Singaporean theatre educator and the co-founder and director of Intercultural Theatre Institute (ITI) has been awarded the third Fellow Award 2022 by the Harvard University Association of Alumni in Singapore (HUAAS).
The award recognises a person whose achievements, conduct and career stand as a beacon to all Harvard alumni, reflecting the best values of Harvard University, its excellence and leadership, not just in the academia but also having a broader, positive impact on larger society.
The first Fellow was awarded in 2019 to Dr Noeleen Heyzer, a social scientist who served as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) from 2007 to 2015. She was the highest-ranking Singaporean in the UN system during her term. The second Fellow went to Prof Wang Gungwu in 2021. Prof Wang is a historian of China and Southeast Asia and an expert on the Chinese tianxia concept.
A veteran who led and developed Singapore’s theatre scene
Besides being one of Singapore’s finest theatre actors, Sasitharan has been actively involved as an actor, director and producer in the Singapore theatre scene for more than 30 years. He was the theatre and visual art critic with The Straits Times from 1988 to 1996, where he also served as the arts editor for the ‘Life!’ Section.
He was the successor to the late Kuo Pao Kun’s artistic directorship of the now defunct independent arts centre The Substation from 1996 to 2000. Together with Kuo, arguably Singapore’s most significant cultural figure, Sasitharan co-founded the Intercultural Theatre Institute, then called TTRP – the Theatre Training and Research Programme in 2000.
With Kuo’s untimely death in 2002, Sasitharan took over the reins to forge the development of a conservatory for theatre actors that is unique in the world of theatre because of its curriculum and pedagogy. It trains its students in five major world theatre traditions and methodologies – the Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Indonesian theatre and dance traditions – in addition to the contemporary Western approach.
Also a recipient of Singapore’s highest honour for artists the Cultural Medallion, Sasitharan’s role and contribution goes far beyond the theatrical stage. He is regarded by his peers and the larger arts community in Singapore as teacher and thought-leader in the arts and culture and has always stood for the independent and critical-minded artist, eloquently speaking truth to power.
In selecting him as its 3rd HUAAS Fellow for 2022, the association, in a release, says it recognises and honours Sasitharan’s contribution to the development of the arts and culture, which cannot be separated from his leadership and direction of ITI over the last 20 years, and its impact on the next generation of artists in Singapore.
Speaking to TheHomeGround Asia, Sasitharan says, “Without art there is no life; no life worth speaking of any way. Art permeates our being, who we are; how we see, love, touch and become. It is an honour to be working in art. To be recognised for it by HUAAS is humbling and to mentioned in the same breadth as Dr Noeleen Heyzer and Prof Wang Gangwu is more than I derserve.”