Mon | Jan 18, 2021

Future stars stand out in Jamaica Youth Theatre short films

Published:Monday | October 30, 2017 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew
A scene from 'Jamaica Drum', (directed by Danar Royal), which represented Jamaica at Aberdeen International Youth Festival 2017.
Cast members of 'After Fridayz' (from left): Jadon-John Barton-Williams, Melessa Vassell, Romain Roach and Nardia Scott.
After Fridayz poster.

For over 10 years the Jamaica Youth Theatre (JYT) has been providing its high-quality out-of-school time, theatre arts programme. It has recruited over 20 individuals each year through the annual Secondary Schools' Drama Festival and has approximately 50 active members.

The organisation is dedicated to empowering youth to skilfully participate in the dramatic arts while simultaneously using theatre as a vehicle to explore creativity, engage in their community and think critically about the world.

In 2016, the JYT decided to launch a web series on social media pages to approach topics that are of importance to young adults. The socially conscious production, titled After Fridayz, is based on issues such as peer pressure, self-injury, gender-based violence, social media awareness, cyberbullying, sex and HIV/AIDS. The title was based on the fact that after school ends on a Friday, the majority of young people seek activities to participate in.

The associate director, Danar Royal, expressed that the objective of the web series is to change the attitudes and mindset of the youth and to offer advice.

"During last year's summer workshop, we looked at issues affecting young people and out of that, decided that they want to see it on the Internet and developed the series each person writing one of the short films," Royal said.

The After Fridayz web series, easily exceeds all expectations for a youth production and is a practical opportunity for the young performers to reach out to their peers as a means of social change, with a commitment to employ aspects of Jamaica's culture to engage its audiences.


Overwhelming response


"The response has been overwhelming. What's more, we have benefited from the production in respect to feedback and messages received daily from persons seeking help, referrals or information on topics dramatised. It also allows the members of JYT, to learn further through research for the pieces and to provide responses," Royal said.

Young actors, Jadon-John Barton-Williams (Marvin), Melessa Vassell (Tanya), Romain Roach (Cable) and Nardia Scott (Ginger), shine explicitly throughout the series, each adding their own twist of personality to their character. The delivery is interesting and balanced, displaying a level of maturity that is extraordinarily impressive, heightening the calibre of the series.

There is no questioning the third place award copped for the short film compilation at the Caribbean Youth Film Festival held in St Lucia on October 26. However, due to financial setbacks, no one from the team was able to attend and collect the award. Fifteen JYT members represented Jamaica at the Aberdeen International Youth Festival, a major cultural festival in Scotland which focuses on the arts last August. The group performed, Jamaica Drum, a piece that spoke of the drum and the role it played throughout Jamaican history and culture to modern day. The group was fully sponsored by the Chase Fund.

Royal says, "We rely on donations and sponsorships to fund our work and we also do work with National Integrity Action, by contributing to community outreach through performances on anti-corruption workshops."

Every month the members from all parishes meet in Kingston at YMCA for workshops and practise. Other short films such as, Say No to Peer Pressure, (not a part of the series) have received god reviews as well. JYT is currently preparing two monologues and group poetry for the Tallawah Dramatic Arts Festival next week.