Spotlight: Koh Wan Ching

Jul 20, 2016

On Facebook and here on the SITI Company blog, SITI has been spotlighting alumni of our many training programs. Today, we have the great pleasure of spotlighting Koh Wan Ching. Wan Ching is a performer and movement director in Singapore, and was an artist in SITI’s inaugural Conservatory class in 2013-14.

Below is a video about It Won’t Be Too Long: The Cemetery, a piece presented by Drama Box. Wan Ching was the Movement Director for the piece, and also contributed to the research, interview and creation process for the verbatim section of the performance. The video is by Drama Box. Ching also answered some questions for us and we are delighted to share her answers with you.

1. When did you first train with SITI?

I first trained with SITI in May 2006. Anne, J.Ed, Ellen, Bondo, Stephen had come to this sunny sultry island on the other side of the world to present Death and the Ploughman at the Singapore Arts Festival. They also held a two-week workshop co-organized by the National Arts Council and the Theatre Training and Research Program (TTRP – now renamed Intercultural Theatre Institute, ITI). A friend, to whom I’m forever indebted, was studying in TTRP at that time. It was compulsory for him to attend the workshop. He asked me to come along. I really wasn’t thaaaat keen as I’d never heard of SITI Company. He said the workshop was subsidized and very cheap, just come. I said fine. And that changed my life. 

2. What are you most excited that you’re doing or working on right now?

I’m now working on a re-staging of Hawa, with the good people at Hatch Theatrics, a fairly new company in Singapore. I’m taking over the role of Siti (Siti is a common Malay/Muslim name by the way), a recent Chinese Muslim convert, who is suddenly tasked with overseeing the funeral arrangements of her partner. The play questions faith, compassion and sexuality, as well as the personal, social and political aspects of religion. My brain has been exploding in every rehearsal as we excavate and discuss issues with the multicultural team. I’m Chinese; the director, producer and my co-actors are Malay; our stage manager is Indian/Malay. I’m sometimes confounded by how little we know about each other and how we hesitate to reach out across communities. 

3. What is the most important thing you learned from SITI?

Stephen asked me this same question before and I think he was very disappointed by my rather unsexy answer. I answered technique. 

Everyone at SITI taught me a different technique. And that made me realize that technique is something that is constantly evolving, and applied differently from moment to moment. There is no one technique, one method, that is infallible and unshakeable. Training with SITI and with friends in Singapore in the past ten years taught me the patience, humility and openness to find my own process, while facilitating the discovery of others – in acting, in making work together, in collaborating and in teaching. What do you know? What do you really know? That’s your technique and it’s closer to your humanity and your vulnerability than you think. 

4. Tell us about a piece of art that has recently inspired you.

2 pieces on power and imbalance:

I visited the Singapore Art Museum recently to see the President’s Young Talent exhibition. Given that the curation is essentially an art award and the pieces are commissioned, I was not sure if it was going to be stuffy or cutting edge. Nothing took my breath away but Bani Haykal only allowed 2 people in necropolis for those without sleep at a time. One viewer is allowed only fifty steps while the other is allowed free reign, as they view a purposefully imbalanced game of chess. After counting my fifty steps, I went into Loo Zihan’s Of Public Interest: The Singapore Art Museum Resource Room. The artist had moved 5,000 volumes from the museum’s resource room into the gallery, and the work functions as a reference library open to the public. The imbalance? Any member of the public has the power to withdraw any book from the library for whatever reason. Once the withdrawal is made, the volume is promptly cling-wrapped and displayed in one corner for the duration of the exhibition. One person had withdrawn a book and wrote down his reason for doing so: “Because I can.”

Photo by Al Foote III