Workers who keep arts venues ticking

Workers who keep arts venues ticking
Idwan Sa’at, an assistant director of productions and operations at The Old Parliament House.

SINGAPORE - When the curtain rises, what the audience usually sees is what happens on stage - slick music, perfect scene changes and impeccable lighting.

What is out of sight and out of mind is the hard work behind the scenes to keep arts venues in tip-top shape.

The workers who keep productions running are the backbone of any show, though they often do not get as much credit as they deserve.

Lisabel Ting talks to four people who are familiar fixtures at performance spaces.

Clipping microphone on for Lee Kuan Yew


Idwan Sa'at, 41,

Assistant director of productions and operations at The Old Parliament House

He has more than 10 years of experience working at The Old Parliament House.

But Mr Idwan Sa'at's most memorable experience lasted less than five minutes. When then Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew attended the launch of the book Men In White there in 2009, Mr Idwan was tasked to attach the wireless microphone to his collar.

"Oh, it was a challenge," he recalls. "It was like 'Wah, the person who created Singapore is standing in front of me'."

He was so anxious about the task that he bungled his first attempt. "I was very, very nervous. I was shivering and I tried to clip the mic on, but could not clip."

Working at The Old Parliament House has also allowed him to brush shoulders with other dignitaries, including Emperor Akihito of Japan and Britain's Prince Andrew.

When he started work there in 2003, he never imagined that he would be meeting such dignitaries.

He got the job because of Mr Colin Goh, chief executive officer of The Old Parliament House.

Mr Goh was general manager of Chijmes, where Mr Idwan worked, and Mr Idwan moved with him.

Mr Goh says: "I have known Idwan since 1998, first as a swinging bachelor, then a love-struck married man and now as a committed father of seven wonderful children.

"His highly rated work has been exemplary and he was instrumental in rallying his colleagues in getting The Arts House renovated and opened in just six weeks in March 2004."

Mr Idwan works from about 9am to 9 or 10pm every weekday, and his daily job involves working with contractors, as well as helping to set up for shows and maintaining the building.

While he says that most of the people he meets on the job are wonderful, "some of them can be quite demanding".

"They really act like they're divas. We encounter that quite a lot and it can be quite difficult. But in the end, we just have to provide and we don't want them to complain."

Although he tactfully declined to name names, he cites occasions when groups have demanded equipment which The Old Parliament House does not have or asked for very quick turnaround times between shows.

Despite this, he says that he enjoys the sociable aspect of the job.

"My favourite part of the job is to meet people with different kinds of lives, different kinds of culture and different kinds of needs. Every day for me is a challenge, it is totally different."

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