Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Theatre steps taken at Alpha Institute

Published:Friday | April 15, 2016 | 12:00 AMMichael Reckord
Acting workshop tutor Miguel Sahid demonstates for the students.
Acting workshop tutor Andres Mejia strikes a dramatic pose.
Members of a band at the Alpha Institute.
Acting workshop tutors Andres Mejia (left) and Miguel Sahid in action at the Alpha Institute, South Camp Road, Kingston, on Monday.

"A journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step" is a well-known adage. It seems that, for an acting career, it literally involves physical exercise.

That is how it was introduced to 15 teenage boys at the Alpha Institute, South Camp Road, Kingston, on Monday by two professional actor/educators, Miguel Sahid and Andres Mejia. They set out to teach the youngsters how to act in one week.

This afternoon, an audience will see how well they learnt. The workshop, augmented by two master classes at the School of Drama, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, culminates in a short play at the Institute.

Established in 1880 as a "school for wayward boys", the Institute (formerly Alpha Boys' School) is renowned for the musicians it has produced since 1892 when it got a band. Many, like trombonist Don Drummond, became international stars.

Curiously, before this week, theatre had never been formally introduced there. The Institute's public relations officer, Charles Arumaiselvam, told me a theatre course could be started to complement the music programme.

Sahid, a Puerto Rican, was very excited when I spoke to him minutes before he and Mejia, a Columbian, began. He admitted uncertainty about how the class - and the project as a whole - would go. But I thought he had good reason to be optimistic.

At 40 years old, he has 33 years of acting experience. Since earning his first acting fee at 10, he has been "professional" for 30 years.




Both are directors of the 10-year-old Sociedad Actoral Hispanoamericana (SAH), the Hispanic Acting Society of Miami. It is a company of actors, directors and producers which has held acting workshops in Miami and other US cities; Bogota, Colombia; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Madrid, Spain. Sahid and Mejia have received international awards.

The warm-up was conducted by Mejia, whom Sahid called "the energy expert". To uptempo recorded music, he led the group in twisting, turning, stretching and jerking various parts of their bodies. Sahid took over and had the participants close their eyes and continue to move in response to story situations they imagined themselves in.

When the two conducted a master class with students at the School of Drama on Wednesday morning, the warm-up was similar, except that the students were told to imagine a ball of "star power" energy with their names on it in the stomach area.

With Sahid urging them on, they imagined pulling the ball out and throwing it up to the sky, becoming "stars".

At Alpha on Wednesday afternoon, Sahid told me today's culminating production would be based on three Louise Bennett poems, Nuh Likkle Twang, Dry Foot Bwoy, and Cuss Cuss. It comprises acting, music, and dancing.

The students and two or three staff members were busy rehearsing lines while a band, led by long-time music director Winston 'Sparrow' Martin, played. Some boys were still shy and put in no energy, but others were more confident and projected well.

Along what thousand-mile journey that talent will be taken is anybody's guess, but at least the first step has been made.