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ASHE shaping the future of theatre - Looks to open expanded Vibes Theatre by November

Published:Tuesday | August 6, 2019 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small/Staff Reporter
ASHE’s summer programme is helping to develop young talent.
The children who performed at the finale for ASHE’s summer programme were well received by the audience.
Young talent was on show at the finale of ASHE’s summer programme.

Last week’s finale for ASHE’s annual summer school programme was fantastic for two reasons. It showcased some of Jamaica’s next multifaceted talents; and it showed that the children had a willing, engaged audience – which actually spilled out of the room into a dance studio made into a makeshift theatre.

By next year, those students will be performing on their own stage, and the audience should expect to be comfortably seated in the expanded Vibes Theatre, a 250-seat performance space.

With a hopeful completion date of November 2019, the ensemble’s administration has taken on the gargantuan task of building. The island’s newest theatre space will stand at 8 Cargill Avenue, ASHE’s headquarters. Taking cues from established, working models like Disney and Broadway, it is hoped that the Vibes Theatre will ensure some self-reliance and income generation for the ASHE ensemble.

According to ASHE’s integrated marketing and communications lead, Ifidel Williams, the theatre project is part of ASHE’s social development and outreach initiative. Phase One began in November 2017, which included the renovation of a four-storey complex to house spaces for youth-friendly social services, administrative offices, and a large conference and training room.

Phase Two is the expansion of an already existing performance space, which began in February 2019. “The building is being done in honour of its founders, Paulette Bellamy, and the late Joseph Robinson. As a company that is always performing and producing theatre products and talent for the local and international stages, it is important that we have our own facility to do this and to help sustain our work,” Williams said.

So far, ASHE’s expansion projects have been slow going because the efforts are completely dependent on funds from within the ensemble. He added: “We are definitely seeking assistance. We are seeing sponsors to support.”

Upon completion, the Vibes Theatre will carry on ASHE’s legacy both in name and on stage. The ensemble’s first original musical theatre production that travelled across Jamaica and the Caribbean was called Vibes in a World of Sexuality, directed by Cathi Levy of the Little People & Teen Players Club. It was a production that extended beyond the stage, resulting in the development of curriculum that includes two musicals (one for students and one for parents) and two training manuals with supporting DVDs, similarly separate for students and parents.

“In building this theatre, we wanted to give it a name that would have meaning for the company and still resonate with its purpose. Theatre’s purpose is also to ‘bring or build a vibes” as we say in Jamaica!’ Williams said.