Fri | May 24, 2019

For the Reckord | JCDC takes art workshops across Ja

Published:Friday | December 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMMichael Reckord/Gleaner Writer
Ardenne High School students Suraiya Matandara and David Hamilton focus on a ‘magic stone’ during the drama workshop.
Theatre practitioner Pierre Lemaire leads a drama teacher through the workshop.
JCDC drama specialist Shaun Drysdale (left) in discussion with Ardenne High School drama teacher, Suzanne Beadle.
Drama teachers Kris-Ann Pommells and Maurice McCallum take part in an improvisation exercise at a JCDC workshop at the Louise Bennett Garden Theatre.

Since mid-October, scores of teachers and students across the island have been attending workshops on the performing and literary arts conducted by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC).

On Tuesday, the sessions were in central Jamaica (Clarendon, Manchester and St Elizabeth), and on Wednesday, western Jamaica (Hanover, St James, Trelawny and Westmoreland). Tomorrow's eastern-region workshop will be at the Centre for the Arts of the University of Technology.


Passion and experience


At most of the drama workshops, the main presenters have been JCDC's theatre and drama specialist, Shaun Drysdale, and veteran theatre practitioner and educator Pierre Lemaire. Their association goes back more than a dozen years to when Drysdale was pursuing his bachelor's degree in drama in education at the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts, where Lemaire was a senior lecturer. He recently retired from the post of dean of the School of Drama.

At the workshop the two facilitated at the Louise Bennett Garden Theatre recently, they were an interesting mix of passion for and experience in drama. Drysdale emphasised his passion, noting that before starting at the JCDC in June, he had taught drama for 10 years at the Wolmer's Trust High School for Girls. Lemaire has been working in theatre in Jamaica for 40 years and had also been involved in the field in his native France.

Explaining the rules and guidelines of the drama syllabus, Drysdale admitted there were aspects that needed clarification from the head office. But currently, he is trying to get more entrants for tea meetings - a beloved pastime of the Jamaica of yesteryear, but now perhaps the least popular of the competition's 14 categories. To show what the event looked like, he screened a tea meeting video made many moons ago featuring Joy Scott, Leonie Forbes, Bari Johnson, and Alma Mock-Yen, among others.

He also announced that come next year, only the top gold awardees from each parish would be sent on the national finals in Kingston. The move is aimed at reducing the duration of the event, which usually lasts for many hours, inconveniencing the out-of-town participants.


Importance of the Body


Lemaire started his presentation by declaring that when it comes to theatre, "in the beginning" is not the word, but the body. Coming from a trained mime, the statement was not surprising, and it was on the body that Lemaire focused on for several hours.

He showed how, by simply using different walking postures, actors could portray not only various types of characters, but also their moods. Thus, two unspeaking actors (Kris-Ann Pommells and Maurice McCallum) used different parts of their bodies to lead them around the stage, giving very different impressions when they walked each time.

Lemaire also demonstrated that the imaginative use of simple lighting, make-up, sets, and props could help actors to tell stories both effectively and efficiently morning.

Tomorrow's workshop, to be conducted by University of the West Indies lecturer Dr Aisha Spencer, will focus on Creative writing conventions and best practices. In the afternoon, Dr Spencer will give feedback on writing samples that are to be brought in by participants. The workshop is scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.