On the Couch with Michele Lee

Michele Lee AAR On The CouchWho is Michele Lee?
I’m a playwright, sometimes I dip into other types of writing and sometimes I make live art, like The Naked Self. I’m fascinated by people; I make sense of things through my writing and through words. I am a sponge, I am a spy, I am watching how you speak, I am keeping all your anecdotes and filing them away in the back of my head.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
My son is now 1 year old. I used to see a lot more theatre at nights but then for what seemed like a long time at the start of being a new mum, I stopped going out past 7.00pm. Instead, I coped badly with sleep deprivation and every now and then I saw matinees and I otherwise stayed at home and read a lot more plays (which is a real joy anyway). What I’d do differently, and what I will do again in probably the very near future, is see more theatre in the evening.

Who inspires you and why?
It changes depending on who I’m reading or watching. As a general source of inspiration, I love reading and seeing plays by Australian playwrights, especially female playwrights. I’m inspired by my peers who can articulate so beautifully a female dramaturgy for constructing a play.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
In my writing, as I’m making sense of situations and characters, I hope that what I end up presenting as the final (ish) play helps other people grapple with and digest our world in meaty theatre-sized bites. Other than writing, in another version of my life, I would have trained in some sort of front line role, some sort of social services role where I could work with people one-on-one.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I always enjoy visiting Launceston, where my partner is from. His parents have a big kitchen, and I can just spend the whole day in there cooking, away from any of the domestic demands of my own home.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
I take them down to Sydney Road so we can eat Middle Eastern. There are about six kebab/falafel shops near me, concentrated within about a 200 metre strip. Although Asian food is my comfort food as it’s the food I grew up with, the various foods of the Middle East comprise my true soulmate cuisine. I’m literally salivating thinking about fatteh. Chickpeas, labne, crispy pita bread, toasted almonds, olive oil – yup, carbs, dairy, just saying.

What are you currently reading?
Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven.

What are you currently listening to?
So, I love reality TV. If I don’t over-think it, I can mostly enjoy myself. It’s like junk food for my brain. Right now, after so many years of not watching MKR (My Kitchen Rules for those uninitiated), I have given in. So what I’m listening to are the voices of the contestants constantly narrate what they’re doing in the kitchen. I assume this makes for good background TV and is somewhat training for possibly becoming TV chefs.

Happiness is?
Very domestic. Having something spicy slow-cooking for hours, while I’m lying on the bed, being big spoon to my son, and little spoon to my partner, and I’m eating cheesecake, and I’m looking out at the front yard, and suddenly my beautiful princess gum comes back to life (which to cut a long story short I killed) and waves its haunting cracked limbs at me.

What does the future hold for you?
I hope to do no more flying at least for six months – Yeng has been on nearly 30 flights since he was born. I think I can well and truly say when the flight attendant asks me bearing in their hands that little red belt, “Yes, I have used an infant seat-belt”.

Michele Lee is an Asian-Australian playwright and theatre-maker based in Melbourne working across stage and audio. Recipient of the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Drama and the 2016-17 Queensland Premier’s Drama Award for Rice, Lee’s works explore female identity, otherness, intimacy and chaotic worlds (usually through a non-Anglo perspective). She has been commissioned by Malthouse Theatre, Griffin Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company, Next Wave, ABC RN, Darwin Festival, Westside Circus and St Martins.

Michele has co-devised The Naked Self – which will be presented at Arts House for a limited season from 8 June 2018. For more information, visit: www.artshouse.com.au for details.

Image: Michele Lee (supplied)