Going onstage (www.esplanade.com).


Building Dreams: James Wan

Behind the scenes of the Singtel Waterfront Theatre at Esplanade


Published: 15 Sep 2022

By: Jane Ng

Time taken : <5mins

Customer Experience Manager James Wan has been working tirelessly with his team to design a smooth and seamless front-of-house experience for patrons from the moment they arrive at the Singtel Waterfront Theatre (SWT).

This includes planning the flow of how the patrons will get to the theatre from the main building, up till the point when they are brought to their seats in the venue. This process is part of a set of standard operating procedures that the team has devised specially for the new venue.

They have also worked out the logistics for the venue, such as planning the signages at appropriate points to direct human traffic, where to set up the self-scanning ticketing stands and organising spaces for baggage storage. The aim: to ensure patrons have the best experience. 

“We are looking at how the patron flow is going to be like and where we can place our baggage carts for patrons to store their bulky items, if they need to. Because of space constraint in the foyer, we need to test it out to make sure there is sufficient space for people to walk around,” said the 36-year-old who has been working at Esplanade for more than five years. 

The team also plans to use digitisation to make the experience more seamless for patrons. For instance, patrons can scan a QR code to see the seating plan on their mobile devices before entering the venue. The intent is to go completely paperless, with tickets issued in electronic form too, an initiative that was introduced during the pandemic.

But James emphasised that there is a need to balance the automation with human touch, especially since some audience members, for example, seniors or those with young children, will need guidance. 

“A person welcoming patrons with enthusiasm is a form of service and part of the experience for our patrons. The human touch is very important and goes hand in hand with the technology we have put in place to help us be more efficient,” he said.

The work has since ramped up with plans on paper being put into practice as SWT welcomes its first patrons for its Trial & Orientation programmes in September. 

The team has been working hard behind the scenes for several years and now that the building is up, they finally get to implement what they have planned onsite. With the storage space at the SWT being smaller than those in the main building of Esplanade, James has had to find space-saving alternatives for items.  

The child booster seats that are used at the existing venues in the main building would take up too much space when stored as they are not stackable, hence James had to do more research before he found a supplier for stackable booster seats. 

Likewise for the chairs used for front-of-house purposes. The usual roller chairs were out of the question and had to be replaced by stackable chairs instead. 

“I had to look for suitable items that cannot be too bulky or fanciful but must still look nice and be functional,” he said. 

James, who has seen SWT being built from ground up in the last few years, said he is excited to see the building all ready to welcome patrons.  

“It used to be a big, open space and it’s now a building with a theatre in it. I like the whole look and feel from the outside. Especially at night when we can see the light boxes along the façade. The whole place is very lively. I’m looking forward to seeing people have dinner nearby before coming to SWT to watch a show,” he said. 

His favourite part about the venue is its ability to morph into different seating configurations and he is eager to see how performers will use the different configurations.

“SWT will add on to the Singapore arts scene by providing another option for mid-sized productions. For example, an up-and-coming theatre group that is not yet ready for an audience of 2,000, but is prepared for a bigger stage than a studio space would benefit most from this new venue,” he said. 

“I’m thankful to be part of this project as I’m learning so much. It’s quite an experience that doesn’t come to you all the time,” he added. 

Check out the productions at the Singtel Waterfront Theatre at Esplanade as part of In New Light, happening from 12 Oct – 31 Dec 2022.

Building Dreams

Building Dreams is a special photography exhibition at the new Singtel Waterfront Theatre at Esplanade, where we go behind-the-scenes to find out who was involved and what went into the building of the theatre.

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