“I needed 20 years of experience to launch my own business!”

New Zealand-born Claire Glenn is the Artistic Director at Conundrum Theatre. She has lived in Singapore for three years after moving from Australia with her husband, Anthony, dog, Hazel, and cat, Rufus.

Tell us about Conundrum Theatre …
We’re a theatre company in Singapore for young people. Our aim is to create unique theatre experiences for children, teenagers and emerging artists. Unlike other youth theatre companies, we present original works alongside our classes and tours to other countries. 

Have you always worked in theatre?
I’ve been in the industry since I was 14, when I joined the Playhouse Theatre in Dunedin, New Zealand. I also studied theatre in Dunedin before moving around the world to Melbourne, Edinburgh, regional Australia and Adelaide as an actor, producer and director. I was also the Festival Director of the Fairfax Festival in North West Victoria, and Executive Producer for Carclew’s ExpressWay Arts. I needed 20 years of experience to launch my business! 

When did you launch?
Conundrum Theatre was born in December 2020 in Singapore, but we spent six months preparing. Our first project in July 2021 resulted in a new full length play entitled The Aftertime. Since then we’ve staged I Still Have No Friends by Alby T Grace, and a new play called The Evolution Revolution went on tour in Australia in February. Right now we’re in rehearsals for the show Chaos by Laura Lomas, a project by our new Impact Collective comprised of 12-15 year olds.

Where’s your base here?
Most of the producing work is done from home, but our studio is located at The Yards on the East Coast. This is a fantastic hub of creative, sporting and culinary businesses for the East Coast community. Our studio is a flexible working space and  perfect for classes, rehearsals, and visual art activities. 

Photo Credit: Sam Konicek

What obstacles did you face as an expat launching a business in SG?
I have no business training at all, so everyday there’s an obstacle! Fortunately, I have amazing advisors and consultants through Expat Consulting. I think engaging experts is a really great way to overcome an issue. It doesn’t mean you’re less good at your job, it means you’re willing to learn to get better at it.

What do you wish someone had told you about running a business?
That you will think about it all the time – even when you sleep. And that sometimes your to-do list will be so long you’ll have to start a second to-do list! Maybe even a third. If I was to do something differently, it would be to study business at the same time as being at drama school.

Claire’s business boo-boos (and what she learnt)

  • I’ve created some classes that haven’t worked out. It made me learn that what might be in demand in Australia or New Zealand isn’t in demand in Singapore. It was disappointing, but I try not to think of things as failures. Art is all about trying something to see if it works. If it does, fantastic, if it doesn’t, try something else
  •  Strategic planning hasn’t been my strongest skill. I’ve tried to launch projects with only a few weeks’ notice, so now I’m learning to think ahead 
  • When I set up the business, I didn’t have the capital to apply for an EP for myself, so I stayed on my DP and got a Letter of Consent instead. Six months later, the rules changed – something that happens in Singapore with little warning. I try to not be defeated now when the rules change