#HelloTFP: Lim Woan Wen

by fingerplayers

#HelloTFP is a series of anecdotes where we introduce and share more about the members of the TFP family; from core team members to office interns. In this latest #HelloTFP feature, Associate Lighting Designer Lim Woan Wen shares with us more about how she got her start in theatre, joining the TFP team, and some snapshots of her early years in TFP!

“The story goes back to when I was in between ‘A’ Levels and university. I took up various jobs in that gap, from waitressing to odd jobs at events, to relief teaching at a special-needs school, and finally as a festival assistant at the Fringe Festival of the Singapore Festival of Arts ’96. I had a really good time running roaming shows all over the island, meeting artists from all over the world and making friends with a group of TS undergraduates who made up the rest of the team of festival assistants. 

Prior to that, I didn’t even know Theatre Studies existed as a major in NUS. I had my mind set on a double major in Chinese, but since I could choose a third subject in year one, I decided to try for the interview and got accepted. Eventually I graduated as part of the 5th cohort of the Theatre Studies Programme. 

A page from Woan Wen’s prompt book when she was Stage Manager for Treasures from the Dragon Palace (1997), detailing her cues for each scene.

At the end of the first semester in the first year, I started volunteering to crew for professional companies. I met TFP founding members Beng Tian, Kian Sin and Wai Ying in the very first production that I worked on, and for some reason, they decided they could trust me to stage manage their traditional puppetry show Treasures from the Dragon Palace, staged at Thian Hock Keng Temple, happening pretty soon after. It was, if I remember correctly, only my third project.

In those early years, I wanted to try everything. But I took a particular interest in lighting quite quickly, and I found numerous opportunities to learn more and the attraction deepened. And then I graduated from NUS, took a brief detour in journalism, became seriously miserable, cooked up a domestic revolt, secured a scholarship and headed off to study stage lighting design in Hong Kong, came home in 2003 and have been freelancing as a lighting designer ever since.

A page from Woan Wen’s prompt book when she was Stage Manager for Treasures from the Dragon Palace (1997), detailing her cues for each scene.

About a year or so after returning home, Tze Chien – who was my TS classmate – approached me to ask if I was interested to come on board as Associate Lighting Designer. He had just joined TFP and was spearheading a major transition in the company’s artistic direction.

Woan Wen’s prompt book cover for Treasures from the Dragon Palace (1997).

There was little reason to say no. On a practical level, the company plans ahead of the year, so I will get to know in advance a certain number of projects for a given year. Artistically, it was such a privilege to be offered an opportunity to join a company that I was already familiar with, but was about to embark on a new journey, at a time when I myself was starting out professionally. 

I remain grateful for the timing.”

Woan Wen is currently an Associate Lighting Designer for TFP, and will be conducting the upcoming Masterclass course on 2D Drafting in AutoCAD, from 3–5 Dec 2020.

She received the inaugural National Arts Council Arts Professional Scholarship in 2001 to train at The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in stage lighting design. She was formally introduced to AutoCAD then, and has since been using the software to draft more than 200 lighting plans as well as set floor plans.

This course is conducted within a theatre context, with content tailored to provide adequate foundation knowledge in 2D drafting for fellow theatre practitioners’ practical usage. The objective is to equip participants with sufficient understanding and skills to access the software with reasonable confidence and to continue exploring it on their own.

Click here to find out more, and to apply for the class now!