AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Louris Martin Lee-Sing and, after two years of sucking extreme salt, we have a little lights, camera, action back in show business.
I'm from Carenage. A beautiful, scary, and interesting place. So I grew up by the beach and down the islands.
My DDI was not luxurious. My grandfather had a water taxi service. We, his grandchildren, would spend days, sometimes weeks, at his small caretaker house on Monos.
He worked for Mr Massy, who had the traditional palatial DDI house just a few metres away. We were not allowed there but we snuck in constantly anyway. Driving the boat, getting black-black in the sun, away from our parents and anything looking like supervision. He barely fed us. We ate Crix and cheese every meal.
It was the best!
I live 200 metres from the house I was born in.
My dad, the first of five, still lives there. My mom is the first of 12.
I'm the first of three, a brother and a sister.
My mother passed in 2014. I really miss her. I have full conversations with her in my mind at times. Lots of times.
She asked questions that made me reflect and led me to what I really wanted.
I never expected to get married and have children, but I met Wayne and his cooking was so good, I get hook.
Our girls, Kem and Iris, are 14 and seven.
It feels like the older they get, the more I realise how much madness being a parent is. Who takes on this much responsibility?
At UWI, my mother wanted law for me, I wanted theatre.
(Our compromise was) a BA in psychology. I did as many arts electives as I could and a post-grad diploma in mediation skills.
I've really integrated both into my film and theatre production consultancy. I also integrated theatrical role-play working for different mediation companies.
I grew up Roman Catholic but was over it by my teens. Wayne and I are heathens.
No, BC Pires, I don’t believe in a god you can pray to for good weather for the cricket.
Unless I'm in big trouble. Then I'll definitely give the old white man a shout in case!
On second thought, what's going on with West Indies these days might qualify.
Mucurapo Girls’ Primary School in St James was next to the library and they let me borrow new books every morning. And I would change them after school.
I read quickly everything I could get my hands on. Especially things I shouldn't be reading, like Mills & Boon.
In secondary school, I read comic books and sci-fi and fantasy novels. Asimov and Herbert and Dick. I would pretend to beg outside the tuck shop and ask the other students for weird items like lint and their dreams. I was very, very bored, I think.
Then in form five I saw a theatre performance of Wole Soyinka’s The Swamp Dwellers and joined the theatre company. The theatre people became my family. I toured with them until I started UWI.
Reality is quite depressing and I sometimes wish I was less aware of it all. It makes parenting stressful.
All through school, I found it hard to communicate with the other girls because they didn't seem to read and if they did, it wasn't the same books.
I usually had better conversations with boys. They at least read comics and would have opinions on Spider-Man and Co.
I never made many friends at school. And the ones I've kept are low maintenance.
When I was eight, my right kneecap dislocated and my Dad knocked it back into place. I learned to knock it back for myself.
So I don't dance much.
But I like to wine on people and hug strangers. And lose my mind in a fete and get very drunk. And forget what I did.
I watch a show called Long Lost Family by myself on YouTube when I feel sad. It always makes me cry. I dare you to watch any episode and keep a dry eye.
When I go to the cinema I'm anxious that someone will annoy me. Because someone usually does. Because the bar for me getting annoyed is super-low.
Nikki Crosby is a gem. I admire her talents, writing, performing. I consider her a career model.
I'm a TT/WI bandwagonist and claim athletes unto the third generation of Trininess.
Otherwise, I don’t really follow sports.
Wayne follows Tottenham Hotspur, but I don't need that kind of loss in my life.
Things in showbiz were going great before covid. I had just convinced myself and some parts of the world that I was now a stand-up comedian. My business partner in FemComtt Lisa Allen-Agostini and I produced ten comedy shows in 2019 and only one buss.
My reaction to covid was all the stages of grief.
(First) I was in denial. I thought it would be two-four weeks, tops.
(Then) I was angry about losing income.
I'm actively looking for a full-time job as things seem really unstable still.
We were totally freaked out by covid. We all just binge-watched the news and discussed covid over and over.
We were already homeschooling, so it just meant our kids’ friends were home all day like them.
We have a happy household. We laugh together a lot and have interesting conversations.
We live on a family compound. Not a cult, just actual relatives. So we have an extended family vibe.
Under covid, I reconnected with my long-time mentor (Trinidad Tent Theatre founder) Ellen O'Malley Camps.
That led to an amazing production in February 2021 that went on to the Toronto Digital Fringe Festival.
In October 2020, the car we bought in March 2020 was stolen and getting around became really stressful. But my dad and brother help us and we don't need to go out much. so it’s kinda manageable.
I know many colleagues with the same stories: no work; repossession; eviction; no food in the house.
I'm not sure if it's getting worse or better as people don't talk about these problems. Shame keeps us all trying to look normal.
Sometimes I wake up at 2 am and just writhe with worry until I fall asleep.
The end of 2020 was real salt. I had a few clients doing pre-production for local film projects but then things got tight.
In February 2021, when the show actually happened and went reasonably well, I began to see a way.
I think we’re coming out of covid. Our cases and deaths are still really high. I'm disappointed more people aren't vaccinated.
But I’m more hopeful than worried. Things can't get worse!
No, BC Pires, it’s not yet time to take that job in the bank. Not in the bank!
It has to be a creative job. I really hate the bank. All of them. They evil.
What could the State do for the artists? If I got space rental costs covered or waived for rehearsal and performances, that would make a big difference.
Space rental is expensive relative to what you can make on ticket sales. Sponsors usually fill this breach, if you can find them.
I think transparency is the main issue (in showbiz). We are all working in a vacuum of ignorance. It puzzles me they often claim to be disinterested in the info but everyone in my shows knows the budget and box office income because I share it. No one else does. We have to share information on ticket sales and income to prove our worth to the economy and demand investment. But no one (wants) people to know their business!
I never thought I would miss Trini fastness when I’m away. Our complete lack of boundaries is rare in other countries. Taxi drivers telling me about their sex life and making random friends in a line or a lime.
I think a Trini is someone who understands a wine is not about sex. Someone who can eat stew chicken and buss-up shut together with a spoon.
Trinidad and Tobago is the place I am from.
A terrible place to be an artist that constantly erodes creative confidence.
A great place to be an artist, with inspiration and collaboration around every corner.
A place with the most public holidays and the most apathetic populace.
I love it and hate it. I can't leave and I must.
ead the full version of this feature on Friday evening at www.BCPires.com