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For the Reckord | Actor Boy looks to regroup

Published:Friday | September 22, 2017 | 12:00 AMMichael Reckord
Dorothy Cunningham, who was was part of the audience discussing the future of the Actor Boy Awards.
Actor Boy Awards committee members Maurice Bryan (left), Suzanne Beadle, and Mike Daley discuss the future of the awards at the Phoenix Theatre, New Kingston, recently.

The Actor Boy Awards (ABA) administration committee has been discussing solutions to problems it faced last year, as well as planning for the 2018 judging exercise (for 2017 productions) and the awards ceremony. Items on its agenda include fund-raising, new awards, and training judges and producers.

At a meeting I attended in the Phoenix Theatre's Blue Room, Suzanne Beadle, one of the committee's three members (the others are Maurice Bryan and Michael Daley) said it was about "integrity, honesty, and fair play", then invited comments.

Playwright-actor-director-producer David Tulloch asked "Who vets entries?" in relation to the Original Music/Song category. He said that over the years, there have been ineligible entries.

The committee members explained how individual songs could have slipped past both judges and the administrators. It was due to a combination of trust that producers would not cheat and a lack of musical experts.

Beadle pointed out that "formulas" exist that indicate whether a song was original. "We have to find a team of people with the necessary expertise," she said. Tulloch informed the meeting that there is a computer programme available to check a song's originality.

There was general agreement with Bryan's point that people doing the vetting should not be involved in the productions. Beadle said that while the ABA's rules prevent judges from being active in theatre for their year of judging, the rule does not apply to the ABA administrators. For the sake of transparency, two administrators stepped aside from the committee when they got involved in a 2017 show.

Bryan, who is now leading the administration team, said: "In whatever fields the judges lack expertise, we bring in professionals to train them. We've brought in directors, writers, set designers - you name it."

Beadle revealed that the committee had been making a concerted effort to include every commercial play in the judging - even commercial school productions. "I don't believe that Actor Boy should be only for mainstream players," she said. "Participation in the Actor Boy Awards is for growth and development as well."

Daley would like to have the committee produce regular staged readings of new plays - a feature of Jamaican theatre years ago, he recalled. "It is badly missed by the theatre community," he said.

As the discussion turned to fundraising, Daley listed some of the expenses as mounting the ABA show, transportation for judges to see 'out-of-town' shows, and accommodation and meals for them. He pleaded for "somebody to spearhead a fund-raising arm".

There was talk of establishing an ABA loyalty card which, if producers agreed with the programme, would entitle members to a discount to see shows on selected (low turnout) nights. The members also said that they would consider adding some new categories, for example, Best Musical Director, Best Original Instrumental Piece, and Best Stage Management.

Tulloch suggested establishing the Sydney Reid Award for the Best Production in Western Jamaica in memory of the veteran Montego Bay producer who died early this year.

Actress and playwright Dorothy Cunningham, a former president of the Jamaica Association of Dramatic Artists, urged those present to help in the revitalisation of the association. Its mission is "to promote the improvement of all aspects of dramatic arts in Jamaica and to position Jamaican drama as a formidable product in the international marketplace".