For the Reckord | Available now: Ashe's serious book and Jarrett's farcical play
After 25 years of working in what they call "edutainment" - education through entertainment - The Ashe Company has produced a book showing the tools and techniques they use.
Your Empowerment GPA, which is both a self-help book and a text to be used by educators and trainers in their workshops, was launched at the UWI Regional Headquarters on Mona Road on January 22.
The book and its authors, Michael Holgate and Conroy B. Wilson, were lauded by keynote speaker Floyd Green, state minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, and several others who had used the book with students. Reminding his audience that National Hero Marcus Garvey preached empowerment for his people, Green said that the concept of youth empowerment was at the heart of the Government's new youth policy and so the book was critical to the ministry's work in the country. He challenged the Ashe team to work with ministry to help young people in communities throughout the island.
Other speakers praising the usefulness of the book were Rev. Dr Sheila McKeithen, president of the Universal Foundation for Better Living and senior minister of the local affiliate, Universal Centre of Truth for Better Living; the UWI's Dr Donna Hope, professor of the UWI's Institute of Caribbean Studies; Rev Claudia Fletcher, executive director of Eve for Life; and the UWI's Student Services and Development Manager, Simone Fletcher.
LEVELS OF FULFILMENT
Most of the function was given over these speeches, but with Ashe being primarily a performing arts company, there just had to be some entertainment. It came from both the Ashe Ensemble, which performed scheduled song and dance numbers at the beginning and the closing of the function, and popular singer Etana, who gave a classy impromptu a cappella song, I Rise.
A couple of excerpts from Your Empowerment GPA explain that "The Empowerment GPA system is an interpersonal human technology that looks at how we can use our minds to experience higher levels of empowerment, fulfilment, and peace of mind," and "When you are empowered, you take control of your life and circumstances in order to achieve your dreams, goals, and visions."
Some self-explanatory titles in sections of the book's 10 chapters are: "Empowerment Creates Meaning," "Disempowering Habits and Traits," "Profile of An Empowered Person," "Various Levels of Victimhood" and "Forgiveness & Responsibility."
Angela Jarrett's roots play Something Fishy (The Pantry Playhouse) is about characters who sadly lack empowerment. George (Paul Skeen) is an inveterate liar, about things big and small, apparently being so because of his low self-esteem. A mechanic, he accuses his wife, Pam (Karen Harriott), a teacher, of looking down on him even though, ironically, he put her through teachers' college.
Ironically, too, we learn in the first scene, he paid a million dollars for her to go abroad for medical testing as to the cause of her apparent infertility. She reports that the doctors found nothing physically wrong, but the George refuses to get himself tested.
Also in the first scene, we meet Pam's parasitic neighbour, Juliet (Deon Silvera), who in the middle of begging food stuff from Pam finds time to indulge in a thoroughly unpleasant tracing match with George. She becomes more and more disgusting as the story progresses.
The strangest of the characters is Lorna (Jarrett). Now the actress/playwright/producer is what we call in Jamaica "a big woman", yet she plays a suck-finger 10-year-old girl who walks around with her doll. And it's not that the other characters don't know that Lorna is an adult; George repeatedly comments on it.
This is only one of many unbelievable, or at least unmotivated, elements of the story which prevent us from accepting it as true-to-life. Judging from the laughter, many took it to be mere buffoonery, something that clearly the director, Andrew Brodber, and the actors did, too.
The pacing was fast, the speech loud, the acting over-the-top. But though the general mood of the presentation was farcical, because the actors all have decades of experience, they were able to show control, even grace, in their performances. Like circus clowns, they seemed carefully choreographed.