One of my favourite (and Singapore’s) theatre minah has got to be Siti Khalijah. This super-talented and always-cheerful thespian truly is a bouncing ball of energy and has an infectious zest for life. (During our phone interview, I vividly remember her talking very fast and me laughing embarrassingly loudly at her witty comments!) The acclaimed theatre actress has appeared in various productions including W!ld Rice’s ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, The Necessary Stage’s ‘Model Citizens’ and ‘Gemuk Girls’, Emmy-nominated comedy series ‘The Noose’ and recently, Dream Academy’s ‘Meenah and Cheenah’. With accolades such as Best Actress for ‘Model Citizens’, the Young Artist Award at National Arts Council’s Arts Award and just recently, Best Actress for ‘Off-Centre’ at Life! Theatre Awards under her belt, it’s no wonder we can’t get enough of Siti K. So read on to find out more about this sassy Zahara Warrior who’s not afraid to embrace her minah-ism!
Give us three words to describe yourself.
Risk-taker, committed and street-smart.
I’m a risk-taker, in terms of the shows I choose to do and the characters I play. I also feel that I like to take risks when it comes to personal decisions, especially with family and work issues. I’m pretty committed to whatever I do. Despite the challenges of being an actor in Singapore, I have learnt a lot in this field and I always keep my mother’s words close to my heart. She told me to begin and end things in a good way and I try to do that and live that way. For the younger generation especially, it’s a good reminder that grit and determination will make you go further in life. As for my street-smartness, I’ve never been a bookish person. I’m not really good in my studies and words are not my forte. But I learn through observing people and experiencing life.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Despite the fact that I’m an actor and I’ve played a variety of roles from serious to crazy, I’m actually a very quiet person. When I take public transportation, I’m in my own zone and would like to be incognito. I get a little awkward when people approach me as I’m feel paiseh (self-conscious)! Haha!
What inspired you to start acting?
I come from a conservative Malay family so I wasn’t exposed to theatre growing up. I had my first taste in primary school during the assembly programmes. All my other friends wanted to skip them but I was intrigued by the live performances. During secondary school, I wanted to try out drama but my friends didn’t want to. And you know in your teenage years, you pretty much want to do what your friends are doing right? It was only in ITE when I joined the Drama Club as part of my extra-curricular activities. I didn’t know anyone in ITE so I figured now was the time to try acting. And I’m glad I took that step and have never looked back ever since. I knew as soon as I did my very first stage performance, I wanted to do this as a living. Performing in front of a live audience and hearing the applause during curtain call was both magical and exhilarating!
How has the experience been thus far?
I often get asked whether I’m tired of acting as I’ve been doing this for over 12 years now. And my answer is no. I get tired from waking up early in the morning for rehearsals though! Haha! But that’s minor compared to people who hate their jobs because I’m happy to do what I love. I never get tired of every project that comes my way as the satisfaction and affirmation I receive fills me. When people come up to me and say “Hey, I watched your show and it got me interested to do theatre”, I know I’m doing the right thing. As a theatre actor, taking on a variety of roles is important so you don’t get stuck playing a certain role and then get bored as a performer. I live through other people’s words; whether it’s doing a show to children or adults or a comedy sketch.
What projects do you have lined up next?
I just finished Dream Academy’s Meenah & Cheenah – the first-ever comedy sketch in Singapore done by 2 women. Usually comedy sketches are done by all men or a group of actors, so I’m very excited for this project! It’s the first time Judee (Tan) and I perform a comedy sketch together, where we portrayed a meenah and cheenah across different ages. The show is accessible to anyone and is relatable to Singaporeans as we live in a supposedly multicultural society but are still unaware about each other’s cultures.
Right now, I’m be taking part in Wild Rice’s Singapore Theatre Fest. 8 shows will be showcased and I’m in one of them: the headliner called ‘Hotel’. It recently won some accolades at the M1-The Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards including Best Script, Production of the Year and Best Director! I also won Best Actress for ‘Off-Centre’. Hehe!
Congrats, Siti! As a Zahara Warrior, what advice would you give someone who wants to pursue acting (either in theatre, TV, movies, etc)?
What I’ve learnt is that if you want to give acting a go, try it out as soon as you can. I discovered the joy of theatre only later in life and realized that it was expensive to sign up for acting workshops. My parents, being conservative Malay parents, were also hesitant of my choice to go into acting and didn’t want to pay for art school so I applied for scholarships. Bottom line is, if you want it, go for it no matter what. Start young so you know whether you love it or not. There’s no harm in going for auditions and if it doesn’t work out, at least you know and can pursue something else.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Still in theatre, insya Allah.Maybe focus more on teaching and directing as I’ve never tried them. I did teach once but I was too young then and haven’t gained enough experience to teach effectively. Even in shows, we were allowed to collaborate on other roles; not just acting; and I’ve always been interested in the process of collaboration.
And lastly, who is on the guest list for your ideal dinner party?
How many people can I have over? Haha! Firstly, it’ll be a potluck party so everyone will have to bring something. I’d choose Nigella Lawson as she’s such a gemuk (curvaceous) goddess. She’s big, beautiful, great at cooking…and she doesn’t even bother to cook healthy stuff! I mean, as women we are conscious of our bodies, but she just doesn’t care. She embraces her curves and she’s gorgeous for them!
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