AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Wayne Lee-Sing and I am a jamette for theatre.
My mother, who was in England then but was from Moruga, had not married my father.
She brought me back to Trinidad when I was two. And I’ve been here since, apart from trips away and some jobs.
I met my dad when I went back to England when I was 25.
My mom is the original feminist. She went up to England with her (girl) cousin alone and Trinidad was still a colony.
She didn’t put my dad’s name on my birth certificate. She gave me her name.
She died in ’85, (of)a type of cancer so rare, her doctor wrote up her case history for medical journals.
I’m married to Louris Martin-Lee-Sing since 2003. I was 39 and was pretty certain I wouldn’t ever get married but I was really happy to marry her.
If you look at my daughters’ names, Kem and Iris, you see a theme in my life: I’ve always been surrounded and influenced by strong women: Claudette, my mother; Nen, her mother; (Trinidad Tent Theatre founder) Ellen O’Malley Camps; Louris; and now my daughters. Kem was my mother’s Chinese home-name, given to her by her father.
The Chinese home-name he gave me is Wahwing. But nobody ever calls me that.
Retrospect is a helluva thing. My mom and I were real close. Even though I was an a---hole. She did everything she could for me. And I would say real hurtful things.
But I know now that I was hurting, too. The father thing was always a sticking point between us. She never gave me any information about my father until she knew she was terminal.
And I never got along with my stepfather. But she was sick.
People just look at me and assume I’m a foreigner.
Primary school, I went to San Fernando Boys’ RC.
When I think back on it, parts of that were very horrific! I used to get picked on and bullied quite a bit by this group of boys. The only name they called me was “Honky.” Never once by my name.
And I used to take it and never complain, never tell anybody, because I wanted to fit in.
Those days, who could I even talk to anyway? I suppose I’m kind of psychoanalysing myself, but as a small kid, I just wished I was black!
When I got into Pres, the whole race thing went from being a very big issue to a non-issue.
None of those boys who bullied me got into Pres and they wouldn’t stand it in Presentation College anyway.
Sando and Pres are much more representative of Trinidad as a whole. It’s half African, half Indian, with a smattering of everything else. One or two white boys, a couple o’ Chinee guys, like how Trinidad itself is.
My wife Louris is the programme manager for the Best Village competition.
I’m really into photography now and was taking pictures for her of this drum group in Belmont. All of a sudden the Rastaman leading the group starts to berate me!
I find I’m judged a lot on my appearance by people who would not like to be judged by their appearance. They stereotype me – but I’m sure that is the exact opposite of what they would want for themselves.
As between religious belief or the lack thereof, I am definitely on the lack thereof side. The idea of the man in the sky just doesn’t make sense.
I guess technically people might say I’m an atheist. But I don’t like labelling myself and an atheist is a thing where you’re defining yourself by what you’re not.
But an agnostic saying it’s impossible to know is kinda like a cop-out. I like what BC Pires says is the old Lloyd Best approach: why waste time on something so irrelevant?
I first did a bit of theatre with Mervyn De Goeas and the Baggasse Company when it was Trinidad’s trendsetting company. I used to drive from Sando to go to this actors’ workshop in Port of Spain.
I was a stagehand for Extremities and made my debut in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, playing the Keanu Reeves character in the movie.
I met Lou on the set of the Milan Kundera play Jacques and His Master.
In one scene, Lou and I had to wait in the same (place offstage) for the next act. And we would chat every night.
Then I met her again in Pelican Inn in the late 90s and we started going out.
I met Ellen O’Malley Camps when I was living and working in St Lucia.
Theatre changed my life and Ellen changed my life even more. She got me writing Carnival theatre and got me to do the programme in the Maximum Security Prison.
Ellen used to do counselling, psychotherapy and I used to do exercises in communications skills, with my media studies background. I taught them basic film and video production. We made some videos, some shot live with an audience.
I’m a jamette for theatre. A ho.
Most theatre people are. Hos. They would do
anything for theatre.
I can’t tell you how many things I’ve done for nothing.
Lou and I were in the Toronto Fringe last year. It was an idea of Ellen’s she started in the prison called Play Mas with Shakespeare. Inmates would write their own plays, but right in the middle, they would suddenly start to spout Shakespeare. The loosest link would bring in a Shakespearean quote.
I’ve written several calypsoes for the Network of NGOs. My most famous is Put a Woman, part of the UNESCO programme to put women into political office. The United National Congress used to play it at political meetings anywhere they put up a female candidate.
I had registered with COTT and, the year after those elections, I got a royalties cheque for, like, $300-and-something!
“I tired hearing/What we cannot do/How we not strong enough/It just isn’t true/We travelled long and far/Now is time to see/What will really happen/ with equality… Put a Woman in the house/The House of Parliament/Put a Woman in the home/The home of power/When woman in charge/You bound to find/ things start working out just fine/You bound to see/A new love coming over this country.”
And it gets better from there.
What is a Trini? Well, some guys I used to play football with organised a match in King George V Park with other guys we didn’t know. And somebody on the next side bawl out, “Lee-Sing!”
And I spin around to answer – but it wasn’t me they was calling. It was a black fella on the other team.
So we had two Lee-Sings on the same football field, one black and one white. And that is a Trini!
Trinidad and Tobago is my home and I can’t imagine being anything other than a Trinidadian.
And the strength of my Trinidadianness is my mixed background.
Read the full version of this feature on Friday evening at www.BCPires.com