Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
In previous years, Douglas Prout had taken many a scrap of paper to the Actor Boy Awards Ceremony - but had never had a chance to reach into his pocket and reel off his mandatory 'thank yous'. Prout told The Sunday Gleaner that he had about 20 nominations in numerous categories, among them set design, Best Actor in a Lead Role and Best Actor in a Supporting Role. He has never won.
Although there is tremendous satisfaction in being nominated in the first place, Prout says that he is happy to be "called among the good ones".
So when he collected the Best Director award at the 20th Actor Boy Awards held at the Courtleigh Auditorium, New Kingston, in March, Prout's 'thank you' pocket was empty. "I did not want to set myself up. I deliberately did not prepare a speech. I went there with an open mind," he said.
"I guess the moral is never prepare," Prout said laughing.
He was actually called among the 'good ones' twice this year, as he had a double nomination for Best Director for For Better or Worse and Mo'Bay Vibes. Prout said of the two dramas, For Better or Worse had "by far" a better chance. "Mo'Bay Vibes is a revue, a different genre. For a revue to win Best Director it had to be really outstanding. I was thinking Mo'Bay Vibes was good work," he said. But the Basil Dawkins production For Better or Worse, which won six awards from six nominations, "was such an outstanding production on so many levels".
First, there was the script. "I started getting scene by scene in October. It was a page-turner," he said. "I knew I had a winner as long as I could transfer the enthusiasm to the space."
Then there was the cast, selected by Dawkins with Prout's approval ("he did not inflict anyone on me and I think he has justified himself, with everyone doing so well"). And Prout said "the cast was cooking!"
He had worked with Dawkins before, on last year's Which Way is Out?, and said "we have good synergy. He told me what he had in mind and I agreed".
At the Actor Boy Awards ceremony, when he collected the Best Production award for For Better or Worse, Dawkins congratulated Prout on his handling of the play. Prout told The Sunday Gleaner that he was "very conscious from day one" that it broached sensitive issues.
"I knew we were pushing some envelopes - same-sex relationship. We were flipping the conventional picture of the family with the man at home. Our society does not really embrace this variation from the norm. I knew we had to tread carefully," he said.
So some persons came expecting more than what was there in terms of overt sex and Prout said "those who are not so prude would not have minded seeing some action between the females. We could have gone down that route quite easily".
"I think balance was the important thing to find and we found it," he pointed out.
In the literal sense, lead actor Christopher 'Johnny' Daley also had to tread carefully - or, at least, differently. Prout said that Daley is a very talented young man. However, with his stand-up comedy forays and some previous roles taken into consideration, "he has an air of comedy about him. Because we wanted to take him into drama, we wanted to stretch him, take him out of what audiences expected, we had to break that rhythm, that delivery, that facial expression. I remember the first week, saying 'that is too funny'".
"We said play it like film, like TV. It has worked. People have said they like to see him in this type of role," Prout stated.
Then there was the chemistry between Daley and Sakina Deer, the latter getting the opening scene in which she has an extended monologue.
Terri Salmon, who plays the other main character, was abroad when blocking of For Better or Worse began, Dawkins' daughter standing in her stead. Salmon did not get in until two weeks before opening and Prout said once she had it down, "I said we have something special".
And they did.
Prout said he is now learning to select scripts carefully, so as not to burn out or get fatigued. Long associated with the Fairfield Theatre in Montego Bay, St James, he said that "in recent years I have been getting offers out of Kingston to do bigger work". He said David Tulloch's relocation to MoBay about five years ago has helped with the workload tremendously, with a planning committee setting out a workable schedule.
In more recent years, Prout leaves his Christmas open for trips to Kingston, the highway helping a lot in that direction - in more ways than one.
"I am very pleased and relieved to have the statuette," Prout said.
Douglas Prout had a decade of acting credits before making his debut as a director in 1986. For all practical purposes, his acting days are now over and he gives The Sunday Gleaner a succinct reason why.
"Can't remember the lines, boss," he said, and he was not laughing.
The wind of change blew seriously during the last of 20 performances of Hurricane Lovers, directed by Christopher 'Johnny' Daley.
"On the last night I had a tremendous dry spell. I looked at Dahlia Harris and did not have a clue where I was," Prout said. "I just had to jump several pages and get myself off the stage as quickly as possible.
"I decided I was going to get the hell off the stage and save myself further embarrassment. I tell Dahlia and Johnny that they have the dubious honour of packing me in as an actor."
Among the productions Prout has directed for which he does not quite have fond memories is Zombie in 1989, that low especially striking as the previous year Dracula had been a huge success. Also, he said there was a staging of Bell, Book and Candle that was not very good. On the other hand, he said he is "very fond of For Better or Worse" and is very pleased with White Witch, both very fresh in his mind. He points out that the latter has 30 people, 80 per cent of whom are new to the stage, and an original script from Jane Crichton, plus songs by himself and David Tulloch.
Man Better Man, in which he acted at one stage and directed at another, is also a favourite.
There is an acting gig left, though, Prout having filmed a pilot for Basil Dawkins' Uptown Bangarang last week with Brian St Juste directing. He pointed out, though, that "you don't have to learn the lines in film", quite unlike the unforgiving theatre. "I can say 'cut!' Nobody knows how bad my memory is," Prout said.
In June he directs Me and Mi Chapsie, a Sydney Reid production in MoBay, with Dorothy Cunningham and Marlon Brown. After that, it is "rest again until Christmas, hoping that Mr Dawkins will call me again".