Sat | Apr 4, 2020

Our stories on stage

Published:Saturday | October 14, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
The Ward Theatre in downtown Kingston
From left: Lakeisha Ellison, Oliver Samuels and Dennis Titus, in a scene from ‘Frenemy’.
Laughter brings Ity to the ground.
Aaliyah Smith, who was awarded gold by the Jamaica Cultural Develpment Commission (JCDC), as Miss Millie in the play being directed by Damion Radcliffe for Courtyard Theatre.

From the loader man hustling passengers into cars they would probably have taken anyway to the market vendors enticing people to buy their produce in Coronation Market, Jamaica is full of theatrics.

However, there is a formal part of the entertainment business named theatre, that we may not truly understand the value and impact of, because we take it for granted that we should put ourselves on a stage.

I got to thinking about this a little bit more than usual after speaking to actress Audrey Reid (who spoke about the impact of a play named Boops) and director Michael Holgate about GARVEY The Musical, recently. Then there is the intended reopening of the Ward Theatre, Kingston, for productions.

The fascinating thing is that there are so many plays that theatre space is woefully short in Kingston and other urban centres, with productions driven largely by the presence of thespians such as Delcita and Shebada using makeshift spaces when they tour Jamaica. And while we see the advertisements on television for special showings at holiday times, and are aware that a slew of new plays open after Christmas each year (the National Pantomime is the most famed) and probably have a vague idea of the tours which some productions go on through places overseas where there is a strong Jamaican presence, we may still fall short of appreciating theatre's impact.


Creative minds


Consider how many creative persons are required to do a play. Yes, there are the people on stage, but what about the person who writes the script, the director, the producer, the costume designer and maker, the light and sound technicians, the set designer and builder, the graphic designer for the advertisements and booklet, the video recorder and editor for those which are taped - and more. Yes, roles overlap, but there is a large talent pool and labour force which theatre supports.

And what supports theatre is the innate, irrepressible desire by Jamaicans to see ourselves on stage. Yes, there are instances where a non-Jamaican play is staged as it is in the script, but often there is a Jamaican twist to the adopted tale. We love to see ourselves on stage - people who look like us, talk like us, in situations that are relevant to us.

And there is an entire industry around that. However, what is amazing is how little of the theatre output goes on to be made into movies. At the end of the day, after a play is staged and has its run, it is done and there is another production to keep fans entertained. Films, we see over and over again. In addition, precious few of the scripts are published, so that another generation - or even another set of actors in another country - can stage it.

So we have no problem with theatre output. Longevity, though, is another matter.