Thu | Jan 17, 2019

Ranny Williams symposium highlights leading men in theatre

Published:Thursday | October 26, 2017 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew
Louise Bennett Coverley (left) and Ranny Williams in 1969’s LTM National Pantomime, ‘Moonshine Anancy’. The Little Theatre Movement (LTM) credits ‘Miss Lou’ and ‘Maas Ran’ on their role in localising Jamaican theatre.
Oliver Samuels
Dahlia Harris

Today marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of Randolph Samuel Williams, CD, known more fondly as Ranny Williams or 'Mass Ran'.

In honour of his life and work, the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), an agency of the Ministry of Culture, Gender Affairs, Entertainment and Sport, will be hosting a one-day symposium under the theme, A Successful Career in Theatre.

Michael Nicholson, events and commemoration coordinator at JCDC, expressed that the idea to host a symposium instead of a regular celebration, was to present to the younger generation of performing artistes the opportunity to learn from established actors in the industry.

"We have had celebrations focused on dramatic presentations and performances, but this particular format will take some of the best minds in theatre and put them in front of students and various groups to give advice on how to maintain a career and be successful in theatre," Nicholson said.

Last month, the JCDC hosted a series of events to honour folklorist and poet Louise Bennett-Coverley, which focused on the heritage icon's work, contribution and life, as well as the future of females in the industry. The Ranny Williams Memorial Symposium will now highlight the males in the industry.

"Whether male or female, we want students to have access to people who they normally would not see in their everyday lives because many of them stay behind the scenes," Nicholson said.

According to director of events and production at the JCDC, Gregory Simms, The Ranny Williams Memorial Symposium, is a unique and remarkable opportunity to share with some of the leading men in Jamaican theatre. We believe it is an ideal way to pay tribute to Maas Ran, an early Jamaican theatre great and someone very important to us at the JCDC. It will also give persons a chance to learn the career do's and don'ts first-hand from industry stalwarts for persons looking to break into the Jamaican Theatre scene."

Jamaican theatre professionals, Oliver Samuels and Patrick Brown, are among the speakers. The symposium, which will take the form of a discussion on the topic, will also see other well-known theatre practitioners - Michael Holgate, Brian Heap, and Fabian Thomas - on the discussion panel, with Dahlia Harris as the moderator.

Oliver Samuels shared, "My encounters with Ranny Williams were quite brief, about three years. What I do remember is that he was much disciplined, and behind the scenes, he spoke very quietly. Maas Ran was always willing to share his experience and also his views on the current crop of practitioners at the time. One key lesson or value I acquired from him was timing, because his timing was impeccable."

He continued: "For the symposium today, I do not have anything planned as such, but I am participating in the question-and-answer segment and will also share my memories (although little) of Ranny Williams."

The symposium begins at 10 a.m. today, at the Little Theatre and is free to the public. Two dramatic performances by Dredz, led by Rasheem Shepherd, have also been added to the programme.

Ranny Williams was a dramatist, comedian and radio/television host. Over the course of his life, he appeared in many pantomimes, films and on television. He also hosted and directed many shows, including his own - The Ranny Williams Show - and films such as Jamaica No Problem and The Marijuana Affair.

Happy 105th birthday, Maas Ran!