By Denielle Leong
YOU can dream the dream, but getting there is the challenge. Thankfully, aspiring actors in Malaysia have the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre’s (KLPac) six-month Theatre For Young People (T4YP) programme to help prepare them for that challenge.
The intensive programme, now in its fifth year, provides budding talents with a platform to develop their skills in the performing arts. Behind the programme is a man bursting with ambition to help groom the future generation of actors, KLPac co-associate artistic director Christopher Ling.
The BOH Cameronian award-winning director strongly believes that anyone can act – all they need is discipline and a teachable attitude.
“T4YP is not in the business of making stars. We’re all about hard work,” he says.
Over the years, T4YP has succeeded in producing a group of performers who have made their mark in the performing arts industry for the past four seasons. Here are a few former T4YP cast members who are now actively involved in the performing arts scene:
Wong, 26, decided to take up acting at the age of sixteen; starting off with classes at The Actors Studio before pursuing her tertiary education in Canada.
This over-achiever graduated with a double major in psychology and theatre from McGill University. Intrigued by the training style of T4YP, she decided to take up the challenge and became part of the third ensemble cast. She has been helping T4YP as a trainer for the past two years.
Tung Jit Yang
Best known as Jit, he is the living proof of how T4YP can transform you from school actor to BOH Cameronian award recipient.
He had never been enthusiastic about extra-curricular activities in school until he tried out for his school drama team in Form Four.
“My first role was as a doctor, and I had to revive the patient with two sponges. That was the most fun I’ve had in school!” said Jit, 22. In the following year, he took the initiative to direct the drama team. Jit credits his teachers who showed him much support and encouragement.
In 2009, Jit joined the T4YP family and subsequently participated in the T4YP Lab which kick-started his involvement in lighting design. Since then, he has lent his skills in lighting to several shows, including Mukabuku and Cartoon (which won him the BOH Cameronian for best lighting design). He also directed Dinnertime which was shown in June. Jit plans to enrol in the New York University to study drama.
Hon is a vivacious 20-year-old with a larger-than-life personality. Prior to T4YP, Belinda was introduced to acting by her aunt who signed her up for a six-month acting course at The Actors Studio Academy when she was just nine.
Shortly after, she attended a play that featured one of her trainers from the course, and the experience was a sort of an epiphany.
“The actors came to the front of the stage; one of them pointed at me and said his lines. I remember thinking ‘Oh my god, you can do that to people when you’re on stage?’”
Then in 2009, she made it into the ensemble cast of T4YP and eventually became a regular in not only the T4YP scene, but the theatre circuit too. She was involved in Bernada Alba (directed by Ling) and also stage-managed several T4YP productions like Past Perfect/Future Tense and Buried Child. She is a recipient of The Star Education Fund scholarship, and is currently studying mass communications.
A member of T4YP’s inaugural season, Iedil has come a long way since his days in the United Kingdom as a medical student. The young lad discovered that performing arts was his true calling, and decided to drop out of medical school to pursue it.
“My family accepted my decision because they know how much I love what I want, and they love me and want me to be happy,” says the actor, who will soon grace the silver screen alongside Aaron Aziz and Erra Fazira in his first feature film, Ngorat.
One of T4YP’s most successful products, Iedil has also dabbled in many different endeavours – running a production company (Playground Productions) with his friends, and being part of Projek Pop, Projek Disko Baldi and Artificially Intelligent: Improvholics Anonymous (AI:IA) alongside several other T4YP alums.
New kids on the block
The Theatre for Young People (T4YP) programme’s fifth season kicked off in March with the auditions, before the selected bunch started their intensive training in April. This year’s ensemble consists of four vibrant young actors – Arief Hamizan, 19; Benjamin Ng, 19; Hannan Azlan, 17; and Ho Lee Ching, 21.
T4YP rehearsal and training sessions are held four to five days a week. The programme demands whole-hearted commitment from each actor.
Time management – juggling between rehearsals, studies, family and other commitments – is a huge challenge for T4YP participants.
Ng, who sat for his final A-Levels exam in June, says he had to adjust his schedule to find time for his studies.
“It was a struggle but I had to cope with it,” he says.
Hannan Azlan, on the other hand, begs to differ. She claims that she had it all planned out prior to her participation: “Since I had to sit for my SPM last year, I chose to join T4YP this year instead. I did a lot of research; I even spoke to the alumnus.”
Hon says she was able to juggle her tight schedule whilst preparing to sit for her SPM in 2009. Her parents weren’t keen on the idea at first, but finally agreed to let her do her thing.
“We’ve come to an agreement that as long as I keep my grades up, I can do as much theatre as I want,” says Hon.
Several T4YP alumni have struggled to earn their parents’ approval in the past.
Hannan’s mother, Fadzwin Hashim shares her thoughts: “It’s amazing how the team puts in so much effort and commitment in the programme. It doesn’t emphasise on the end-product.”
Fadzwin is glad her daughter has been exposed to so many new things, allowing her to grow holistically as a performer.
“I think it’s a wonderful programme, and more people should attend their shows,” she says, encouraging people to catch T4YP’s upcoming show Through the Looking Glass from August 24 to 26 at KLPac.
The season has already presented Heart’s Desire, Dinnertime, I Hate Hamlet and T4YP Sweatshop in the past four months.
A strong bond has formed among the cast members and production team, especially now that they’re nearing the end of the programme.
“We’re very open with each other. We don’t hide things, or go behind each other’s backs,” says Ho Lee Ching, the oldest of the bunch. According to KLPac co-associate artistic director Christopher Ling, the actors have been shaped to become team players. The four have flourished into wiser and more matured actors, learning to overlook smaller things for the sake of the bigger picture.
“Initially, I felt like I had to sacrifice a lot of things for T4YP but now I don’t look at them as sacrifices anymore. It’s just that the other things aren’t as important,” shares Arief.
Ling points out that not all past participants of the programme have continued pursuing acting after T4YP.
“That’s what T4YP is for – to provide a solid foundation; and then you decide if this is just a hobby or a true passion,” he says
For more information regarding T4YP and their upcoming shows, visit t4yp.wordpress.com or www.klpac.org.