#HelloTFP: Ong Kian Sin

by fingerplayers

#HelloTFP is a series of anecdotes where we introduce and share more about the members of the TFP family; from core team members to office interns. In this latest #HelloTFP feature, we approached one of the co-founders, Kian Sin, and got him to share his thoughts about the fledgling years of TFP, its journey over the past 20 years, and the things he loves the most about theatre.

The Finger Players first started out in 1996 as a children’s division specialising in traditional Chinese hand puppetry under The Theatre Practice. The late drama doyen, Kuo Pao Kun, enrolled the key original members comprising of Tan Beng Tian and Ong Kian Sin to spearhead and promote the art of puppetry among the young. And in 1999, The Finger Players left The Theatre Practice to establish itself as a separate entity with the initial mission to create a puppet theatre that promoted the legends and myths from the Asia Pacific.

2005 – Kian Sin doubling up as a Stage Manager for the company’s school shows. In those days the full-time artists did everything they could to support the company. No role was too big or small.


“The Finger Players was founded under the nurturing space of The Theatre Practice and Kuo Pao Kun.

Prior to the establishment of TFP, I was completely new to theatre, with no prior foundational training in performance, and no knowledge of artistic practices. So when I found out we had to break away from The Theatre Practice and become independent, I found myself at a loss, thinking – should I pursue a different career track? If we go down this path, how is The Finger Players going to continue operating? Where would I position myself? And the most pressing concern was, would we still have opportunities to perform? Would we still be able to continue creating, experimenting and making, and enjoy the process of putting on a good show? Thinking back now, that was a wretched yet beautiful period of struggle!

2011 – Kian Sin taking on the role of “Shifu”, or “Master” for the first production of “Turn by Turn We Turn”.


Over the past 20 years, TFP has transitioned through many different stages, from a troupe originally intended for children’s theatre, to an incubator that nurtures artistic development, to what it is today – an organic space that believes in the value of the collective and shared artistry.

After all this time, it is remarkable that we have managed to hold onto our belief of creating original, local works, collaborating with international groups, and pressing on in our exploration of human nature and empathy. It is with this spirit that the company will be able to go further in future. My wish is for such a culture to last through the generations, though some might think this is too lofty an ideal. I also often feel that in watching a production, the audience ends up finding themselves in it. This happiness, though simple, can be of the enduring sort.  

2020 – Kian Sin directing the graduating cohort of NAFA Diploma in Theatre (Mandarin Drama) students in Love Is The Last Thing On My Mind.



The theatre is a space for collaborative work, and I love that it pulls together so many artists from their respective disciplines (actors, lighting and sound designers, choreographers, puppeteers, etc), creating a performance piece in the world of our imagination, out of the collision between these different artistic practices.

In all my various different areas of work, I very much enjoy the process of continually learning new things and making new discoveries. In every production, I discover a different possibility of creation. The different positions I take on in theatre-making allow me time to reflect, space to pull away and settle down, and is ultimately an accumulation of my life experience.”

2020 – Kian Sin directing the graduating cohort of NAFA Diploma in Theatre (Mandarin Drama) students in Love Is The Last Thing On My Mind.

Kian Sin often designs and constructs puppets. His puppet creations were seen in Furthest North, Deepest South, First Family, Wong Kar Wai Dreams, Twisted, Flare and suitCASES. In 2007, he staged 0501, a site-specific production that won two technical awards (Set and Sound Design) at the 8th Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards, as well as a President’s Design Award. 

He is currently directing a restaging of TFP’s earlier work – “Love Is The Last Thing On My Mind” as part of “The Present/Future Season” 2020 presented by TFP in collaboration with NAFA.

Performed by the graduating students of NAFA Diploma in Theatre (Mandarin Drama) 2020, “Love Is The Last Thing On My Mind” will be streamed LIVE this Friday 30 October, 8pm, with a continued broadcast till Sunday 1 November 2020, 2359 via SISTIC Live. Click here to find out more.