For the Reckord | Helping others works where fame fails
"I am a trainer, tutor and facilitator in the use of drama and theatre with people at risk," Tony Cealy informed via email from his England hoe on Sunday. But that was not the career he initially wanted, Cealy told some Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts drama lecturers three days earlier.
"I wanted to be a professional actor, I wanted to be famous, with my name in (marquee) lights," he said.
The Britian-born son of Kingstonian Joyce Collins now has a home - built by Cealy - in White Horses, St Thomas. For many years, Cealy tried to make it as an actor and facilitator of acting workshops, but he kept failing at both - at least, in his eyes.
He told the lecturers that it was only when he turned his focus to "helping people" that he achieved success. The follow-up paragraph of his email shows how wide-ranging that success has been:
"Since 1993, I have won contracts [through his company, Noh Budget Films] developing drama-based responses to health and well-being, mental health, social care, education, substance misuse, housing and regeneration, youth services and community development, and special educational settings across the UK."
Cealy, who came to Jamaica a few weeks ago to work with School of Drama students, offered to conduct a session for lecturers in devising theatre.
He uses devising techniques for three major purposes - to help people improve psychologically and socially, for formal education, and to create productions. He learnt the techniques from practitioners in the UK and US. I subsequently learnt he had been "directly trained" by various Theatre of the Oppressed practitioners in Europe and South America, and practitioners from the Theatre in Prisons & Probation Network, among others.
His email stated that over the last 20 years he has "built a strong reputation for innovative and experimental drama and theatre-based projects within the criminal justice system in the UK and across Europe. These projects are often workshops, plays, films, exhibitions, installations and radio broadcasts".
The teaching Cealy had done with their students over the previous fortnight or so drew praise from the Drama School lecturers. They included Marvin George, Elizabeth Montoya Stemann, Camille Quamina, and Director of Studies Janet Muirhead Stewart.
The participants decided on a problematic situation (the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria to one of the Eastern Caribbean islands). They were put in two groups and individuals told to create three simple actions or activities showing their responses,
The individuals in each group combined their actions into one scene, with or without the use of a short bridging activity. The two scenes were then folded into one larger story.
The half-hour exercise resulted in a powerful skit.
"In addition to teaching, I often guest lecture at Central School of Speech and Drama, and at Goldsmiths, Bristol, Leicester and Birmingham universities. Currently, I am working in London delivering training to young people in the use of role play and other creative round-table debate, workshops and sessions with the Metropolitan Police around 'stop and search' Issues."
"I'm also designing and developing drama-based projects and programmes throughout the UK with voluntary groups and charities to help communities explore themes of local and national concern."