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Tuesdays @ the theatre | Prout casts director’s eye via Skype

Published:Monday | September 3, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer
Douglas Prout

Whether sitting in the driver's seat of a car between Montego Bay and Kingston or sitting in the passenger seat of an aeroplane from Canada to Jamaica, Douglas Prout has long been accustomed to making extended round trips to direct theatrical productions.

However, as the demand for his skills grows outside of Jamaica, Prout has started to trim the travel time from his Canadian home by utilising Skype, the Internet-based audiovisual communication technology.

So far, he has utilised it on the North American continent, directing What Goes Up in New York City, and is looking to do so again in Canada, where travel times can be long and large casts cumbersome to schedule rehearsals for. It is not a Skype - only interaction among director, producer, cast, and persons handling technical aspects of the production as Prout told The Gleaner that for What Goes Up,"I went to New York for an intense week. We had rehearsals from nine to five, like a job. Luckily, I had professionals working with."

That concentrated effort took place after the foundation had been laid utilising Skype, including determining the professional thespians to be in What Goes Up and going through the script, sent to him by the writer-producer Harlan Penn. "He said it had been staged before but not professionally. He is a teacher and had done it with some students. He is happy. We had to change it a bit, but we maintained the integrity of the storyline," Prout explained.

One of Prout's stipulations before going to New York was that the actors know most of the script and that the cast articulated the script appropriately. "The writer is an African-American, and he thought he could talk patois. I had bad news for him. We had to go through it and make changes," Prout said, chuckling. "We went through several casting sessions. I did not use three people that he suggested."

In the end, Prout said, "It went very well", and there are now plans to stage What Goes Up in Canada. However, while Prout will be on spot for that staging, there are still productions that he will utilise Skype for because distances are so vast and logistics for large casts cumbersome. It is also a time when work outside of Jamaica is picking up. Prout is slated to direct a cast of about 17 persons for a conference as well as A Little Black Lie (the sequel to A Little White Lie). With a reggae musical also in the works, his schedule takes him through the rest of the year into 2019.

"I am a full-time freelance theatre director," Prout said. "I am happy."