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UDAS interprets CSEC material - Dramatises examination texts for students

Published:Friday | April 1, 2016 | 4:00 AMMichael Reckord
Brutus (Delano Brown, left) and his wife, Portia (Shanice McCatty), in a scene from ‘Julius Caesar’.
Shakquera South plays the alluring Shabine.
A scene from ‘Julius Caesar’ with Desmond Dennis (left), Tyane Robinson (centre) and Katherine Johnson.
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Recently, the University Dramatic Arts Society (UDAS) has been staging dramatisations of some of the poetry, prose and drama being studied by students taking CSEC English Literature examinations.

The productions have been mounted at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts (PSCCA) on the UWI's Mona campus, and last week, I saw the last show there before it goes on the road.

"The plan is to take it to Montego Bay in the second week of April to the Fairfield Theatre, but this depends on the availability of the players and the space," UDAS president Tyane Robinson told me.

All the actors are UWI students from various faculties (not only Arts and Humanities, as might be expected). Their academic demands might prevent them from pursuing their common hobby, acting.

Only some of the performers in a 15-strong group called the UDAS core appeared in the production I saw. They did, however, receive support in some items from the University Dance Society.

The project, The Stage Is Lit (pun intended), is in its fifth year. Its purpose, according to Robinson, is to present students with interpretations of the pieces somewhat different from those their teachers gave them. At the end of each production, the directors and cast engage students and teachers in thematic discussions of the interpretations.

 

Non-traditional

 

Robinson said the students' response has been very positive and added that "students from traditional and non-traditional high schools as well as learning centres have been attending".

Directed by Robinson and UDAS past president Desmond Dennis, this year's pieces comprise (in running order) Shabine (Hazel Simmons-McDonald), Forgive My Guilt (Robert P. Tristram) Coffin, Ol Higue (Mark McWatt), Le Loupgarou (Derek Walcott) Theme for English B (Langston Hughes), A Contemplation Upon Flowers (Henry King), Mom Luby and the Social Worker (Kristen Hunter), It Is the Constant Image of Your Face (Dennis Brutus), Because I Could Not Stop for Death (Emily Dickinson), Dulce Et Decorum Est (Wilfred Owen) and scenes 1, 2 and 3 of Act 2 of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

The producers utilised all the technical components of a commercial show (set, lights, sound/music and costumes), complementing generally fine acting. It is unlikely that the teachers who have seen the production would have any complaints about those aspects, but will certainly caution their students about accepting some of the directors' interpretations.

The persona of Forgive my Guilt, for example, is shown as a shaky old man in a rocking chair remembering a childhood incident in which he shot two birds. Wallowing in guilt he lifts another gun to his head and a loud bang is heard in the sudden blackout The blood-hungry old higue of the poem actually puts a doll (representing a baby) in a pot on the stove and in Julius Caesar Brutus is show typing on a laptop as he talks with his wife.

Other interpretations were questioned by students in the post-production discussion, but I believe that this verdict by one summed up their feelings. "I commend you for some of the pieces. The actors were really great. Coming here gave me a different perspective of the poems," the student told the directors and actors gathered on stage