Tuesdays @ the theatre | Studio visit hatches theatre tour plan
Owen 'Blakka' Ellis saw a picture of his Uncle Alton Ellis, inside singer Freddie McGregor's Big Ship studio in Havendale. His uncle had hits that included; Rocksteady, Muriel, and Willow Tree. He and the group of students he accompanied, along with other visitors - some from outside of Jamaica - had a first-hand view of the recording process there.
It did not take long for him to take a mental leap from Havendale to Kingston Harbour, with many stops for theatre in between. Ellis said that the studio tour reaffirmed "my already-held view that all the arts come together really under theatre.
"We would meet them at the cruise ship pier, then take them through the city where there are people playing various characters. We are thinking of a theatrical tour of the city - street theatre, community theatre - and we would include the studio," Ellis said. At Big Ship, the students got an education in the intricate process of transforming an idea into a finished song from engineer Kemar Whittingham.
Ten students are in the course, which is offered by the School of Arts Management and Humanities. They have varied interests, including music and dance (although only one has a theatre base, having been a stage manager), and Ellis told The Gleaner that arts management also applies to visual arts. With the four areas covered, Ellis noted that "without the business, show is just show".
A Meeting of Forms
Their aim is to prepare students for the business side of the creative enterprise in an era of convergence, when there is a meeting of forms that Ellis says "does not take away from any one, but adds to all of them". Ellis notes that Theatre is a strong point in that convergence, "you have musical theatre; without it you have sound effects." Dance and visual arts are also incorporated into theatre.
Ellis has seen that convergence up close, with theatre as his centre. He knows the place where he lectures very well, having been a student at the college 48 years ago. He also knows the business of performance, as a member of Ellis International which runs the gamut from television to theatre, gospel music to stand-up comedy. "Jamaica has to know some good things are coming out of Edna Manley. It is small in size, but its impact on our culture is huge," Ellis said.