A night at the cinema: Tickling the senses
UTP’s own talent factory is reviving the glamour of theatre
"You polish the rough edges by acting your weaknesses out," quips Prof. Shamsul Rahman Mohamed Kutty. Also known as Prof Shark, Prof. Shamsul is a co-founding member and advisor of TTS, short for Tronoh Theatre Shop—UTP's witty theatre club.
He says, by diving into the discomfort outside one's comfort zone, theatre actors might just discover a hidden strength in them or their characters. TTS' devotion to comedy means the theatre club's work can be deeply satisfying especially to audiences who don't see a lot of plays. At the same time, TTS has a knack of sending audiences out tingling with their comedic acts. At best, TTS' plays are simply irresistible.
Most of the time, the theatre club draws buzz from its audience. Interestingly, the theatre club also infects a theatre acting itch among UTP students. Prof Shark, a nickname he has long carried for his stage theatrics, founded TTS in 2003 with several other UTP colleagues. Currently, TTS is managed by its committee under the watch of Prof Shark and Dr. Dzul Hakim Wirzal who act as the club's advisors.
Following this, the theatre club has led to the birth of two alumni theatre groups, namely Qum Actors and Laman Artisan. "The groups were created by our alumni to continue their theatre activities." he says.
Since the groups have been around, they have shared the stage with some of the biggest theatre acts in the country. There are many good reasons why students get into theatre according to Prof. Shamsul. Working in theatre, he says, allows students to be as creative and expressive as they wish. In part, this will help develop them as a person, regardless of the career path they may choose later.
Apart from satisfying students' creative cravings, TTS too, has had a fair share of the limelight. Since 2003, the theatre group has travelled to a number of foreign countries to stage their plays. Thailand, Indonesia and Australia, were a few destinations that the theatre club has flown to. Today, with over 50 active members, TTS stages three to four plays outside of the campus every year.
"Now I see a lot of our alumni pursuing a part time career in theatre. But it all started here, most of them picked up an interest in theatre here. I see theatre as more than just acting. We are producing well-rounded graduates with our theatre activities. The two clubs mentioned earlier for example, have gained traction in the local theatre scene with a growing following on social media such as Instagram and YouTube," Prof. Shamsul says.
Prof. Shamsul evokes a familiar narrative of his students appreciate being seen through their theatre involvement. He says that playing a host of characters has helped his students to step out of their fragile shell and grow.
In making connections to his students' well-rounded development, Prof. Shamsul recounts how an alumni was hired because he was a member of the theatre group. "On paper, employers view candidates pretty much the same. It's that little bit extra that you can bring to the table that sets you apart from other candidates," he adds.
A playwright, Prof. Shamsul mostly writes brisk non-realist satirical comedies about a host of topics. He says he enjoys knocking some senses into his audience. Currently, Prof. Shamsul has more than 30 scripts in circulation, and more are on their way. In 2010, TTS staged a Bangsawan style theatre show and it was attended by a turn up of 790 theatre audience. Now, TTS plays in front of an audience of around 100 every semester.
Over the years, TTS has fostered the development of students by casting them into personality-building characters. It is more than just a launchpad for students interested in theatre Prof Shark notes, but it has also become a stage that has shaped scores of first-rate graduates.
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