Mon | Jul 16, 2018

Alpha Institute gets feel for theatre

Published:Monday | April 18, 2016 | 12:00 AM
An expressive Miguel Sahid.
Students of The Alpha Institute in last week's theatre workshop at the South Camp Road, Kingston, institution wearing T-shirts designed and printed by their schoolmates.
Andrés Mejía guides a workshop at The Alpha Institute, South Camp Road, Kingston, last week.

After a successful initiative with a Spanish saxophonist in November 2015, last week the Embassy of Spain in Kingston extended another hand of cultural friendship to Jamaica. This time, it was theatre and, as was the case in November, the beneficiaries were the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and The Alpha Institute.

Charge d' affaires at the Embassy of Spain Carmen Rives told The Gleaner that Alpha "... is part of Jamaica's music history. We know of Jamaica's success in music, and Alpha is part of that success." Speaking about the students' social background, she said, "As civil servants, we should always work towards ending social and structural unfairness. We do not choose where we were born, so civil servants should invest in that, and that is part of the Spanish government's principles.

"Alpha is unique. I like when people break stereotypes and do things that are unexpected. Yellowman is a product of the nuns. It is a story that is amazing. For an island as small as Jamaica to have so many great artistes that was the product of the work of nuns is amazing. I love the story," Rives said.

When the contemporary saxophonist from Spain was brought in, it worked very well, so the Embassy started planning another project. The Alpha representative thought that theatre would be good as some students had communication challenges and did not know how to express their feelings.

The Spanish Embassy's strong link with the Cultural Centre in Miami led to the highly recommended Miguel Sahid and Andrés Mejía, actors and theatre educators of the 10 year-old Sociedad Actorial Hispanoamerica of Miami, visiting Jamaica. They were also chosen because of their expertise in Spanish poetry, especially the work Federico Garcia Lorca, who was killed during his country's civil war.




"The great thing about him was that he wanted to take theatre everywhere. So having a Puerto Rican and a Colombian being experts on Lorca is recognition for Lorca as a universal artist, and I think he would have been very happy to see this happening," Rives added.

In honour of Lorca, the workshop series at Alpha was dubbed La Barrca, the "travelling theatre". Sahid said, "There is a lot of Lorca in us; there is a lot of protest in us. When you do this type of Lorca's work, it has a lot of energy inside of it.

"Yesterday, I met 25 people full of energy, full of dreams, full of hope and, after our incredible exercise, we have young people expressing their fears, their challenges and their love of their society," the Puerto Rican said.

MejÌa said, "It's a short time, but if we can open a window for their perception, we would have done a very good job. If we can change just a few ideas of one, two or three of these guys, we would feel very proud."

Administrator at Alpha Margaret Little Wilson was grateful for the opportunity. "This may interest them (the students) to take to a certain path and it may not necessarily be their vocation, but it could be a pastime. It will also showcase Alpha as not only a place for the academics and skills trade," she said.

- M.R.