Off Stage

Looking for hiding spots before a show

Louise Marie Lee makes her directorial debut with Figs.
Louise Marie Lee makes her directorial debut with Figs.PHOTO: PEK JIA WEN

Louise Marie Lee, 19, wears two hats for her upcoming play Figs: She is its co-director and an actor in the ensemble.

But the first-time director seems completely unruffled: "I've had a blast directing Figs, with many elements of the job - nurturing others, inspiring a shared vision, building a safe creative space - coming rather naturally.

"Acting and directing fulfil vastly different needs and I can see myself pursuing more roles in the theatremaking process."

Eloquent and passionate, Lee is freelancing in the theatre scene, having taken on roles such as stage manager and set manager.

Figs, which will be staged at The Substation Theatre from June 30 to July 2, is a dark and surreal piece that explores gender performance, the body and loneliness. It is the second original production from Make Space, a theatre collective founded last year.

  • BOOK IT / FIGS

  • WHERE: The Substation Theatre, 45Armenian Street

    WHEN: June 30to July 2,8pm (Thursday and Friday),3and 8pm(Saturday)

    ADMISSION: $28. Ticket orders can be placed by filling in a GoogleForm at https://goo.gl/6WCoMU

How did you first get into theatre and what made you fall in love with it?

I got into speech and drama at the age of eight, but while I enjoyed public speaking, hosting and acting, it wasn't until I discovered physical theatre at 15 that my love for the art truly blossomed.

At the risk of sounding pretentious, I find that theatre is not something I'm in love with, but something I need.

Describe your first show.

My first professional show was TheatreWorks' LIFT: Love Is Flower The in 2012. I was in my first year of junior college and I'd switched from theatre to playing soccer.

The itch to be part of a production was so bad that I ended up booking an audition last minute and found myself part of an ensemble directed by Jeff Chen. LIFT explored the universality of the pursuit of happiness, and was a deft and absurd piece that captivated me.

The experience was illuminating in that I hadn't expected myself to need theatre in that way. I'd mis- takenly thought that theatre was not a unique part of my being and that I had adequate, alternative outlets.

I still remember arriving backstage for each show in my sweaty school uniform - often without dinner - because I'd been studying for my final examinations the following week.

What are your pre-show rituals?

I make sure to find an excellent hiding spot at the performance venue. Preferably a new one for each show or festival. Whether I'm acting or not, I find a quiet space away from the action to prepare myself emotionally and mentally, something I am able to do only with some physical distance.

Thankfully, I've curated some prime stairways and toilets in the Esplanade's backstage area, along with plenty around my former school's theatre.

Do you have onstage jitters? How do you get over them?

Onstage jitters?  Please.

I'm kidding. I think both amateurs and veterans experience that surge of adrenalin when they are onstage, albeit in varied degrees and ways. While I've had a fairly easy time managing stage fright, I've come to discover that it's the team spirit of an ensemble that really pushes me far beyond that anxiety, so we can deliver exceptional performances together.

What do you do after the show to unwind?

I help to strike the set. My experiences so far have largely straddled the creative and technical sides of theatre, so I rarely find myself sitting down to a hearty meal or relaxing conversation after closing night.

Bumping out is a cathartic ritual for me. I enjoy the sense of bringing the production to a close, beyond the curtain call. It's quite exhausting so it also makes for good bonding time with the rest of the crew and production team.

Any favourite post-show spots?

My bathroom and my bed. Once, my mother actually found me sound asleep on the shower floor after a particularly brutal production run.

How do you think Make Space stands out amid a bustling theatre scene these days?

As one of the team's core members, I would say that Make Space is a young collective committed to a relatively more experimental aesthetic and style, alongside original writing. It might take a little more effort to make sense out of our plays, but at the root of our work, we're invested in telling stories that enrich and celebrate the human spirit.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2016, with the headline 'Looking for hiding spots before a show'. Print Edition | Subscribe