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'3 Jamaican Plays' long time in coming

Published:Thursday | April 14, 2011 | 12:00 AM
From left: actors Brian Johnson, Teisha Duncan, Joseph Collington and Nadean Rawlins do a dramatic reading of a scene from Stafford Ashani's 'Masqueraders', during the launch of '3 Jamaican Plays' at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts on Tuesday. - Contributed photos
Copies of '3 Jamaican Plays: A Postcolonial Anthology (1977 - 1987)'.

Marcia Rowe,  Gleaner Writer

A number of years ago the then Cultural Centre, with its four schools (Art, Dance, Drama and Music) was established to preserve the Jamaican culture.

Thirty-five years later, the institution rebranded, the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (EMC), still has the same mandate.

On Monday, this became evident with the launch of a book titled 3 Jamaican Plays, A Post Colonial Anthology (1977-1987) at the Dennis Scott Studio Theatre on Arthur Wint Drive.

The occasion was marked by introductions and colourful readings of excerpts from the three plays: Stafford Ashani's Masqueraders, Ginger Knight's Whiplash and the Patricia Cumper, et al, Fallen Angel and the Devil Concubine.

There was also an explanation of the excerpts from the editor, Honor Ford-Smith, who also wrote the introduction to 3 Jamaican Plays.

well supported

Paul Issa, wearing the hats, chairman, EMC and president of Paul Issa Publications, noted that in the 1970s playwrights wrote serious plays and that they were well supported.

During the post-launch cocktail and book-signing session, Issa explained to The Gleaner the need for the anthology.

"I think the 1970s and 1980s are the golden age of Jamaican plays. And many of these plays are on the verge of disappearing," he said.

And Issa, in consultation with Ford-Smith, selected the three plays that speak about Jamaican history.

Ford-Smith, in addressing the overflowing studio, said, "Each play represents voices, themes and motifs which not only deserve study in the Caribbean, but also more broadly in the field of drama and performance as a whole."

The former School of Drama acting tutor believes that the plays are only being published now, rather than 20 or 30 years ago when they were created and produced, because critical authorising practices and the market of cultural production remain largely dominated by European and American work.

"One of the goals of this collection then, is to speak to an audience who is interested in alternatives to this trajectory, and also to put this work in conversation with other African and post-colonial works from the period and beyond," Ford-Smith explained.

In concluding her speech, the editor shared a touching experience she had with Stafford Ashani, author of Masqueraders, just before he passed on into the midnight in 2009.

Ford-Smith later joined Carol Lawes in a tear-jerking reading of Fallen Angel and the Devil Concubine, the last of the dramatic readings of the evening.

The actors who read seemed to be split into three generations.

Using track and field classifications, class three, comprising the youngest set, were the first to read. They read from Masqueraders. Reading excerpts from Whiplash were the class-two grouping of Ronald Goshop, Deon Silvera, Dennis Titus and Afolashade. All the performers brought their individual characters to life, though a few were inaudible at times.

Towards the end of the night, copies of 3 Jamaican Plays were presented to representatives of the National Library of Jamaica, the Jamaica Library Service and the librarians of the University of the West Indies and EMC.

Eugene Williams, director of the School of Drama, EMC gave the vote of thanks and informed the audience that EMC has offered to launch two other books: Barry Reckord's For the Reckord and a book comprising three Caribbean plays edited by Trinidadian, Rawle Gibbons, former lecturer at EMC.