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Rehearsal strategies transcending borders - NY-based Jooky Jam prepares to re-emerge in Jamaica theatre

Published:Tuesday | August 13, 2019 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
Comedian Stede Flash, better known for his role as ‘Jooky Jam’.
Theatre director and principal of Jamstage Productions Orlando Sinclair.

There is a checklist that is created each time a playwright pens a new story. It includes finding the right actors to fit the characters, getting sponsors to foot the production bill, and finding the theatre which may double as the rehearsal space, after which everyone must agree on a time to run their lines.

The latter tends to pose a challenge when schedules do not meet and some members of the cast travel frequently or even live overseas, but, according to Orlando ‘Eddie’ Sinclair, theatre director and one of the principals of Jamstage Productions, in today’s mobile society, where our telephones have entwined themselves into most components of day-to-day life, and theatre is finding ways to utilise the devices.

“It’s a simple thing. The cast members will WhatsApp video each other and run their lines. This can be done anywhere at any time, and most of the actors I have engaged for the next production, Young and Wreckless, have the working experience, which also makes that method of rehearsing easier,” Sinclair told The Gleaner.

The play was in theatres last year for about a month but featured Winston ‘Ricky’ Rowe, who has returned to London. This year’s production will see actors like Junior ‘Halfa Dog’ Williams, Christina Harris, and Crystal Fletcher demonstrating their flair and wit onstage for the remix of the original concept of Young and Wreckless. It will be the same storyline, with a plot twist of a young girl caught in a love triangle, this time with a friend of her father. Phone rehearsals for the play will be all the more integral since Sinclair has also secured the talents of Stede Flash, better known as ‘Jooky Jam’, who resides in the US.

Sinclair said, “He [Jooky Jam] and Halfa Dog are two of the more experienced and are familiar with each other’s style, but what will happen is that he will fly in two or three weekends before and rehearse for several days while he is here. By then, all the actors should have mastered their lines and will only need to do ‘blockings’…that is the movements along with the lines. It may take the others some time to adjust to Jooky Jam’s method of delivery.”

Considered by theatre lovers as the master of ad lib, Jooky Jam said, “Jamaicans need to look out for me, I am returning with a bang. Although the name stuck with me over the years, Jooky Jam was a character who earned me recognition among theatre professionals. While this new role also carries a lot of comedy, it will also see a mature side of me.”

It has been approximately seven years since he last performed in Jamaica, says Jooky Jam, who has occupied himself in the field of hospitality, working at the Henricas Restaurant in the New York City borough of Queens and as a home-aid assistant.

“With my line of work, time management is key. I have done plays within this capacity, knowing that the shows are on the weekend and I work crazy hours in the week,” he said. “Approaching it from the angle of going through the scripts via phone rehearsals, then an actual rehearsal face-to-face is not as difficult as it sounds because, despite running lines on the phone, it is organic when the minds meet. Body rehearsals are just where the creativity comes together.”

He explained that using a mobile phone can also prove helpful to an actor rehearsing on his or her own.

“Every actor must do it on their own, use the phone to record whether audio or video and once thoroughly practised, that’s where the dream starts to form or basically moulds the character,” he concluded.

Young and Wreckless opens in October.