Namoo Chae Lee is the resident assistant director at the Orange Tree Theatre. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Theatre Directing at Birkbeck College, UoL.
“My first experience of theatre was when I was five. I was raised in a theatre commune where everybody lived and worked together. That made me want to run away from theatres, so I studied journalism in my undergraduate. For my first job, I worked as an international sales representative of a big electronics company until all of a sudden I questioned myself, “What am I doing here?”. That’s when I went back ‘home’.
I started my theatre career as a translator and adaptor. After earning MFA in musical theatre writing at Tisch School of Arts, NYU, I worked as a director and international producer in Korea for 10 years. Working in a very physically conscious theatre company, I enjoyed using sonic, visual, and physical languages and playing around with the chemistries that they make with words. How to use Korean tradition in Western texts, such as Shakespeare or Strindberg, was my other practice. It was not about adopting the form, but more about extracting the principles of Korean traditions and using it as a tool of interpretation.
In 2018, the commune that I lived and worked in came to an end and that is when I left for the U.S. again. The relationship between community and theatre was a big theme for me and I wanted to see how different theatre communities survive. That’s why I became a puppeteer at the Bread and Puppet Theatre, a political theatre company in Vermont since 1963. We lived, farmed, made shows and toured in the old school bus together. Working for years with generations of performers from different countries gave me insight into how a community functions.
I came to London in the hope of standing as an independent artist, not a part of something, and eventually, making my own theatre community. That is why I am so interested in the people around the stage. Who comes to see the show, who makes theatres these days always intrigues me. I am more than excited to start here at the Orange Tree, where the value lies in its own community and finding new voices. As the resident assistant director, I am planning to start a series of interviews of who’s around the theatre. I hope this could offer a peek inside the Orange Tree Theatre.”
Namoo has just finished assisting on Meetings and will next assistant direct on Zoe Cooper’s Northanger Abbey.