Serin Kasif

In April & May 2020, at the height of the global pandemic, there was only one major musical production playing anywhere in the world.

It was Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Phantom of the Opera' and it was playing in Seoul, South Korea. 

Serin Kasif (2003) was the producer behind this history making production.  

If we look back at your time at school, when did you attend PLC Sydney and what did you plan to do after school?

I started PLC Sydney in 1994 as a Year 3 student and attended right through until I graduated in 2003. According to my mum, prior to me starting at PLC, we were in the car and as we were driving past the school grounds, I said to my mum: “Mum, I want to go to the school with the green gates”. Little did I know I was already on the waiting list. Soon after making my schooling preferences known, my parents received a call informing them that a Year 3 class was being added and PLC Sydney was accepting new students. I still remember my first day.

I had no idea what I wanted to do after I left school. I remember being worried about not knowing and one of the best pieces of advice I was given was: Keep doing what you enjoy. If you do what you enjoy, you will find what you’re meant to be doing.

Please briefly tell us what you did after finishing school?

Right after finishing school, I went to Sydney University. I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do so I did a very general degree - a Bachelor of Liberal Studies which allowed me to explore a very broad range of subjects and then narrow it down based on what I enjoyed. 

Most importantly though I worked. I had part-time jobs in retail and tutoring but I also took internships and summer holiday programs at different companies. The exposure to different people, different departments and different workplaces led me to my current role.

What does a typical 'work' day look like for you?

My morning starts with fifteen minutes of yoga (or more if I have time). I’m based in London and when I’m not travelling abroad (which pre-Covid times was almost half my time), my morning starts with at least one phone call with one of my Asia-Pacific partners. Then I make my way into the office armed with coffee.

I work in a great office, it’s dynamic and eccentric. I’m never sure which part of producing is going to prevail. It’s equal parts likely that I walk in to start work on a pre-production budget as it is to walk in to listen to one of Andrew’s new recordings! 

Production is hugely collaborative and hugely time-sensitive. Everything has a deadline and not meeting deadlines more often than not impacts the whole production timeline. Throughout the day I work with numerous departments - legal, finance, marketing, merchandise and or production teams. Somewhere in there, I get through emails. The days are long especially when trying to accommodate different time zones. I usually finish my day with calls with American partners, attending the theatre or debriefing with my team. 

I’m very lucky to have a very patient, loving partner. When he’s not joining me at the theatre or awaiting my return from the airport, he’s prepared an amazing dinner for us to eat. The hours are long and inconsistent, so we always make a point of trying to have dinner together, followed by watching TV together, doing a crossword or reading. I’ve recently discovered Shakti mats so I try and lie on my Shakti mat every night!

Could you tell us about a mistake you have made and what did you learn from that mistake?

I make mistakes every day—and yes that’s plural! Sure, I don’t make mistakes of gargantuan proportions daily, but they are a part of life and they’re necessary for us to learn and grow. Learn from your mistakes and once you’ve accepted the lesson don’t beat yourself up over it, it’s wasted energy.

What's the most significant piece of advice you've received and who shared it with you?

This may not be the most traditional of answers to this question, but I hope it will ring a [school] bell with fellow ex-students.

During assembly, we would often sing the hymn “Brother, Let Me Be Your Servant”. We’d change the words to “Sister, let me be your servant”. (Does this hymn still feature regularly?) The first verse has always stuck with me: “Sister, let me be your servant/ Let me be as Christ to you/ pray that I may have the Grace to/ Let you be might servant too” and to this day I carry it with me. It’s a powerful way for me to calibrate my day by asking, how may I be of service to those around me and for the purposes of the task at hand? Am I acting with empathy? Do I have the self-awareness and humility to ask for help when I need it?

What has been the proudest moment in your life so far?

I’ve had many along the way. Most recently my proudest moment is being Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Producer on The Phantom of the Opera World Tour, which in the months of April and May of this year, was the only musical playing anywhere around the world.

If you could travel back in time, what would you say to your younger self at the age of 20 or 30?

Keep laughing and don’t be paralyzed by fear—it’s better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all.

What tools (apps, books, podcasts, etc.) or activities do you go to for inspiration/ideas/productivity/balance?  

Anything not on a screen! Yoga gives me space to both relax and re-energise. If I haven’t practised in a few days my body physically craves it. Since moving I miss having the beach so easily accessible.

Reading is very important to me. I usually have a few books on the go at a time and I love having the New Yorker on the ready. Sitting in a café with a coffee and a magazine or book is one of my favourite things in the world. 

I work in musical theatre, so I’m biased, but nothing quite beats the moment an overture draws you into the world of the story or the power of that 11 o’clock number. Communal cultural activities are important to me; theatre, festivals, gallery and museum visits. They’re extraordinary windows to simultaneously be with other people and reflect. The first thing I did when London came out of lockdown was to go to the National Gallery.

What role has your time at PLC Sydney played in your life?

My time at PLC has played a huge role in my life. I feel very fortunate to have had access to such a high standard of education, participated in so many different co-curricular activities, made life-long friends and physically spent much of my childhood on beautiful grounds in a safe environment.

Could you please share some of your most vivid, favourite or amusing memories from school?

I don’t know if one memory is succinct enough to share successfully. I loved debating and will forever treasure the time with our debating team. Ultimately though it’s really about the amazing people who make up the PLC Sydney community.

I made amazing friends and we were led by brilliant teachers and staff. I’m so grateful for the teachers who inspired and nurtured us to be passionate, fearless and open to new ideas. There are too many to name but if I was to provide a movie trailer style kaleidoscope; Mr McHugh’s gruff exterior masking a paternal attentiveness to nurturing academic enquiry and ensuring the best from his students; Mrs Coleman’s indefatigable, infectious enthusiasm and love for literature and life; Ms Bubb instructing us to file into her science lab and only ever breaking monotone when speaking about physics; Mrs Brewer pulling me into her office to ask me about my “boyfriend” and harbouring concerns I’d fallen in with the wrong crowd; Ms Osborne insisting we join her slipstream towards history greatness (I still think of her when I hear the word slipstream); Ms Van Klaveran, who we affectionately called ‘oma’, cooking us Roman feasts to snack on while we translated the Aeneid; Sister Bunt’s saintly patience and broad smile; Ms Roberge telling me to stop picking and eating the kumquats off the trees from in front of Marden – they were meant to be decorative!

Read more about the history making world-tour of Phantom of the Opera.

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