakyar Smaraka Gurukulam (Training Centre for Kutiyattam).

His major contributions are his adaptations of Mahakavi Kalidasa’s plays Abhijnana Sakuntalam and Vikramorvaseeyam, and Bhasa’s play Urubhangam and Dutavakyam for Kutiyattam. He has authored 16 books on the performing arts of Kerala, including Production of a Play in Kutiyattam (1989), Into the World of Kutiyattam, Kathakali, Kutiyattam and other Performing Arts (2005) and Language of Kathakali.

At the Abhinayakalari (Acting Laboratory) established in 2000, he has developed a training methodology for “Navarasa Sadhana” which is the systematic and daily practice of the nine basic emotions by actors with the aim of strengthening their capacities for producing this aesthetical experience.

Venu is also a visiting Master Teacher of Kutiyattam at the National School of Drama in Delhi, Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune as well as to ITI (Singapore). Venu has been selected for several honours and awards, which include “Kerala Sahitya Academy Award”, “Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy Award”, “Kerala Kalamandalam Award”, Painkulam Rama Chakyar Smaraka Puraskaram (2009) and the prestigious “Nikkei Asia Prize for culture”(Japan) 2007.

Kapila Venu is a devoted practitioner of Kutiyattam from Kerala in India. A gifted performer honed by years of training under the doyen of Kutiyattam, the late Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar and her father, Kutiyattam exponent, G Venu; among other noted Gurus.

Kapila approaches her practice by maintaining the purity of the technique and aesthetics of the art form, whilst constantly trying to transcend the limitations of the traditional practice by breathing contemporary relevance into it.

She has been performing Kutiyattam and Nangiar Koothu both as a solo performer and together with the ensembles at Natanakairali and Ammannur Gurukulam across the world since 1997. Kapila has also been part of artistic collaborations with several renowned artistes from around the world including Min Tanaka (Japan), Wally Cardona (USA), Peter Oskarson (Sweden), Hanna Tuulikki (Scotland) to name a few. 

She is a teacher of Kutiyattam at National School of Drama, New Delhi and Intercultural Theatre Institute, Singapore. She is also a staff artiste and teacher at the Ammannur Chachu Chakyar Smaraka Gurukulam. Kapila is also a director at Natanakairali – Research, Training and Performing Centre for Traditional Arts.

Seng Soo Ming (Malaysia)
Seng Soo Ming is an actor, director and theatre educator based in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. After graduating from the Intercultural Theatre Institute (ITI), he collaborated with acclaimed Taiwanese director, Stan Lai in his play, The Village (2008), which toured the US, China, Singapore and Taiwan with over 200 performances. He is also a member of Traditions and Edition Theatre Circus (an international theatre company formed by the graduates of ITI from different countries.)

In 2012, Soo Ming founded PITaPAT Theatre in Kota Kinabalu, as a base to develop theatre arts in Sabah and discover methods of theatre creation that combine traditional theatre elements with contemporary theatre methods - an approach and response to the training gleaned from ITI.

Soo Ming’s recent works includes Die Die Tak Bayar, Merah, An Enemy Of The People. At the Moment (2015 & 2016) and KAKAK (2016, 2017). An Enemy Of The People. At the Moment has also been performed (in its third version) in Taipei in Tua-Tiu-Tian International Festival of Arts (TTTIFA); its second version won four awards in Kuala Lumpur's 14th ADA Drama Awards (2017) including those for “Best Director” and “Best Actress”.

Panel Discussion Moderators

Clarissa Oon (Singapore)
Clarissa Oon is an arts writer and editor from Singapore. She is currently head of communications and content at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, where she is developing Esplanade Learn (www.esplanade.com/learn), a features and education site on the performing arts. Her columns and reviews have appeared in The Straits TimesArtReview Asia and s/pores, and she is the author of Theatre Life! (2001), a book on the history of Singapore’s English-language theatre. She was previously a journalist with The Straits Times, holding various positions from Beijing-based China correspondent to arts editor. Clarissa holds a Masters with Distinction in Media and Communications from Goldsmiths College, London, and a First Class Honours in English Literature from the National University of Singapore.

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.