Hoping for the return of ‘live’ theatre in 2021 - Practitioners miss the audience
Undoubtedly, there are some questions that are absolute no-brainers. When Little Theatre Movement (LTM) executive, Anya Gloudon-Nelson, was asked what she hopes 2021 will bring for theatre, her answer dropped even before the question sign: “That things will open up back”. And then she added, “Even if is just a tups”.
For the last 78 years, Boxing Day, December 26, has traditionally been the gala opening night for the LTM national pantomime. But 2020 was different, as there could not have been any rehearsals, and the production could not be staged live at its Little Theatre home, owing to COVID-19 restrictions. The LTM’s last ‘panto’, Ruckshon Junction, did a two-and-a-half-month run, but by mid-March 2020, the global health crisis closed the curtains on all forms of live entertainment, including theatre.
PLEA FOR NORMALITY
“We want just a little normality, please and thanks. We need a chance to see people back in theatre, to sit and laugh, even if they are social-distancing and wearing masks. A little bit of outside,” Gloudon-Nelson begged. Although there was no pantomime opening on Boxing Day 2020, a free virtual concert titled ‘Nah Give Up’ was aired on platforms owned by the PBCJ (Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica). “The cast has said to me that we are going to do the virtual again, quite likely early in the new year. The comments were positive. We did songs like Evenin’ Time, and the nostalgia came out [in the online comments section]. People remembered when things were nice,” the LTM exec share.
Multi-award-winning Jamaican actor and comedian, Glen ‘Titus’ Campbell , is singing a song similar to that of Gloudon-Nelson. “I miss my live audiences,” he lamented. “As the name suggests, live theatre is ‘live’. So when you go online or record, it becomes something else. It is no longer ‘live’,” Campbell explained. “I miss the interaction, the energy, I miss entertaining my audience and seeing their reaction and their expressions. But with the masks you can’t even see them smile. And the mouth is essential in depicting body language.”
But Campbell is hopeful that with the approval of COVID-19 vaccines, things will take a different, positive turn. “I am hoping and praying that the spike will level off and that I will soon be back with my audience. I would like to think that they need to see me too,” he laughed. The popular actor says that acclaimed playwright and director, Patrick Brown, is in writing mode and whenever he calls, “I am ready”.
Actress and producer, Nadean Rawlins, is looking forward to a surge in, and the resurgence of, the theatre. “Prior to COVID, theatre was struggling. Things had improved in some areas, but the spaces were closing down, and that was a problem. Coming out of COVID, we will need a surge to move forward,” Rawlins told The Gleaner.
Rawlins, the founder and managing director of RAW Management, a talent management agency and production company, mentioned that the pandemic has introduced a new way for theatre to do things in the virtual space, and this has brought about more collaborations. “It has forced us to say ‘I am not a video guy’, but I need to link with one to complete this project. A great resurgence will see us have a different kind of theatre which is more hybrid. Some persons will come into the actual space and watch, while others will view from afar,” Rawlins stated.