A reminder that the process with these Carib Lit Plus Caribbean arts bulletins is to do a front and back half of the month, updating as time allows as new information comes in; so, come back, or, if looking for an earlier installment, use the search window. (in brackets, as much as I can remember, I’ll add a note re how I sourced the information – it is understood that this is the original sourcing and additional research would have been done by me to build the information shared here – credit and link back if you use).
The passing of Gordon Rohlehr was noted in the last Carib Lit Plus. This tribute is by Patrick Anthony of St. Lucia.
Local historian and writer Ivor Ford has died. Ford worked in the public service and in retirement was vocal – primarily on radio – on national issues. He is considered to be someone who has done considerable research in to Antiguan and Barbudan history, and worked on a number of publications in this lane, e.g. a 1984 commemorative magazine on the teacher for whom the T N Kirnon school is now named, and compiling and editing the 2004 posthumous edition of Novelle Richards’ The Struggle and The Conquest. A number of personal dedications to Ford’s life online alerted me to his passing beginning with this one from Senator Shawn Nicholas (a co-editor on The Struggle and The Conquest):
“Today, I lost one of my proudest and loudest cheerleaders, Ivor Bernard Ford. So much I could say about this man. Though diminutive in frame, his stature was larger than life. Rest in peace, my friend.” (Source – Facebook)
The Dublin Literary Award longlist 2023 (culled from titles nominated by libraries across the world) has been published and I didn’t note any Caribbean titles (with the exception of An Unusual Grief by Yewande Omoto, listed as a Barbados/Nigeria/South Africa). So I decided to share it because there should be Caribbean titles – put forward even if they don’t make the cut, every time, and I am not convinced that there are. I am not confident that libraries across the Caribbean, including right here in Antigua and Barbuda, are combing through each year’s releases and putting up what they consider to be the best, and if my uncertainty is true then that’s a disservice to a literary community that already has so few opportunities to break through. If I am wrong, I hold that L but I don’t think I’ll have to. That said, congrats tot the titles that did make the list and good luck on March 28th and May 25th the days when the shortlist and winners, respectively, are announced. (Source – Word by Word)
Art and Culture
The Derek Walcott Library has been opened in the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College using a collection of pieces from the St. Lucian Nobel Laureate’s personal collection. The official opening formed part of the country’s Nobel Laureates annual week of activities. (Source – Nature Island Literary Festival on Facebook)
The Big Issues on Observer Radio Antigua and subsequently the Observer newspaper have been exploring the film development model for Antigua and Barbuda – incentives to international productions to use the islands as locale, investment in indigenous filmmaking, a hybrid model that uses the big Hollywood dollars to finance local film development (e.g. through location fees) – in the wake of reporting on a possible Citizen by Investment backed joint venture initiative between French filmmaker Philippe Martinez and Canada-founded APEX Capital Partners, an advisory firm for CIPs?
‘Howard and Mitzi Allen, alongside Dr Lisa Tomlinson and Dr Alvin Edwards, sat down with host Barbara Arrindell to discuss the film culture in Antigua and Barbuda.
Mitzi Allen, who is best known as the co-founder of HaMa Films, and co-producer of the film ‘The Sweetest Mango,’ said that while it is important for foreign investment, she noted that there was a lack of interest in the development of local filmmakers in the country.
She argued that “bringing in international productions, absolutely yes, but it is not sustainable if we do not have the training on the ground, we do not have a film industry.
“So, when I hear that there is going to be employment for as many as 200 people, I would like to know who those people are, and where they exist, because we are on movie number five and we have had to go outside of Antigua in order to raise the bar in the productions that we do.”
Mitzi Allen argued that a fund needs to be set up to develop the local creative industries for a more sustainable employment market.
Howard Allen also reiterated the need for a local film industry, noting that the jobs the government is touting would be created, once the international filmmaker leaves, many of the locals employed would be again returned to their regular jobs.
“If we really want to build a viable film industry, the government has to take the lead on that, and throughout the islands, the politicians really do not see the value of our stories, and so their real interest is just bringing in international productions here,” he said.
Dr Lisa Tomlinson, who is a lecturer at the UWI Mona Campus in the Institute of Caribbean Studies, teaching Caribbean and African Diaspora Film courses and documentary narratives, spoke about what the region could learn from Jamaica, where the government has invested in developing youth filmmakers.
“We have the JAMPRO…and through that, they have a branch called the [Propella Initiative by the Jamaica Film and Television Association] where they take local filmmakers and go through a process of training and developing their films, and once they are finished, they enter national and international film festivals and competitions,” Dr Tomlinson said, although she did note that it was still not to the level of economic sustainability compared to other industries like music.’ – read the article in full. (Source – various)
Black Panther star Letitia Wright paid a visit to her homeland, Guyana, where she engaged in a number of activities, including urging peace and love while addressing parliament. It was the British actress’ first trip home in 20 years. In addition to playing Shuri, little sister of T’Challa (played by the late Chadwick Boseman, RIP), Letitia has recently appeared in and co-produced Silent Twins, about a pair of sisters of Barbados origin who were institutionalized in Britain after years of silence and teenage rebellion, among other films. (Source – The Daily Observer Newspaper by Newsco)
Books and Other Reading Material
Jamaican writer Alecia McKenzie’s acclaimed A Million Aunties has a new paperback edition with a new cover.
Originally published in 2020 with Akashic in the US and Blue Banyan/Blouse and Skirt in the Caribbean, it has been described as “a compelling novel about unlikely love, friendship, and community, with several surprises along the way. The story takes place against the backdrop of rural Jamaica, New York City, and Paris, France.” It has been shortlisted for the 2020 Caribbean Readers’ Awards (Best Adult Novel) and longlisted for the 2022 DUBLIN Literary Award. This paperback edition released February 2023 is with Berlin based Dialogue books. (Source – Alecia McKenzie on linkedin)
Hands across the Sea, a non-profit out of the US, and former Wadadli Pen patron, continues to gift books to schools in the sub-region, including a recent cache to students in Antigua and Barbuda. Read about it here. (Source – Daily Observer Antigua by Newsco)
Kittitian-British writer Caryl Phillips’s Radio Plays, anthologized and contextualized by Bénédicte Ledent, consists of his collection of plays broadcast by the BBC between 1984 and 2016 including: “The Wasted Years”; “Crossing the River”; “The Prince of Africa”; “Writing Fiction”; “A Kind of Home: James Baldwin in Paris”; “Hotel Cristobel”; “A Long Way from Home”; “Dinner in the Village”; and “Somewhere in England.” Contextualized by a scholarly introduction by Bénédicte Ledent, this volume introduces these works in the published form for the first time, allowing readers a better grasp of Phillips’s narrative techniques, offering fascinating vistas into his imaginary world, which ranges from the history of the African diaspora to the predicament of displaced individuals the world over. (Source – JR Lee email)
John Robert Lee of St. Lucia writes about two book of essays on Derek Walcott published in 2022. Between Fury and Peace: The Many Arts of Derek Walcott and Tributes to Derek Walcott, 1930-2017: In Various Light are, per John, “among the first reflective reviews of the man and his work since his death in St. Lucia in 2017…They will make valuable additions to libraries and the collections of those who want to better understand the substantial contribution of this Caribbean poet to world literature.” (Source – JRLee email)
Peepal Tree Press (UK) in January released a poetry collection, Not Quite Without A Moon by Trinbagonian-Guyanese writer with Antiguan roots Ian McDonald.
McDonald, who now resides in Canada, is the author of the classic The Hummingbird Tree. (Source – Peepal Tree Press on Facebook)
The Antigua Dance Academy hosted a student exhibition and bélé launch on Saturday 4th February and it was dope (I was there). The Daily Observer newspaper coverage (written by Orville Williams) agrees. He noted that the presentation “displayed the tenacity, confidence and undeniable talent of the dancers who featured, as well as Yearwood’s brilliant artistic vision.” This was ADA’s first production since before the pandemic “but there was no sign of rust or nerves,” Williams reported.
Bright Hill Press begins a new season of Word on February 23rd 2023 with British Virgin Islands poet laureate Richard Georges and St. Lucian poet MacDonald Dixon. The zoom starts at 7 p.m. Watch live on Zoom or Facebook.
(Source – Nature Island Literary Festival on Facebook)
The Antigua Girls High School’s Honey Bee Theatre is staging a revival of its award-winning play Whispers in Wallings”, February 11th 2023 at the Dean William Lake Cultural Centre. Per the playwrights and screenwriters page here on the blog, Whispers in Wallings, written and directed by Zahra Airall won eight prizes at the 2015 national secondary schools drama festival. For tickets and information re the February staging, check Woods Pharmacy, the Best of Books bookstore, or contact 779-6634 for more info. (Source – Daily Observer newspaper by Newsco)
Activities will continue in to February with the February 7th performance of Kendel Hippolyte’s play Cashpandora, the February 9th National Awards of Excellence, a Night of Poetry on February 11th, and a February 21st Independence Quiz. (Source – Jako Productions email)
As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and The Jungle Outside). All Rights Reserved. Subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.
In the latest edition of are we really serious about the development of the arts in Antigua and Barbuda, I bring you the media launch (absent media) of the Antigua Dance Academy’s 25th Anniversary celebrations.
ADA photo circa 2004 – notice anyone familiar? Back row right is regional soca star Tizzy, who recently signed with VP Records; and this is where she got her start.
Held the morning of December 3rd at the ADA’s current ‘home’, the Antigua and Barbuda Red Cross facility, the focus of the media briefing was to give a month-by-month overview of the year’s worth of activities they’ve put together to mark their silver anniversary (that’s their 25th – a full quarter century of existence). The Veronica “Auntie Vee” Yearwood afro-Caribbean dance project that began as the Little Dancers school of dance
Young ADA dancer, circa 2005.
has blossomed in to a touring international dance company three generations deep. The quality of its productions and its impact on the dance landscape – from the individuals who have danced across its stage, including former Ms. Antigua Universe Kai Davis who was present for the media launch speaking on how the ADA helped shape her; to the way it has centered African-Caribbean folk traditions
ADA keeping Afro-Caribbean folk traditions alive.
and, with the various forums, such as the first Caribbean Arts Encounter meeting, that it has hosted, worked to deepen awareness and appreciation of same; to the platforms such as the Out of the Drum regional (and sometimes international) biennial festival it has hosted since 2004, to being cultural ambassadors with several European tours under its voluminous skirts – merit media attention on the occasion of this milestone.
But the ADA seemed decidedly unsurprised by the lack of press; after all, as Yearwood said at one point, “it’s not a soca fete”.
It might not be a soca fete but ADA performances, like this intense one circa 2006, have never not been entertaining.
Hopefully, the yearlong calendar of events will get some coverage (and possibly even rate an anniversary documentary on State media). The announced activities (some clearly company specific, some with appeal to the wider public) include:
a Sports Day (in December, 2016)
a make-up, and creole dress and headtie workshop (in January, 2017)
a hike and beach day (in February, 2017)
an Antiguan (and presumably Barbudan) folksong workshop (in March, 2017)
Rudolph Davis, seen here in a past ADA production, will facilitate the folksong workshop.
a drumming workshop (in April, 2017)
a Creole Dress Tea Party (in May, 2017)
a public drum session (in June, 2017)
the annual Antigua Dance Academy dance production (in July, 2017)
their summer tour which this year takes them to Tobago (in August, 2017)
a dance workshop (in September, 2017)
the launch of the folk dance festival – Out of the Drum (in October, 2017)
and the festival itself (in November, 2017)
It’s worth noting that apart from teaching dance and drumming, Veronica, who has emphasized skills transference over the years – empowers the members of her company to take charge of different areas as they grow. This includes the various aspects of theatre arts: from choreography and scripting to the various backstage crafts like creating backdrops and wardrobe, to lighting and sound. Similarly, they took charge of the launch, and will with the various announced activities. The head of each area took a turn at the mic setting up expectations for their event.
So we learned that the sports day is envisioned as an annual affair reviving traditional (“back in the times”) games, promoting culture while promoting physical fitness; that it will be followed by a grand Christmas gala and awards ceremony. From principal dancer, Meserete Uzondu, a professional make-up artist, we learned that the make-up workshop is not just about sharing her art but passing on a valuable theatre skill so that “hopefully next production we can have more assisting in the application of the make-up”. On the inspiration for the creole headtie workshop and the tea party, Yearwood remarked, “it is remiss that we no longer wear what is our own.” The tea party fits this theme of reclaiming our culture with, in addition to the sartorial departure from your typical tea party , a menu that promises creative takes on local fare – fungee sandwiches and bebridge water, anyone? Davis, in her presentation, described the drum as our heartbeat.
A 2014 drum workshop.
Of the several drum activities, it was noted that “the drum was one of the first musical instruments used to signal events (and) one of the instruments that survived the atrocity of slavery; Antigua Dance Academy seeks desperately to maintain a connection with the drum.” They underscored their desire to stir interest in the arts and a sense of commitment to the arts among young people.
A 2012 ADA production.
“Our greatest accomplishment are all sitting in here today,” Yearwood said referencing the young people present for the launch. “We’re now in to a third generation of dancers.”
When asked to comment on the biggest challenge ADA has faced over the years, Yearwood unsurprisingly spoke of the lack of knowledge, understanding, and support the arts receives. “We go to various countries and we see the kind of resources that are given to people who are as grounded and knowledgeable as we are.” But, here, at home, she said, letters go unacknowledged and unanswered. But ADA has been undeterred. “We’re going to do what we can do with or without them,” Yearwood said, and so they have been. In fact, they even have a go fund me page at this time to try to finance their dreams (find the link and more on ADA on their facebook).
The company that began in Yearwood’s mom’s home is still without a home of its own – and in recent years has been booted from its longtime perch. “It’s killing me personally,” Yearwood said. “To develop children properly, you need a base.”
The obstacles have slowed her course toward her long view vision for ADA – “It hasn’t gotten close to my vision yet; my vision is bigger than this.”
And so I return to the original premise – are we really serious about the arts in Antigua and Barbuda? As more than one person articulated at the launch, the relationship between the arts and other areas of life is indisputable – dance certainly as a fitness activity contributes to overall health and the arts as a whole, especially in a tourism-dependent country like ours, can play a bigger role in the economic health of the country; and the generations that have passed through ADA are evidence of the ways that it empowers and builds a sense of esteem in its practitioners.
The arts – all the arts – play an invaluable role in youth development.
The perception that it is just for fun was posited as a reason for the lack of value placed on the arts.
If so, it’s a short sighted view.
Congrats to ADA on its 25th anniversary and here’s hoping the milestone event gets the media and public attention it deserves; and the dance company that has nurtured generations of Antiguans will finally get the home it has long needed.
EDITED TO ADD (December 10th 2016): Re those inquiring about how to help, I’d say keep giving voice to your concerns and thoughts re the arts – all the arts in Antigua and Barbuda – in your spheres of influence or right here, online; and support tangibly where you can. We have no shortage of passion and people willing to and already putting in the hard work in arts development in Antigua and Barbuda, though of course more is always needed, but what’s sorely lacking is money – grant funding to support projects, activities, growth; to allow for the kind of focus the arts needs. In the specific case of ADA, they need a home. I will share some of Veronica’s comments from my facebook where I shared this article/post: “The home we are referring to is a place for storage of information and an archive for the research we have done, an area where musicians can work and create, a space for our set and costume designers and dance classes and workshops in use if theatre etc….I can do soooo much more with sooo many more children with just a small space.” The link to ADA’s facebook page in this article has a link to their gofundme page to which you can contribute. If you can…and if you can’t but you can help them spread the word, that’s something too; so, share.
As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Fish Outta Water, and, forthcoming, With Grace). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out http://jhohadli.wordpress.com Please note that the images also belong to us and ask first if you wish to use them for any purpose. Thanks.
I wanted to create a separate page for playwrights and screenwriters. You won’t find these in the listing of Antiguan and Barbudan writers or any of the genre listings, unless they’ve written books. This list refers specifically to contributions as writers for screen and stage, and specifically to productions which have had a public viewing. It is a work in progress, so please inform me of any errors/omissions/oversights. T’anks.
Antiguan & Barbudan Theatre – a brief background (source: The Cambridge Guide to Theatre edited by Martin Banham) – “A party of amateurs opened Antigua’s first theatre in 1788…visiting companies came for a week’s run, their performances reinforced by local actors. The West India Sketchbook (1835) mentions a theatre in Antigua with amateurs performing Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer along with a PANTOMIME called Harlequin Planter, or The Land of Promise. This latter – containing ‘aboriginal savages’, their evil spirit Maboya, white settlers, black slaves [edit: enslaved Black people], Astraea, the goddess of justice, members of the Anti-Slavery Society, HARLEQUIN and Columbine – might count as one of the earliest pieces of native Caribbean theatre, dealing as it does with the local scene…Antiguans recall, from the 1930s, the OPERETTAS and MUSICALS presented by one Nellie Robinson of the TOR Memorial High School. In 1952 the Community Players were formed, causing a stir in local circles when, led by the drama tutor of the University of the West Indies, they created the village play Priscilla’s Wedding using local dialect…in 1967 the Antigua University Centre was established, with a 400-seat open-air theatre. Several short lived theatre groups sprung up at this time.” (p. 319) – bold and italics mine.
(Playwright?) – Rising from the Ashes (toured to Dominica, 1988). Performed by Popular Theatre Movement (“…started in village communities, where role-playing, discussion and creative play-making help to identify issues and suggest solutions” – The Cambridge Guide to African and Caribbean Theatre).
Eleston Nambalumbu Nambalala Adams – b. 1954. Founder, in 1979, of the Rio Revealers, which according to the World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre, Volume 2, the Americas Volume 2, his plays, referred to as “slapstick drama, have been taken to the islands of Montserrat, St. Martin, and St. Thomas.” The bibliography of drama in English by Caribbean writers, to 2010
compiled by George Parfitt and Jessica Parfitt indicates that he is believed to have authored 14 plays but could not confirm. Adams has been a teacher, reporter (Daily Observer newspaper), and minister of government, including a stint as culture minister. (listing lacks itemization of individual plays and year of first production – help fill the gaps if you can)
Zahra Airall – Airall has founded, written, and directed several theatre companies. Her Zee’s Youth Theatre produced the well-received School Bag (2009). In 2015, her adult company, Sugar Apple Theatre, teamed up with Dorbrene O’Marde for a revival of Harambee’s Tangled Web (read my reaction post). Sugar Apple Theatre returned with Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues (previously staged in Antigua by Women of Antigua of which she was a founding member and co-director) in 2019 (my review here).
It’s worth noting that Airall, a teacher, also took the winning local team (Antigua Girls High School) to the 2015 Caribbean Secondary Schools Drama Festival where she served as writer and director for their performance of her play The Forgotten. Read review/coverage of that outing here. She followed up this production with Whispers in Wallings which netted her and her Antigua Girls High School students best production, best direction, and a number of other prizes (8 overall) at the 2015 National Secondary Schools Drama Festival. She’s also taken youth theatre to other Caribbean countries e.g. in 2018, AGHS’ Honey Bee Theatre went on a UN sponsored tour to Turks and Caicos with her play Light in the Dark which was also performed domestically. In 2019, Honey Bee Theatre presented The Long Walk (reviewed here) in Antigua and again, that summer, at the Caribbean Secondary Schools Drama Festival, winning a plethora of prizes including best production, direction, and screenplay. Also in 2019, Honey Bee Theatre took on Derek Walcott, while Sugar Apple Theatre, after a triumphant 2019 outing with the revival of the Vagina Monologues, announced plans for an original production and its take on Shakespeare in 2020. Zahra Airall, a multi-National Youth Award winner, and Woman of Wadadli awardee for fine arts, was born in the theatre, figuratively speaking, as her parents were performers with Dorbrene O’Marde’s Harambee; and she won her first prize in 1992 at age 9 as the youngest person to submit to the Rick James Ensemble One Act Play Competition.
Antigua Community Players – This group was inaugurated in 1952. Musical dramas written and performed by the players include Priscilla’s Wedding (groundbreaking for its time as a benchmark in local theatre), Night Must Fall, Guest in The House, Outward Bound, See How They Run, Charley’s Aunt, A Christmas Carol, and Celebration in the Market Place – all collaborative pieces written by the Players. The group eventually morphed into a choral group well known for its folk music presentations and musical productions. Dame Yvonne Maginley (deceased as of 2019) was instrumental in this aspect, taking on the role of musical director in 1957. The Antigua Community Players’ first operetta was Betty Lou; annual concerts followed, and, in 1972, the Players produced Ballad Antigua, written by well known composer of Caribbean songs Irvine Burgie, and presented it in Antigua, Montserrat and in Guyana. Following the success of Ballad the Community Players produced Gilbert & Sullivan’s Mikado (in 1973), HMS Pinafore (in 1975 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the commissioning of Nelson’s Dockyard and in 1995 to mark the Players’ 43rd Anniversary), and Pirates of Penzance (in 1986). The Antigua Community Players performed at the 1982 World’s Fair in Tennessee, and, in 1984, during the 150th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the city in Rochester, New York and also in the Annual Lilac Festival. The Players have performed in New York; Miami; Washington; Toronto; London Ontario, Canada; Birmingham and Leicester; the News Day Parade in London, England; Syracuse; St Croix; and St Thomas. As musical director, Dame Yvonne Maginley composed many songs over the years that have added to the Antiguan and Barbudan catalogue of folk music.
Antigua Dance Academy – Antigua and Barbuda’s premier Afro-Caribbean folk dance group since 1991, ADA has put on several productions that have included drama scripted by members of the troupe. This includes, as part of ADA’s Out of the Drum folk rhythm festival, a 2008 street theatre presentation on national hero King Court/Prince Klaas/Tackey’s rebellion with guest performances by Nevis’s Rhythmz Dance Theatre and Trinidad’s Shashamane recreating, respectively, plantation fieldwork and African stick fighting. Francine Carbey, as the ADA’s resident drama tutor and artistic director, is, with founder Veronica Yearwood, the force behind these dramatic turns. Other members have contributed plays to ADA productions – e.g. Samantha Zachariah who wrote her first play for the group in 2010. Read more on ADA.
Barbara Arrindell – Call Me Klass (1998) – based on and inspired by the life of National Hero and leader of an aborted 1736 uprising of enslaved Africans in Antigua and Barbuda Prince Klaas/King Court/Tackey. Initially staged as a Black History Month fundraiser.
Dreams…Faces…Reality (2001). The play tells the story of a healthy young man whose life is turned upside down following a routine physical which showed that he was HIV positive. Arrindell was author and director. Stagings included an initial 2001 World AIDS Day performance by the Optimist Club of St. John’s Youth Drama Group, a 2002 Black History Month performance, several 2003 stagings, including one in Anguilla, by the Optimist Club at the Pares Secondary School. Between 2005-2006, it was staged over 15 times by the Friends Hotline for Youth to stir conversation among secondary school students in Antigua and Barbuda. Another drama group performed select scenes in 2007 at churches across the island to reduce the stigmatization of HIV/AIDS. It has been adapted for radio broadcast, running for several years on Observer Radio in the build-up to World AIDS Day.
Barbara Arrindell speaks with the audience after a performance of the AIDS themed ‘Dreams…Faces…Reality’ performed by the Optimist Club of St. John’s Youth Drama Group
Jamian Benta is a teacher and his productions seem to be primarily in the area of secondary school productions. As an english teacher at Pares secondary, he took the students to the National Seconday School Drama Festival with his first production A Mother’s Heart. At his second school Clare Hall Secondary, he formed the Dramalites. His other plays include Problem Child, Village Boy, Family Jumby, and A Tale of Massa’s Wine.
Edson Buntin –Anu Bantu: Treasure Island and Haunted Park (published). Dramatist, instructor in French at the Antigua State College; his contributions to theatre have been both onstage and off, as an actor including serving as a cast member in the 1979 production of Dorbrene O’Marde’s Tangled Web and as founder of the Scaramouche Theatre and overseeing several productions at the College, such as Conjugal Bliss. Plays written by Buntin include Con Man Sun Sun, Mr. Valentine, and Wedlock. He has also acted in local films such as Once in an Island. (Dates unknown – help fill the blanks if you can)
Child’s Play – this is a youth theatre group formed in 1992 by Jamaican dramatist Amina Blackwoods-Meek (as mentioned in this youtube video). She was also the founder, as noted on her website, of Zebra Theatre Group in 1987, also in Antigua and Barbuda. No details as yet re original productions but wanted to document their place on the theatre scene for the record.
David Edgecombe – (Edgecombe passed in November 2021, RIP) Edgecombe, a theatre and public speaking lecturer at the University of the Virgin Islands, is not Antiguan and Barbudan but his play Lady of Parham (shortlisted as of 2015 for the Guyana Prize for Literature), published by Caribbean Reads (2014), is set in Antigua and based on the mystery surrounding the ghost of Parham. Per the Caribbean Reads description, it “introduces the audience to five revellers who have come together to form a Carnival troupe but settle for dramatizing the tale of the Parham ghost. In the telling of the ghost legend, Justin, Tulip, Sauna, Kyle, and Mabel must confront the demons that threaten to derail their lives.” Lady of Parham premiered in St. Thomas and has since played in other Caribbean countries like Dominica and Montserrat, where Edgecombe was a founder of the Montserrat Theatre Group. His other works (unrelated to Antiguan and Barbudan theatre – to the best of my knowledge) include For Better For Worse, Making It, Coming Home to Roost, and Heaven.
Gus Edwards – b. 1939 in Antigua and raised in St. Thomas, he moved to New York in 1959 – his plays have been showcased by the Negro Ensemble of NY among other companies across the US. Initially, a protégé of Stella Adler, he worked as an actor in films and on stage. But limited by his accent, he began writing his own material. These included The Offering (1977), Black Body Blues (1978), Old Phantoms (1979), These Fallen Angels (1980), Weep Not for Me (1981), Tenement (1983), Manhattan Made Me (1983), Ramona (1986), Louie and Ophelia (1986), Moody’s Mood Cafe (1989), Lifetimes on the Streets (1990), Restaurant People (1990), Tropicana (1992), Frederick Douglass (1992), Testimony (1993), Confessional (1994), Dear Martin, Dear Coretta (1995), Slices one-acts (1996), Drought Country (1997), Night Cries (1998), and Black Woman’s Blues (1999). Most of his plays are reportedly set in “the slums and ghettoes of New York…his characters often exist outside of the boundaries of what is thought to be appropriate behavior in society.” (Notable Caribbeans and Caribbean Americans: a Biographical Dictionary, p. 157). His works for television include Aftermath (1979) and a TV adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel Go Tell It on the Mountain. He also wrote narration on the Negro Ensemble Company for PBS. Though self-taught, the critically acclaimed playwright has taught theatrical writing at several US colleges and became associate professor of theatre at Arizona State University, directing where the multi-ethnic theatre and teaching in the film studies programme. In 2000, he was appointed artistic director to the Scottsdale Ensemble Theatre in Scottsdale, Arizona. “He has published Classic Plays of the Negro Ensemble (1995), Monologues on Black Life (1997), and More Monologues on Black Life (2000). Several of his plays have also been published… Gus Edwards is one of the first Caribbean writers to contribute to American theatre.” (Notable Caribbean and Caribbean Americans: a Biographical Dictionary, p. 158)
Lonne Elder – Ceremonies in Dark Old Men (1971) – performed by the Open Air Theatre.
Oliver Flax – A Better Way (1976) – directed by Edgar Davis – and The Legend of Prince Klaas (1972) – the latter of which was sent to be performed at Carifesta in Guyana in 1972. Performed by Bobby Margetson’s Little Theatre.
Linisa George – one of the writer/directors and producers (as part of Women of Antigua) behind the production When a Woman Moans (below). Brown Girl in the Ring, a poem from that production has become a significant part of her brand (as a publication aesthetic) and has been performed at different fora including the CARA Festival in Antigua in 2009 , the 2012 Poetry Parnassus in London, and, after publication in a special Antigua and Barbuda edition of online journal Tongues of the Ocean, Shakespeare in Paradise, 2015, in the Bahamas.
Tom Green – Tom Green is British, not Antiguan, though he did lead a masterclass on playwriting here in Antigua and is listed here because of a play of his that is based in Antigua. The play is entitled Antigua and it is the story of bestselling writer Katherine Sampson, whose second book is overdue by two years when her agent sends her to the Caribbean with instructions not to return without a finished manuscript. In Antigua, she meets an enigmatic American be-devilled by his own problems. This play was first produced at the Tabard Theatre in London in 2006. Green’s other plays (unrelated to Antigua and Barbuda – to the best of my knowledge) include The Death of Margaret Thatcher, A Place in the Sun, and Talking in Bed.
Joanne C. Hillhouse – known, primarily, as a fiction writer/published author, but some of her first public writings were plays: e.g. Barman’s Blues, not staged but joint second placed winner (her first creative writing prize) in the Rick James Theatre Ensemble One Act Play Competition in 1992; Changes (Sisters and Daughters), Hillhouse’s first full length play, staged in 1990, by the State College Drama Society one of two done while she was a student at the Antigua State College; and Trials of Life, showcased as a Taylor Hall entry in dramatic competition at the University of the West Indies while she was a student there (sometime between 1992 and 1995). The actress in that play received honourable mention. Several of her poems were incorporated into scripts for stagings of Women of Antigua’s When a Woman Moans in the early aughts. Hillhouse who has scripted documentaries, ads, and public service announcements for clients or as part of public education programmes, on the creative tip had her (short) screenplay, Is Like a Like It, excerpted in The Caribbean Writer Volume 27 in 2013.
Cleopatra Isaac, Paula Henry, and Darleen Beazer -co-scripted Journey to Heaven which was performed by participants in The Young Leaders programme at Sir McChesney George Secondary School and members of the Barbudan community. (article published April 10th 2006 in the Daily Observer)
The play, performed in 2006 in Barbuda and Antigua, focused on a young man’s gradual understanding of repentance and forgiveness ‘after death’, and explored the concept that no more than 6 degrees of separation exists between people, meaning an individual’s actions always affects the lives of others. The actors were Devon Warner, Tenesha Beazer, Salim Cephas, Adonia Henry, and Leona Desouza. “Shaping the Future” was the theme of the 2006 Young Leaders’ project, and it encompassed cherishing life, embracing family values, and respecting one another. In the play, the value of respect is addressed in drama, dance, and song, using all aspects of the arts to embrace a vision.
Owen Jackson – As writer/director with the National Youth Theatre, Jackson produced several plays including After 9/11 (2007) and My Birthright (2007). (entry incomplete – help fill in dates and other productions if you can)
Owen Jackson taking high school students through a drama warm up exercise.
Youth drama club – tableau in downtown store window … and attracting a small crowd doing it
George ‘Rick’ James – deceased September 2018. Various plays including the one man play Oulaudah Equiano (1990) about “the engrossing story in living detail of an Igbo prince, his enslavement, and freedom” (book summary), Gallows Humour in 2005, and 2007’s Our Country, timed to coincide with the bicentenary of the abolition British Empire Atlantic Slave Trade, and unique for telling, on a stage constructed in the open air of the King George V grounds, drawing a vast cast from a mixed pool of local professionals who were amateur thespians, and tracking the life of Antigua and Barbuda from pre-Columbian times to present.
Our Country: an arawak chief Our Country: Slave ship scene
slaves at market
His Rick James Ensemble encouraged young and future Antiguan and Barbudan writers like Zahra Airall and Joanne C. Hillhouse through its One Act Play Writing Competition. James was also an actor in US and especially British theatre and television
James performing in Sit Quietly on the Baulk
for many years, and an award winning costume designer in local mas.
Colin Jno Finn – playwright and director with the Nazarene Drama Team – On the Block (2008) of a young man’s struggles with the church; Nine to Five (2009) about challenges in the work place; It’s Too Late (2010) of a strained relationship between a father and son; and Power Struggle (2011) of one person’s attempts to boost another from office. Read my review of Power Struggle here.
Jamaica Kincaid – Her 1998 book A Small Place was staged at the Gate Theatre in London in 2018 in what was described as so faithful an adaptation that the text is performed entirely in its original form.
Edgar O. Lake – Some Quiet Mornin’; Matters of Antiguan Conspiracy: 1736; The Stone Circle; The Killing of Arthur Sixteen; more… (incomplete + unsure of publication production status + dates unknown – help fill in dates and other productions if you can)
Iyaba Ibo Mandingo – ‘He is a Poet, Painter, Writer, Sculptor, Actor, Teacher, Mentor, Author and “continued work in progress”, as he puts it…His Self-Portrait, a one-man play performed in his studio, speaks of his life through poetry and prose, concurrent to him painting his self-portrait during the show.’ – from this interview with the artiste which also references his chap books (41 Times and Amerikkkan Exile), his company (Iyabarts), his art series (War, Spirit Drawings), in addition to his plays (Self-Portrait which has grown into unFRAMED, his first full length play), and forthcoming work (novel Sins of My Fathers, chap book 30 Days of Ink, ad the off Broadway run of unFRAMED). As his biography shows, he is a native Antiguan who migrated to the U.S. as a boy. These roots as well as his experiences in America infuse unFRAMED as seen in this excerpt.
Andrew O’Marde – O Lord, Why Lord? and Tell It Like It Is with Harambee Open Air Theatre.
Dorbrene O’Marde – – synonymous with quality theatre in Antigua and Barbuda in theatre’s heyday (i.e. the 1970s to early 1980s), his Harambee Open Air Theatre (a 1972 merger of the Grammarians and the University Centre’s Open Air Theatre) is “considered the most important group of recent times” (from The Cambridge Guide to Theatre by Martin Banham). O’Marde is a graduate of the Antigua Grammar School, UWI Cave Hill, University of Toronto, and Tulane University where he obtained a Masters of Public Health. He has been credited as a playwright, director and producer of theatre and music, newspaper/magazine columnist, public speaker, and calypso writer, judge and analyst. His involvement in calypso has included crafting hits for artistes like Scorpion, Stumpy, Singing Althea, and others; though his biggest contribution to the art form is arguably the seminal Calypso Talk magazine, an annual chronicle of the art and the issues surrounding the art. He also wrote Nobody Go Run Me, the biography of Antigua and Barbuda’s Monarch King Short Short, which was longlisted for the 2015 Bocas prize, in addition to the novel Send Out You Hand.
O’Marde’s career in theatre began with the Antigua Students Association in 1965 (You the Jury, Devil’s Advocate, Androcles and the Lion – English classics). Jezebel (1955) and Star Bomber (1962) are credited as two of his earliest works. His involvement in theatre continued, between 1968 and 1971, with the Cave Hill Drama Group (UWI, Barbados) when other theatre notables like Dominica’s Alwin Bully, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Clement Bouncing Williams, and St. Lucia’s Robert Lee were all students.
O’Marde was a member of the Theatre Information Exchange (TIE) and the Eastern Caribbean Popular Theatre Organization (ECPTO) and was involved in cultural research with both these organizations. He formed Harambee in 1972.
In addition to directing plays by other notables from the Caribbean theatre scene and beyond, O’Marde wrote and directed Homecoming, For Real: A Caribbean Play in Three Acts(1976), Fly on the Wall (1977), Fire Go Bun, For Real, We Nativity, The Minister’s Daughter – which was adapted from the novel of the same name by Nigerian writer Obi Egbuna, We Nativity – which included songs by Antiguan and Barbudan lyricist Shelly Tobitt, Tangled Web (1979), Badplay (1991 for the Family Planning Unit), and This World Spin One Way (1998); and directed several others. Read more about his work in calypso and on the stage, plus his other cultural work in BIOGRAPHY deo 2010 . Tangled Web, according to the World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre, Volume 2, the Americas, Volume 2, prompted the government to legislate against civil servants participating in plays critical of the government.
Before going dormant in the late-eighties, Harambee took productions to Montserrat, St. Kitts, Dominica, Barbados, St. Thomas, and Saba.
O’Marde has returned with a couple of productions since then, notably 1998’s This World Spin One Way – which has also had stagings by directors Jean Small, Director UWI Creative Arts Centre, and David Edgecombe, Director Reichhold Centre, and a revival of Tangled Web with Zahra Airall’s Sugar Apple Theatre in 2015. He also lent technical support to Women of Antigua’s first staging of the Vagina Monologues in 2008. Read my review of This World Spin One Way. Read my ‘review’ of Tangled Web. (some dates still missing + full listing – help fill in dates and other productions if you can)
Sislyn Peters – One of her plays, Trust, was adapted by the City College of New York’s English Department, Division of Humanities & Arts, and performed at the Aaron Davis Hall, in 2001. Peters was born in Antigua and graduated Princess Margaret High School. As a child, she wrote verses, and short stories. As a teenager, she sang with local bands, including Pat Edwards’ Playboys, and Vere Anthony’s Teen Stars. See poetry for her other accomplishments.
Eustace Simon – several plays including Crossroads, The Awakening, Betty’s Hope, and Illusive Dreams. 1990s. Modern Theatre. 2000s. National Theatre Group. Announced launch of a National Theatre channel on CTV in 2012. (dates missing + full listing – help fill in dates and other productions if you can)
Lester Simon – Obeah Slave (taken in 1969 by the Grammarians to Montserrat and Barbados).
Monique S. Simon – The Antigua-born, US-based writer adapted Adynah from a novel-in-progress, which has been illustrated, excerpted and published in Carib Beat, and which won a NY Council on the Arts Award for (First Chapter of a Novel in Progress) and a Cropper Foundation grant. The play was based on one of the book’s character’s Adynah Williams, described as the kind of local cook whose delicacies are sold from her house on weekends and who is first to be called for catering a local event. The story was produced as a three vignette play for Know Theatre in New York in the Fall of 2003. Simon scripted and directed voices of Caribbean people living and working in the area, pre-recorded and editing those voices so that they could provide off stage interaction during the one-woman show. Simon not only wrote, directed, and starred in the play, she designed the set – all while working as a full time professor at Broome Community College in Binghampton, NY.
Elaine Spires – Elaine is from Essex in the UK and in the 2000s, after years of bringing tours to Antigua, also established a seasonal home here. She’s run workshops in Antigua and participated (as writer and actress) in Women of Antigua’s When a Woman Moans. She’s also created content for the stage and screen, some inspired by and set in Antigua. Her Adventures of Maisie and Em (later adapted to film with Spires playing Em and Heather Doram playing Maisie, characters debuted on stage in When a Woman Moans). Her Antigua plays include Singles Holiday, about a group of vacationing Brits, which was adapted in to a novel and then had a third life as a play on the English stage (2014), and Sweet Lady, about a mother and daughter and an island tryst, which was staged in Antigua before also becoming a novel. (missing dates – fill in if you can)
Stage One – This youth drama collective led by Kanika Simpson-Davis favours adaptations (which involves some re-scripting) of popular tales like Cinderella , Snow White, and Anansi and Snake. 2004 – present (?)
Stage One: Anansi and Snake
Stage One: Cinderella Reloaded 2007 Stage One: scene from Cinderella
Leon Chaku Symister – Voices of Protest (1976); and Time Bomb (1977); Tilting Scales (1980). Third World Theatre. According to the World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre, Volume 2, the Americas, Volume 2, it was thought to be too libelous for public airing but played to crowded houses at the University Centre.
Various writers – Women of Antigua – playwrights/actresses/directors Linisa George and Zahra Airallshepherd this femalecentric brand of theatrical activism. The original production When A Woman Moans was staged in 2010 and 2012, and mostly scripted by Airall and George with inputs from Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau, Joanne C. Hillhouse, Floree Williams, Greschen Edwards (another WOA founding partner), Melissa Elliott, Marcella Andre, Carel Hodge, Mickel Brann, Brenda Lee Browne, Craig Edward, Nekisha Lewis, Kimolisa Mings, Elaine Spires, and Jihan Lewis. Women of Antigua debuted with Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues in 2008 and this locally conceived, similarly themed production, was its successor. Both productions over two nights brought the curtain downon WOA’s theatrical activities in 2012.
Vaughn Walter – deceased as of 2019. Culture Director and head of Antigua and Barbuda’s CARIFESTA planning committee. Active in theatre and film, and in staged productions for pageants and festivals through the years. (entry incomplete – if you can help fill it out email email@example.com)
Amber Williams-King – In 2010, Amber Williams-King participated in the AMY (or Artists Mentoring Youth) project, helping to create Step Right Up which received 3/4 stars from Toronto’s NOW magazine. In 2011, she wrote a play: Love and its Dialects which ran in the Paprika Festival at Tarragon Theatre in Canada where she resides. In 2010, she received first-honourable mention in the Scarborough Arts Council’s inaugural Writer’s Month literary competition. Her poetry has been published in the anthology Holla! A Collection of Womenz Wordz and in So the Nailhead Bend, So the Story End.
Zahra Airall – When No One Is Looking (2012, short film, an ABS TV Production in collaboration with the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS) – also co-director.
Howard Allen (also co-producer/director) – (w/Jermilla Kirwan) Diablesse (2005, HAMAfilms); The Skin (2011, HAMAfilms) – reviewed here; and Deep Blue (2023, HAMAfilms).
Alexis Andrews – Vanishing Sail – here’s the trailer. Winner of the Caribbean Spirit Award for Best Overall Feature at the Caribbean Tales awards and People’s Choice for Best Documentary at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival.
Oteh Thomas Anyandjuh (African born, resident in Antigua) – Love that Bites (2010, OTA Entertainment and Third Eye Studios) – also director.
*** Shashi Balooja (also an actor, director, casting director, and producer on stage and screen; from Antigua but resident in the US) – w/Cecile George and Michael Sandoval, film short Ariana (2004, ABC Film & Video/Andrisk Inc/Media at Large, USA); w/Roger Sewhcomar, documentary The Altruist (2009, Media at Large/ABC Film & Video, USA); w/Caytha Jentis Exposed (2012, Media at Large, USA) – winner feature film award and genre award at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival; w/Stephen Kelleher, film short Promises of Home (2012, Media at Large/Reverse Momentum Films, USA). Balooja had plans to extend Ariana into a feature film.
Francoise Bowen conceived and wrote Back to Africa (directed by Anderson Edghill) which she described as a “short documentary (depicting) a little piece of Antigua and Barbuda’s history (specifically that enslaved people thought Africa was nearby). Bowen went on to found the Francoise Acting Studio which, among other things, has run workshops and produced The Story of Four (a video series promoting safe sex).
Centelia Browne – Idle Hands – (A Wadadli Plus production, a short film). Credits say ‘A Film By’ which is usually the director credit and there is no separate screenwriter credit. 2019.
Courtney Boyd – The Grove – (A Wadadli Plus production with C-BEN Pictures, a Nut Grove Production – web series pilot written and directed by Boyd who also directed other Wadadli Plus productions such as The Diagnosis) – 2019.
Sadé Clacken Joseph – Ponyboi (2019) is described as the world’s first intersex-made narrative film. It is co-directed by Clacken Joseph and River Gallo, who stars, as their graduation project. Clacken Joseph is from the Bronx, born to Antiguan and Jamaican parents. Sadé, at this writing (2021), is directing Issa Rae’s Rap Shit. Ponyboi can be viewed on Sadé‘s site (click her name). Other director credits include shorts What to Expect (2015), Hats (2017), Finding Phoebe (2019), Samir (2019), and more.
Cinque Productions (Chris Hodge and Melissa Gomez, also producer, director) –Deaf Not Dumb (2000, short fiction film), 2 Dolla Picture
Melissa assessing a shot as her camera man looks on.
(2001, animated short), Share and Share Alike (2008, documentary – 2010 winner of Best Documentary Production at the Berlin Black International Cinema Festival), Changing Course (2009, film short), and Silent Music (2012, documentary) silent-music-poster co-writer/producer/editor Jay Prychidny. Silent Music, a portrait of Gomez’s deaf family won Best Documentary at the 2014 Maine Deaf Film Festival and the 2012 Caribbean Tales Film Festival, as well as the Audience Choice Awards at the 2013 Toronto Deaf Film & Arts Festival. Gomez, resident in the US, also has a project known as the Baby Mini Doc Project which creates day in the life documentaries which capture “every day moments and milestones with your littlest ones”. Melissa has worked on a number of other projects in the US, including co-producing Makers (PBS) and Nine for IX (ESPN), producing behind the scenes content for Hell on Wheels and Low Winter Sun (AMC), and serving as supervising producer on Me on My TV (FLOW). She has worked as a freelance production manager on advertising campaigns for H & M and Malibu Rum. Melissa has a Masters of Arts degree in Screen Documentary from Goldsmiths College, University of London, and a Bachelor of Arts in New Media from Ryerson University in Toronto.
Alvin Glen Edwards – Once in an Island
on the set of ‘Once in an Island’ Jermilla Kirwan in a scene from Once in an Island
(2009, Wadadli Pictures) – also producer. The feature film has since been adapted into a book (released 2012).
Bridgette Hanniford – My Time Now (A Wadadli Plus production, a film short directed by Melissa McLeish, 2020)
Roland ‘Mayfield’ Hosier – He didn’t work from a written script but he’s the pioneer behind Antigua and Barbuda’s earliest forays into (largely improvised) film production producing The Fugitive, 1972, and Midtown Robbers, 1978.
Noel Howell – He was the co-writer (with Courtney Boyd), director and producer of Redemption of Paradise (2009, Color Bars Production) – best actress and best Caribbean film at the 2010 Jamaica Reggae Film Festival; as well as a video producer and independent publisher on projects like Once in an Island (co-producer/co-director). In 2017, he also directed (per IMDB) a film adaptation of The Little Rude Boys/Girls, a child-written book he published in 2010.
D. Gisele Isaac –
The Sweetest Mango (2001, HAMAfilms); and No Seed (2002, HAMAfilms). Antigua and Barbuda’s first and second feature-length films. Isaac also wrote regularly for the stage in the form of the skits included in the annual (in the 2000s) ‘Programme’ put on by the Professional Organization of Women in Antigua and Barbuda; usually a political satire.
Tameka Jarvis-George –
Ugly – short film (2011, Wadadli Film Studios) for which she provided character monologue – 2011
On the set of Dinner, Tameka with her co-star and husband.
Jamaica Kincaid – Life and Debt (a documentary film by Stephanie Mack; written by Jamaica Kincaid). 2001. New Yorker Films. USA.
Shabier Kirchner – a cinematographer cum filmmaker with his short, Dadli (2018).
Jermilla Kirwan – (w/Howard Allen) Diablesse (2005, Hamafilms) – also actress in this and The Sweetest Mango.
Dr. James Knight – The Making of the Monarch – independently produced documentary on the Monarch King Short Shirt. 2013.
Lawson Lewis – Redonda: The Road to Recovery – Environmental Awareness Group executive produced documentary (with various international donor partners). 2022.
Motion (Wendy Brathwaite) –
Coroner (Canadian TV series) – Motion wrote Season 2’s ‘Borders’ in 2020 and Season 3’s ‘Eyes Up’. It earned her a 2022 Canadian Screeen Awards nomination for writing ‘Eyes Up’.
Rebirth of the Afronauts: a Black Space Odyssey (episode 7 of season 2 of Obsidian Theatre’s 21 Black Futures series) – New Year’s Eve 2059, the night before the long-awaited Reparations Day. Chariott receives a mysterious call that leads her on a curious ride through the world outside her bubble – where cities are sky high, curfew is in the streets, and it’s harder to tell hue-mans from the holograms. On this surreal road trip, she tunes into BlackSpaceX, along with a cadre of cryptic guides, finding herself on the astronomical journey of her life. Directed by Jerome Kruin, Performed by Chelsea Russell, with Music by NON. 2021.
Akilla’s Escape – the Antiguan-Canadian poet/writer co-wrote this feature with writer-director Charles Officer stars Saul Williams and explores what happens when a simple, routine drug handoff goes sideway, landing 40-year-old drug trader Akilla Brown in the middle of a violent robbery. Akilla must set things right and retrieve the stolen goods over the course of one arduous night. Akilla’s Escape debuted at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival.
Nadya Raymond – The Diagnosis– (A Wadadli Plus production in association with Wadadli Creatives and C-BEN Pictures, a short film directed by Courtney Boyd). 2019.
Elaine Spires – Elaine is from Essex in the UK and in the 2000s, after years of bringing tours to Antigua, also established a seasonal home here. Her writing credits (Spires is also an actress) include the TV series Paradise View, the Lawson Lewis edited promotional film shorts The Adventures of Maisie and Em – episodes Fix a Flat and Best Friend(Spires playing Em and Heather Doram playing Maisie, characters debuted on stage in When a Woman Moans) –
the vid clips were posted to youtube in 2013. Her novel Singles Holiday was reportedly also made in to a TV pilot.
Chavel Thomas (credited as director; no writer credit is given) – Silence, Screams – short film (2016, Dotkidchavy x Jamzpari)
Nigel Trellis (born Guyana, resident in Antigua)– Hooked (2009, Tropical Films) Working Girl (2011, Tropical Films)
Unknown/Uncredited – The Guest (2020, short film by Wadadli Plus)
Various (Joel Lewis, Noah Yeboah, Destiny Simon, Delicia Howell, Shenika Bentick, Sheneilla Somerset: members of the Antigua and Barbuda Film Academy) – Don’t hit me Pickney (2022, short film, producer Dr. Noel Howell)
Keron ‘K-Wiz’ Wilson (credited as director; no writer credit is given) – The Date – short film (2013, Black Roots Records); Mechanic – short film (2013, Black Roots Records); Stationary – short film (2013, Black Roots Records)
As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you excerpt, please credit the source. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.
What I try to do with Wadadli Pen, Veronica Yearwood has been doing for much longer (21 years) and likely to much greater effect with the Antigua Dance Academy. That is giving young people an opportunity to express themselves using as a vehicle the artistic discipline they love; helping them to grow into their skills within that discipline; in some small way, through this platform, helping to nurture them into adulthood; communicating to them the power they have, and the power of the creative arts, to transfom the world. Yearwood’s genre of emphasis though not exclusion is the Afro folk Caribbean music (dance, drumming, singing, oral) tradition. With every performance she reminds us of a tradition that has been creolized through its contact first with European and Amerindian and subsequently other cultures but which has its roots in Africa. Below are scenes from the ADA festival Out of the Drum. They’re really blurry images. But hopefuly they’ll motivate you to check out these crisper ones taken by veteran Antiguan and Barbudan photographer Thaddeus Price.
And if you’re thinking to yourself, what’s a dance post doing on a literary blog…well, it’s just another form of storytelling, ent it?
Cue Kenny Rogers’ Through the Years…as we launch the 5th installment of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize (2004 – 2006, 2010 – present), let’s take a look back at moments from the programme’s six year run.
Verdanci Benta wowed the judges with her mature and accomplished entry, Shirley’s New Roommate. The then Golden Grove Primary School student won the ‘best under 12’ category and a spot in the top three overall; a reminder that it’s not about age, it’s about talent. Verdanci would show up in each subsequent competition, earning some form of recognition…most of the time.
Note the BWIA banner in the background? I have to give it up to corporate Antigua for stepping up to support, a new programme they knew little about. That year’s award ceremony was held at Heritage Hotel and a number of them showed up…so of course we had to get a group shot with Culture and Education officials, winners and/or their parents, and sponsor representatives (author S. E. James, front row left, Anicol and Caribbean Star, front row right).
As I look at the pic, I’m reminded how much I loved the stories that first year like, from far left standing, Siena Hunte’s Nuclear Familiy Explosion, Liscia Lawrence’s The Day I saw Evil, Gemma George’s Stray Dog Prepares for the Storm (the winning entry), Lia Nicholson’s Tekin Ahn Day (that’s her mom in the picture), and Damani Tabor’s Irate Beggar. The prizes that first year were well deserved. Here’s Gemma collecting her computer from Gerard Shoul of Comnett:
For all the times I’ve wished I could pursue programmes under Wadadli Pen as a full time paying job, it remains a volunteer gig. But in 2005, it felt like a full time job. There were writing workshops with the kids…
There was prize solicitation…here I am pictured with Paula Lee of Cable and Wireless at a media handover of their 2005 contribution:
There were in-school writing workshops like this one at Buckley’s Primary (which that year submitted the most entries):
There was media promotion, winner recordings, web site development, judging, and, of course, the prize giving ceremony (all of which required a lot of back ground prep from the partners which, at the time, included Young Explorer, D. Gisele Isaac, and Alstyne Allen). It cut into work time, to be sure, but paid off in other ways as this was our best year yet in terms of participation.
The kids were beaming; the Youth Minister stopped by, Heather Doram, the then Culture Director, dropped some wisdom…
and later that year, three of the kids (Rilys Adams, Sarah Ann Li, and Sandrena Martin) won literary awards recognition from the Optimists. All in all, a good year.
We started not with the actual awards but with a joint literary showcase and fundraiser (Word Up!) with the Musuem of Antigua and Barbuda which attracted support from new and established writers (including Wadadli Pen finalists like Sandrena ; and which, as this Jermilla Kirwan image by Laura Hall shows, was highly entertaining .
The Museum (thanks, as always, to Michelle) was once again the venue, later that year, when we staged the Awards ceremony:
Sapped, I shelved Wadadli Pen for a couple of years, but returned …
In 2010 (still pressed for time but even more determined to keep it going) with new partners, an art component, and a theme driven approach (it was part of our Black History Month programme of activities). In that spirit, the awards ceremony was part of a special BHM edition of Word Up (directed by Zahra Airall) which included dancing (Antigua Dance Academy) , drumming (Zucan Bandele and friends), calypso (King Zacari), performance art (Argent), and poetry (Linisa George, ZIA, and Zee’s Youth Theatre channelling various Antiguan writers ).
Wadadli Pen was back…and here to stay (2011 launched just this week!), whatever it takes.