AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Wayne Lee-Sing and I’m a theater jammer.
I was actually born at Kingsbury Maternity Hospital, Wembley, London.
My mother, who was then in England but was originally from Moruga, had not married my father.
She took me back to Trinidad when I was six. And I’ve been here ever since, except for travel and a few jobs.
I met my father when I returned to England when I was 25.
My mother is the original feminist. She went up to England alone with her (daughter) cousin and Trinidad was still a colony.
She didn’t put my father’s name on my birth certificate. She gave me her name.
She died in 1985, from a type of cancer so rare that her doctor wrote up her case history for medical journals.
I have been married to Louris Martin-Lee-Sing since 2003. I was 39 and pretty sure I would never get married, but I was really happy to marry her.
If you look at the names of my daughters, Kem and Iris, you see a theme in my life: I have always been surrounded and influenced by strong women: Claudette, my mother; Nem, his mother; (founder of the Trinidad Tent Theater) Ellen O’Malley Camps; Louis; and now my daughters. Kem was my mother’s Chinese surname, given to her by her father.
The Chinese surname he gave me is Wahwing. But no one ever calls me that.
The retrospective is a hellish thing. My mother and I were very close. Even though I was an a—hole. She did everything she could for me. And I would say some really hurtful things.
But I know now that I was in pain too. The father’s story has always been a sticking point between us. She never gave me any information about my father until she found out she was terminally ill.
And I never got along with my stepfather.
But she was sick.
People look at me and assume I’m a foreigner.
In elementary school, I went to the San Fernando Boys’ RC.
Looking back on it, some parts of it were very awful! I used to be harassed and intimidated 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 anyone, because I wanted to fit in.
On those days, who could I even talk to anyway? I guess I’m kind of psychoanalyzing myself, but when I was little, I wish I was black!
When I got into Pres, the whole racing issue went from a very big issue to a non-issue.
None of those boys who bullied me got into Pres and they wouldn’t put up with it at Presentation College anyway.
Sando and Pres are much more representative of Trinidad as a whole. It’s half African, half Indian, with a bit of everything else. One or two white boys, a couple of Chinese guys, like Trinidad itself.
My wife Louris is in charge of the Best Village contest program.
I’m really into photography now and I was taking pictures for her of that drumming band in Belmont. All of a sudden, the Rastaman leading the group starts scolding me!
I find that I am judged a lot on my appearance by people who would not like to be judged on their appearance. They stereotype me – but I’m sure that’s the exact opposite of what they would want for themselves.
Between religious belief or its absence, I am definitely on the side of its absence. The idea of the man in the sky just doesn’t make sense.
I guess technically people could say I’m an atheist. But I don’t like to label myself and an atheist is something where you define yourself by what you’re not.
But an agnostic saying it’s impossible to know is kind of 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 some theater with Mervyn De Goeas and the Baggasse Company when it was Trinidad’s avant-garde company. I used to drive from Sando to this acting workshop in Port of Spain.
I was a stagehand for Extremities and I made my debut in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, playing the character of Keanu Reeves in the film.
I met Lou on the set of Milan Kundera’s play Jacques et son maître.
In one scene, Lou and I had to wait in the same (off-stage location) for the next act. And we talked every night.
Then I met her again at the Pelican Inn in the late 90s and we started dating.
I met Ellen O’Malley Camps when I lived and worked in Saint Lucia.
Theater changed my life and Ellen changed my life even more. She had me write Carnival Theater and had me do the program in the maximum security prison.
Ellen used to do counselling, psychotherapy and I used to do communication skills exercises, with my background in media studies. I taught them the basics of film and video production. We did videos, some live tours with an audience.
I’m a theater jammer. A slut.
Most theater people are. Hos. They would do
anything for the 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 Ellen’s idea that she pitched in the prison called Play Mas with Shakespeare. The inmates were writing their own plays, but halfway through, they suddenly started spouting Shakespeare. The loosest link would bring a Shakespearean quote.
I have written several calypsoes for the NGO Network. My most famous is Put a Woman, which is part of UNESCO’s program to place women in political office. The United National Congress used to play it at political meetings wherever it fielded a female candidate.
I had signed up with COTT, and the year after that election, I got a royalty check for about $300 and something!
“I’m tired of hearing / What we can’t do / How we’re not strong enough / It’s just not true / We’ve traveled long and far / Now is the time to see / What will really happen/with equality…Put a woman in the house/The House of Parliament/Put a woman in the house/The house of power/When a woman in charge/You’re bound to find/Things will start to work out well/ You will inevitably see / A new love coming to this country.
And it gets better from there.
What is a Trini? Well, some guys I used to play football with arranged a game at King George V Park with some other guys we didn’t know. And someone on the next side hollers, “Lee-Sing!”
And I turn to answer – but it wasn’t me they were calling. He was a black guy from the other team.
So we had two Lee-Sings on the same football pitch, one black and one white. And it’s a Trini!
Trinidad and Tobago is my home and I can’t imagine being anything other than a Trinidadian.
And the strength of my Trinidadian identity is my mixed background.
Read the full version of this feature Friday night at www.BCPires.com