Without a doubt, we can safely say that Siti Khalijah Zainal is one of our absolute favourite actresses in the local theatre scene. Always armed with a smile and bubbling over with incredible energy, Siti has charmed our socks off, making us laugh and cry in productions as varied as Meena and Cheena and Rosnah. So it’s really no surprise that when we found out she was part of the lineup of the Esplanade’s Backstage Pass With… series of tours, we jumped at the chance to hear the veteran actress tell stories of the theatre life as she led us on an up close and personal tour of the various Esplanade venues.

True to form, Siti was an incredibly engaging guide. Starting off the Saturday morning bright and cheery, the tour was a truly special affair as she brought us through the parts of the Esplanade the public is hardly ever privy to, introducing us to each place’s significance through true, sincere anecdotes of her memories working in various spaces. At the Esplanade Recital Studio for example, she fondly recalls her breakout performance there in Teater Ekamatra’s Why Did The Cat Get So Fat? in 2009. If you didn’t get a chance to watch it then, here’s an insider tip – it’ll be returning next year as part of the Esplanade’s The Studios season 2018, also starring Siti.


During the tour, we even got to check out the dressing room that Siti was somehow assigned everytime she performed at the Esplanade Theatre. And beyond that, that same dressing room was even the one where the idea for Dream Academy’s Meena and Cheena was born when she shared the room with Judee Tan


Perhaps most poignantly of all, stepping onto the Esplanade Theatre stage makes Siti recall: “I remember how when I was younger, performing here used to be a dream.” Now, even having achieved that with W!ld Rice’s Cinderel-lah! (2010), she remains amazingly humble, still starstruck when she realizes she’s separated by some of her international theatre idols by a single door at times, and thoroughly thrilled when she gets the chance to interact with them during breaks in the Green Room.


Even though Siti was the undisputed star of the tour, Esplanade staff members Sharon and Fareesha were also key in making the tour an unforgettable experience. Knowing the entire Esplanade like the back of their hands, they provided in-depth information on the Esplanade’s layout, structure and history, as well as the countless programmes the Esplanade organizes at each venue – incredibly useful trivia that we would definitely be passing on to our friends next time we come by the Esplanade.


What more is there to say? We were absolutely taken with Siti’s tour – fun, fresh and intimate, and we imagine that there’s plenty more stories to be heard in the rest of the Esplanade’s exclusive Backstage Pass with… tours still to come. A thoroughly enjoyable guide, we can’t wait to see Siti again when we next catch her in W!ld Rice’s upcoming year end pantomime Mama White Snake. 


Stay tuned for more coverage of the Esplanade’s 15th Anniversary, where next up, we’ll be interviewing Esplanade Head Of Operational Support Services Ravi Sivalingam and going on his Backstage Tour on 25th November! Tickets are still available, and all proceeds go towards the Esplanade’s future waterfront theatre, so come on down and support one of the region’s best and few world class arts venues, while enjoying an informative, entertaining tour with some of Singapore’s brightest stars and the Esplanade’s most capable staff.

The Esplanade’s Backstage Pass with…tours will take place every Saturday until 16th December, 10am – 12 noon. All proceeds go to fundraising for Esplanade’s waterfront theatre, and tickets are available from SISTIC

The Esplanade also does regular tours each week with members of Esplanade staff to guide you through. Tickets and schedule available from their website

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