As an official media partner of the 12th annual St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, Montreal Theatre Hub brings the #FringeBuzz in 2021 with an all-new interview series with artists from this year’s edition of the fest! In this Snapshot, we feature CHRISTINE ML LEE – playwright and performer of HOLDING WATERWAYS, a poetic, visual, and musical experience presented digitally by kalianore productions from June 1-20 on the FringeTV platform.
MONTREAL THEATRE HUB: What is Holding Waterways about?
CHRISTINE: Holding Waterways is the emotional struggle and internal journey that Daughter goes through before she decides to pursue her passion in music against her mother’s wishes. I’m using video, poetry and music to explore this conflict inside her – how much does she owe her parents? How much of their best interest in her is becoming obstacles instead of support? Through this journey, Daughter finds within herself the strength and determination to live her life by her own standards.
MTH: What can audiences expect from the experience of seeing it?
CHRISTINE: Audiences can expect to find an uplifting and hopeful ending! Holding Waterways is a video poem mixing music, poetry and visuals to create a meditative, metaphorical and experimental experience. The piece takes s p a c e, is slow-paced and allows us to pause and breathe to sit with thoughts and feelings.
MTH: What was the idea and inspiration behind the piece?
CHRISTINE: I’ve always wanted to experiment with visual narratives, sounds, poetry and to use these different types of medium to convey a story. I’ve been on the look out for good footage and I’ve been filming things for the last five years to create something but I didn’t have that drive to put it all together until the Montreal Fringe happened. So, all the footage, the music, the sound design, the poetry has been created, filmed and recorded by me.
(IN COMING SECRET: Shhh, don’t tell anyone: Holding Waterways is a partly autobiographical and inspired by my own struggles…! I wrote most of the spoken word and poetry when I felt like I was unable to reconcile my desire to pursue a degree in music with my desire to live up to my parents’ expectations of me. It’s something that feel I still confront: to be able to define my own version of success and what it means to be successful. I still think a lot about what others may admire and desire as a goal does not have to be what I desire or want. For example, some people may strive to make it big in New York or they might want to win a Tony. But me – what is it that I want? What are my own values? What is it that I really desire and that makes me happy? I want to shed other people’s desires that I’ve taken on. Even if they do mean well, those are all their versions of success and not mine.)
Finally, on the topic of inspiration, Holding Waterways comes from the work and brainstorm that I have been doing in developing my musical Just A Note (which had been set to premiere at the Montreal Fringe in 2019! Alas! Maybe it will be a premiere for 2022!) and it stems out of the internal struggle of the main character, Leah, who is pursuing a music degree unbeknownst to and against her mom’s wishes. Holding Waterways the emotional struggle and internal journey that Leah goes through before Just A Note, when she decides to pursue her passion in music by keeping it a secret from her mom.
MTH: Why did you choose the Fringe as the place to premiere this work?
CHRISTINE: This is my first year at the Fringe!! So I’m going to answer: because it’s the Fringe! This is the best place to experiment and to show things without too much risk. I’ve been wanting to create a video poem out of the footage I have been collecting for the last five years and the Fringe gave me that push to create it!
Originally, I had wanted to present a first draft of a one-woman play that I was working on (with an amazing team!), but as the weeks screeched by, I got more and more anxious until I finally decided to create this video poem inspired by the characters of my musical in development instead (with two weeks left to the submission deadline, yikes! That’s Fringe for ya!).
MTH: What has it been like trying to create a show during a pandemic?
CHRISTINE: Honestly, it’s a strange and stressful process. Sometimes, I feel the pressure of having work permanently on the internet that will be viewable over and over and that may never disappear or be taken down. It scares me that something on the internet could be there forever. To overcome that, I’ve been trying to focus on the process and less on the results. I remind myself that works and creations are representative of who we are at a certain point in our lives. I’ve been really grateful for the writing groups and communities that I’ve been a part of – my Magic! Writing group, the Writerland accountability group and the Montreal Musical Theatre Writers.
I also find that I have been more sensitive to how I settle into myself and spend quality time with myself. I’m more aware of how distracted or pressured I feel. I find that I need bubbles of time to calm myself and get ready to create. I’ve developed little rituals before and after I create which is something I’ve never done before the pandemic.
MTH: What’s kept you driven to keep creating during this past year?
CHRISTINE: I have been realizing more and more the value of stories and their power. I don’t think I understood what representation meant until I found myself watching the double bill of Dark Red and Cry Baby produced by PWM and BTW. Over the last year, the social shifts and movements have touched me and empowered me to write my stories. I’ve very much felt the need to take ownership of my experiences as a 2nd generation Hong-Kong Chinese Canadian Quebecer immigrant who is still kinda stuck in the closet.
MTH: How does this show/story speak to our present times?
CHRISTINE: The pandemic has forced a lot of people to (temporarily) move back with their parents and this allows for old conflicts or emotions to reappear. Sometimes it even feels like we’re 17 years old again, arguing with our parents! I feel like there are always some decisions that I make that will disappoint my parents and there is just no way around it. What’s important is that I find what’s meaningful for me, and to define what my values and measures of success are. I feel like this is a good time for everyone to be reminded of the power we have to imagine what our own measures of success are and can be.
Promotional trailer for Holding Waterways
RAPID FIRE ROUND
What have you missed most about the Fringe?
THE CHAOS OF IT ALL!!! Trying to see all the shows my friends are in!! PEOPLE IN PERSON DOING THEATRE AND MUSIC IN A PACKED ROOM!!
#Fringebuzz: which show(s) on the 2021 lineup are you most stoked to check out?
So many shows! ALRIGHT: Solving the Problem of Living; Blxck Cxsper: No Justice, No Peace; Confabulation presents: The Shortest Story XI (part 2!); For what lay in the invisible; How The Fables Have Turned; The Celebrity Obsession by Marissa Blair; The Space Between; Wretch
Based out of Tiotia:ke/Montreal, Christine ML Lee is a composer, playwright and poet interested in the intersection between music, movement and storytelling. Working with dance and spoken word, her music has been performed at Festival Quartiers Danses and in Montreal Botanical Gardens. Alumna of Nightwood Theatre’s Young Innovators Unit 2020-2021, Christine is currently working on a musical theatre piece, Just a Note, following development with the CMTWC with Jonathan Monro and with Playwright’s Workshop Montreal’s YCU with Jesse Stong. Her video poem Holding Waterways will be premiered at the Montreal Fringe 2021. Christine is serving on the 2021-2022 Board of Directors for the Quebec Writers’ Federation.
HOLDING WATERWAYS presented by kalianore productions plays from June 1-20 on FringeTV. Tickets ($5.50-12.50) can be purchased online at www.montrealfringe.ca
Read here all of the interviews in the Fringe Artist Snapshots series: