Tag Archives: theatre

Carib Plus Lit News (late November 2019)

Since I decided to start this news round-up, it’s all I can do to keep up. Sorry for the things I missed. Here’s some news (some not so new anymore).

Death

Antigua and Barbuda mourns the passing of Vaughn Walter Mbe, a cultural actor and longtime Culture Director and former Carnival chair, who passed unexpectedly. Walter, son of the country’s second premier and national hero Sir George Walter, who himself ran for elected office in 1999, was assigned to lead prep for Antigua and Barbuda’s hosting of CARIFESTA 2021, and reportedly collapsed on the job. The self-styled ‘de Vagabond’ (Vagga for short) is, also, remembered in the larger public consciousness as a broadly comedic personality known for catchphrases like “you haffu come man, you haffu come”. He has acted in a number of plays and other stage (e.g. calypso) presentations, plus local films. Walter who was also a certified marriage officer and event (weddings) planner, was set to retire from public service after his stint with CARIFESTA. I couldn’t find a listing of Walter’s performance credits but I will share one from memory. When, in 2007, the Rick James Theatre Ensemble undertook to tell the story of Antigua and Barbuda, Our Country, Walter took on the role of the man referred to as the Father of the Nation. Incidentally, this man Sir V. C. Bird Sr. was also his father’s greatest political rival (and vice versa) during the pitched battles of the late 1960s to late 1970s  – arguably the most contentious time in modern Antiguan-Barbudan politics. The accuracy and authenticity he brought to the moment of delivering one of Bird’s rallying speeches was one of the highlights of the play.

Appointment

On the heels of an adversarial Carnival season, in which the Eastern Caribbean Collective Organization (ECCO) was at loggerheads with local event promoters over artist royalties, the copyright management organization has designated an Antigua-Barbuda director in the person of Vaughan Skerritt. Skerritt works in the industry as copy writer and producer,  and was a member of Antigua and Barbuda’s premier hip hop group back in the day – Da Rock 1761.

Awardees

The Antigua and Barbuda Independence honours list included two members of the arts community, musical arranger Jagger Martin and songwriter Rupert ‘Littleman’ Pelle, as well as educators Dr. Edris Bird, first and former resident tutor of the UWI Open Campus, and Glendina Jacobs, among others. Congratulations to them all.

Marlon James, Jamaican and former Booker prize winner, was a finalist for the National Book Awards in the US where he lives, thanks to his latest epic novel Black Leopard Red Wolf.

Congrats due as well to Dionne Brand, winner of the 2019 Toronto Book Award (and $10,000 CDN) for Theory. The awards are now in their 45th year and are intended to honour books of literary merit that are evocative of Toronto. Brand is originally from Trinidad and Tobago.

Jamaican writer Olive Senior, also Canada-based, won the Matt Cohen at the annual Writers’ Trust Awards in Toronto, celebrating her body of work.


She is pictured here in Antigua (with local author/Wadadli Pen founder-coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse -i.e. me) after attending the Alliougana book fest in Montserrat. We go back to 1995 when, as I have related more than once, I did my first writing workshop at the University of Miami, the Caribbean Fiction Writers Summer Institute, which Olive facilitated. It was during that workshop that I began work on my first book The Boy from Willow Bend. Senior was by then already a Commonwealth award winning writer for her book 1989’s Arrival of the Snake-Woman and Other Stories.

Finally, shout out to the Antigua and Barbuda delegation to the Caribbean Secondary Schools’ Drama Festival. They cleaned up, returning home with awards for production, original script (historical drama, The Long Walk by Zahra Airall), directing (Airall), set design, sound, lighting, actress (Khadelia Williams), and best overall contingent. Her production The Forgotten previously won the main prize at the CSSDF in 2015. Without missing a beat Airall is planning at this writing a staging of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues which she originally brought to Antigua and Barbuda as part of Women of Antigua in 2008.

Repping Books

Antigua and Barbuda’s Best of Books bookstore, a Wadadli Pen patron and partner, won representative of the year from UK publisher Collins alongside Jamaica and Belize.

 

Young Composers

Antiguan and Barbudan Brianna Georges, 16, was a finalist for the Commonwealth International Composition Award. Georges is a former member of the prize winning Antigua Girls High School pan orchestra. The Antigua State College student reportedly wants to be both a forensic scientist and professional musician. Khadijah Simon is also a finalist, also from Wadadli. She is still a student at AGHS, where she serves as the choir’s pianist and as a musician at the Spring Gardens Moravian Church. Another Antiguan and Barbudan Erienne Peters, also had a highly recommended entry. The Composition Award’s stated purpose is to promote composition around the world and give young composers the skills they’ll need to further their careers. This is its first year.

Film Arts Awards (Local)

Did you know that Antigua and Barbuda had two film festivals this Independence season? Well, it did. I’m sorry to have missed both (the Motion Picture Association of Antigua and Barbuda’s International Film Festival back after a hiatus, the last one was held in 2012, and the first time Wadadli Short Film Festival led by off-island folks with Antiguan-Barbudan roots) – as not only a film lover but as someone who served as associate producer on Antigua and Barbuda’s first feature length film (The Sweetest Mango) and production manager on its second (No Seed), both written by D. Gisele Isaac, and as a writer and arts advocate. Especially though as someone who likes to see the arts thrive and the work of our artists and art producers celebrated. So congrats to the women in film recognized by the MPAA’s festival – Heather Doram, artist and former Culture Director, who cameod in The Sweetest Mango, starred in No Seed, and who has featured in a number of local productions on stage (Sweet Lady, When a Woman Moans), on TV (Paradise View, Keeping it Real), and on film (Maisie and Em film shorts) among other activities since the early 2000s; Julie Hewlett who has appeared in a number of UK TV series (e.g. East Enders and Turks and Caicos per her IMDB) and who was among the main supporting cast of The Sweetest Mango and is forthcoming in HAMA’s Deep Blue, in addition to teaching and facilitating workshops; and Mitzi Allen, a TV and radio producer, also independent producer of Antigua and Barbuda’s main feature films and TV shows (movies The Sweetest Mango, No Seed, Diablesse, The Skin, TV series Paradise View, and any number of commercial productions, and informational or edutainment programmes e.g. Pet Playhouse, Let’s Talk) as co-founder and co-director of HAMA. Also recognized, Sandie de Freitas who is Canada-based (not sure there’s a direct Antigua-Barbuda connection, the article cited was light on information, but she is festival director and founder for Commffest community film festival in Toronto). The Wadadli Short Film Festival is Antigua-Barbuda based but counts the wider Eastern Caribbean/Caribbean community as its constituency, and UK-based personnel as its principals, and its inaugural awards reflected that with best film going to London-based director Jordan Pitt’s Coffee, best OECS film going to French filmmaker Alain Bidard’s The Flight , and best music video going to Hard Knaxx’s Life in Paradise. See the full list of finalists and short list from 130 submissions. Speaking of Antiguans and Barbudans in film, the Peter Pan inspired Wendy, by critically-acclaimed Beast of the Southern Wilds’ director Benh Zeitlin includes local locations and children (notably Yashwa Mack).

 

Antiguan and Barbudan author  included in the line-up for the Sharjah International Book Fair

More here. And here.

New Books

Not all the new books – just the ones that came across my attention to this writing – including The A to Z of Caribbean Art which is due in early December (no Antiguan-Barbudan artists that I could see); Una Marson by Lisa Tomlinson (fifth in the University of the West Indies press Caribbean Biography series, spotlighting the Jamaican poet, dramatist, broadcaster, and advocate and curator of Caribbean literary arts – Media Release_Una Marson); the latest historical novel by ex-pat writer Apple Gibley’s US Virgin Islands historical novels (Transfer, which just came in the mail along with her earlier work Fireburn, courtesy of the author for review – hopefully I can finish reading them quickly enough to donate them to the Wadadli Pen challenge prize package); a memoir and/or biography by  Antigua and Barbuda’s former PM Sir Lester Bird (The Comeback Kid); US-based Jamaican writer and Howard University professor Curdella Forbes (A Tall History of Sugar); several social studies text and workbooks by local educator Anthea S. Thomas who wrote them initially to fill a material gap in her classroom and landed a publishing deal; and a new anthology, Winning Words, out of Barbados spotlighting winning pieces from the National Independence Festival Creative Arts writing competition.

Finally, on December 1st 2019, Haitian American writer M. J. Fievre drops her latest book – ‘Happy, Okay?’. The Florida-based writer’s book is sub-titled “Poems about Anxiety, Depression, Hope, Survival”. A recent press release described it as “an exhilarating exploration of depression, anxiety, grief, and loss”. It is, according to the release, meant for people living with mental illness and those closest to them. Edwidge Dandicat, another famed Haitian-American writer endorsed the book: “‘Happy, Okay?’ is a beautifully written meditation filled with poignant and lyrical meditations of the joys, pains, and complications of life and the daily struggle to survive, create, and love.” Here’s the press release in full: Fievre_Press Kit

Speaking of books

Sandals knows what’s up. Books makes good gifts. I do hope some Caribbean and Antiguan and Barbudan books are in the mix.

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 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.

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Rick James obit. (Links)

‘Reflecting on his breakthroughs, James once told me in an interview, “I was able to demonstrate that someone from a small country could compete with the best.”’

This is an excerpt from my most recent CREATIVE SPACE entitled Theatre on the Road and on the Stage: Rick James which is also syndicated at Antiguanice.com – which allows the post to reach potentially tens and tens of thousands and more (Ad! alert! Ad! alert! so for businesses in Antigua and Barbuda this series is an opportunity to boost your brand while boosting local art and culture. Email me at jhohadli at gmail dot com to find out how).

The post speaks about his acting career and his career in mas – his efforts on both fronts to elevate and keep both arts alive here at home after conquering the stage and TV overseas. Here’s one of his old headshots.

RickJames.jpg

You might also be interested in this piece and this one from the Daily Observer newspaper.

RIP to another of our artists.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure; also a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and workshop facilitator). If you like the content here follow or recommend the blog, also, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. Thank you.

 

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Backstabbings and Bible Thumpings

A review of Colin Jno Finn’s Power Struggle written a few years ago, not sure I ever posted it; so now I am.

By Joanne C. Hillhouse
Colin Jno Finn’s plays take institutions like the church (Power Struggle), the work place (Nine to Five), and the home/family (It’s Too Late) and unmasks them to reveal what he presumably believes to be their true nature – a nature inconsistent with all they pretend (or are designed) to be. Power Struggle, set in the back rooms of church life, is his latest.

In it, we have the story of a popular preacher and the efforts of one vocal church board member to, initially, remove him from his perch, and, when that plan seems doomed to fail, manipulate him to her purpose.
Power Struggle begins with a surrealistic sequence involving dancers that move like ghosts and someone in the throes of a nightmare. How this prologue connects to the central action is never quite clear to me, but it’s certainly an attention grabbing beginning.

The main action begins where most of the action is set, in the place where the church board meets. Right away, it becomes clear that while the church may be about God’s business, the council room stinks of bitchiness – “this woman is always late and always ready to go home early” – and passive aggressive (sometimes outwardly aggressive) antagonistic behavior. The chief antagonist, Sister De Castro enters singing, her self-righteous tone only part of the arsenal in her vocal armory.

Sister De Castro, villain of the piece though she is, delivers one of the more effective performances; the actress inhabiting the role with gleeful venom. And the ebb and flow of the meeting has a realistic rhythm to it. In fact, my only beef with this scene – which establishes well who the players are, what they want, and where their loyalties lie – is the shrill delivery of the actress, revealed to be the church treasurer, who most directly challenges Sister De Castro and the fact that that exchange goes on a bit longer than necessary. It’s ironic though when this same actress later in the play accuses Sister De Castro of “overdramatizing” everything, since it feels like that’s what she does with her loud but not deep performance throughout.

We meet the preacher shortly and he’s a pretty boy, easy enough to see why the women in the congregation are so in his thrall, and why his secretary, also secretary on the board, is practically in heat in his presence. She tips him to the danger he – or at least his job – is in; shifting, as she does so, from flirty to gossipy to aggressive to aggressively sexual in tone and delivery. The preacher is seemingly clueless and dismissive at first then, flip the switch, and he’s a petulant kid in the throes of a temper tantrum. To put it another way, his foot stamping, hand slicing reaction to the news could have been better.

The board chairman’s vote against the preacher in the earlier scene was a bit of a surprise, but it’s no surprise by now that interwoven lives, mixed up loyalties and hidden agendas are the meat of this play. A fact reinforced in the following scene which dwells, a bit more than necessary in my view, on the secretary’s relationship with Sister De Castro, and her divided loyalties as a result. The plot thickens. Except that that particular plot thread is just kind of left hanging.

Let me touch on plotting and pacing for a bit. There are plot points that don’t quite add up, for me, as the play advances, but the early scenes do a good job of establishing the world of the play – establishing character, creating intrigue and tension, moving the story forward.  And I think on paper the play is nicely paced. In execution, the pacing – and mood shifts – are somewhat hurt by the lack of efficiency and precision with respect to the back of stage activity; costume changes, lighting, sound, props. Props though to the set design, a simple split down the middle, separating office and meeting room, that should have allowed the action to move more seamlessly than it did. Another production note, there’re musical asides in the play for entertainment and mood enhancing value. The church re-enactment scene complete with dancers, singing, and over the top preaching work; the scene with the secretary belting out Whitney Houston’s I Look To You would have worked better in my view with an original song more specific to the context. Or should have been cut altogether.

The extended attention given to the secretary in that scene, and the shifting points of view in the play in general make it difficult sometimes to know with whom to ally. The collective dislike of Sister De Castro makes her the obvious villain, though everything is, frankly, always a bit livelier with her around; and among the shrill, jellyfish-ish, fork tongued lot, one would be hard pressed to find a hero, or even a likeable character. The writer does attempt character insight when he breaks the forth wall for one of the play’s more interesting sequences – a series of monologues as the warring board members and preacher, in tableau, serve as backdrop. This means a second (unconvincing) dose of the secretary’s inner life that might have been substituted for a bit of insight on the Preacher; I mean, even the member with his pants pulled up like Tyler Perry’s Mr. Brown who spends meetings reading the paper gets his moment. Knowing more about where the Preacher’s head was at might have helped me sympathize a bit more with his predicament.
The Preacher does come alive during that song-and-dance church session referenced earlier. It was entertaining, the preacher shucking and jiving, and letting his Jamaican accent out – “I’m ready and I’m hable” – and hitting us with the hyberbole –  “a vote for me will secure a spot in heaven” – to comic effect. I like that the humor feels like a natural extension of the action and not an unnecessary diversion for the easy laugh.

The good reverend says something that echo my sentiments during the last scene where Sister De Castro, having won him the re-election, moves in for the kill: “I guess I’m just trying to process everything around here”. I found myself at the end still trying to untangle some of this thought provoking and unrestrained testimony of church life. Overall I thought it was entertaining; I thought the writer was focused in his story telling and paced the story well but could have paid a bit more attention to characterization – though I’m not sure if this is a problem of scripting, directing or quality of actors. Plotting, as I mentioned, was strong in parts, weaker in others; but the unblinking assessment of church life earns the writer/director points for, well, going there. That’s my honest assessment, though I would add that I’m thrilled at this writer/director’s continued growth, openness to constructive feedback, and commitment to the development of his craft; it bodes well for the future of theatre in Antigua and Barbuda.

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, Musical Youth, Fish Outta Water, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, 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.

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Tangled Web: Reaction

12079260_1640284422886771_1336085717523998673_nI saw Tangled Web last night. What I’m attempting here is not a review (though I believe that works of art benefit from critical assessment) but a reaction. A review would require note taking, probably a second viewing, certain tools in terms of how theatre works and should work beyond what I possess. So I come to this merely as a viewer with a fair-to-strong literary background, and full disclosure that I’ve worked with both key players involved in this production Dorbrene O’Marde (the original writer and director of both the original, I believe, and the revival) and Zahra Airall (co-producer and one of the stars of the revival, and a descendent of some of the original players; reportedly, her parents met and fell in love during their Harambee days).

So, where does that leave us?

Well, a synopsis is in order, I suppose.

Tangled Web was originally staged by Harambee in 1979 and drew on real world political turmoil in our little Wadadli as the backdrop for what is at once a domestic, political, and philosophical drama. Domestic in the sense that, with the exception of a restaurant scene, it never moves physically beyond the home of the main characters and the larger world issues mangling their country plays out in their lives within that space. Political in that it ropes in to that domestic drama the disillusionment born of elected leaders and public servants not living up to their promise to the people, the disaffected falling to crime, destroying the youth of the country in the process, the teachers’ strike making headlines at the time, or maybe just in its immediate rear view, the way partisanship can destroy familes, the politics and economics of healthcare, and so on. In the play, forgive me for not remembering the characters’ names, we first meet a young engaged couple with nothing but love in their eyes, flirtation in their hearts, and no bigger concern than their pending wedding. There is no family turmoil to see here; the nuptials even have the blessing of the family patriarch, a man so noble he rejects his oldest friend’s tempting efforts to lure him into a quick money haul just by looking the other way as a drug deal goes through – rejects in spite of the play establishing quickly, by virtue of his roonkachook car, that he could use the money. Then the unseen matriarch of the family takes sick and quickly dies, the disillusioned patriarch turns drug don and quickly moves on to a new moll, his daughter and her friends, young teachers, lose their innocence as the government brings down the hammer on all dissent, and before long everyone is compromised, including the daughter who must make the uneasy decision to turn her father in to the authorities.

Tangled Web, the title, suggests that this is a morality play (“what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”), and certainly it raises deep philosophical questions re the nature of corruption. Who is more corrupt, the young police following the orders of the higher ups, the politicians who have forgotten their contract with the people, the sycophants who treat them like gods, the little man who realizes that when you’re an ant in a land of gods you can’t win and so you might as well, to parrot a King Obstinate calypso, “get what you can, get what you can, get”?

It had me thinking of how we judge the headline making machinations of the powerful rarely stopping to consider our role, small though it may be, in the corrupt process – the small ways so many work the system because they’re convinced the system doesn’t work and they must live. I mean, it’s not the same, right? But is the play right that you’re either guilty or not, that there are not degrees of guilt, just as, as the patriarch points out there are not degrees of pregnancy, you’re either pregnant or you’re not. It’s debatable…after all at nine months you’re all the way pregnant in a way that you’re not at one month, when other options are still available to you. It’s a discussion worth having though, if we are to move beyond the cess pool of corruption, and yet one we’ll probably never have – not if it requires proper self-examination.

I mean, how else to make sense of the fact that more than 30 years after its original staging – like the pointed lyrics of a Shelly Tobitt-Short Shirt calypso – the play remains alarming relevant as if to say, look at yourselves, how have you advanced? Are we still not concerned about political corruption and police overreach, are we still not torn apart by partisanship at the expense of nationhood, has the drug problem not gotten worse instead of better, are people not still dying for lack of resources, are teachers not still at loggerheads with government over the VERY SAME ISSUES expounded in the play (so much so that when the activist character played by Airall bloodied but not beaten lays out the state of affairs and rallies for freedom of thought, expression, and assembly, the ripples of resonance moved like a wave through the crowd, and it was a crowd, relatively speaking, spilling from under the tent at the University Centre) …what have we learned in the generation of more since the heyday of Harambee.

Makes you think.

And maybe that’s why they decided to do it now, not an adaption, not an update, but the original as is, as if as an indictment.

Does it hold up in other ways? That was my other musing on leaving.

Not entirely.

The loud ringing of the rotary phone was jarring. The way gender roles were allocated – the daughter always serving everyone, for instance – felt dated. But then perhaps our gender politics have not advanced much beyond the 1970s, after all, when during a tiff between the young lovers an audience member (a female audience member) was overheard (hopefully jokingly) to say to the man “put down you foot!” we have to wonder how far we’ve come.

On that point, the most troubling marriage in the whole thing was the just-back-from-their honeymoon other couple – he an up and coming establishment type while his wife quickly turned to activism. It bothered me, I’m not going to lie, when he didn’t go to pay her bail because politics (seriously?) and when when she came in looking like she’d barely made it through a war he was still so up in his feelings, he couldn’t kindle a bit of concern for her state (was that realistic?)… then again battered as she was and, so they said, tranquilized, and she was still allowed to leave the house to get home (though we didn’t see her call a taxi and know there wasn’t any cell phone for her to do so off screen in those days) …never mind that a heavily pained and again, tranquilized woman was allowed to leave to spend the night on her own at all… remember her husband was off to the club… suspension of disbelief… or maybe for some it happened just like that… in which case…rough.

But, okay, to sum up… I think the best performances were given by the man playing the father… his monologue after being turned down by the politician and chief medical officer, and the scene where he takes the reins from his friend in crime were stand out moments for him… and Zahra…though initially I felt she was too much in a sea of relatively sedate performances, in time that spirit caught up with the moment as referenced earlier.

I got restless and distracted at times which suggests to me that for me at least the running time could have done with some trimming, and the story with some tightening. There were moments listening to the dialogue where it felt like something a writer might write, and write well and with purpose, but not like something people might actually say, which is to say that the conversational tone was sometimes sacrificed to the and-the-point-is (didacticism over artistry).

But you know what, those critiques aside, it was a good night for a number of reasons. On a personal note, for those of us who know of Harambee and theatre’s hey day in the abstract moreso than in reality, it was a nice call back to what had been, and twinning with a descendent of that legacy in bringing it back to the stage for a two-night engagement, a positive sign of what may yet be. An odd moment of resonance with that time for me was when the plane (LIAT, is that you?) flew over head reminding me of the atmosphere I’d read about long long ago, and when the audience started shouting back to the characters on the stage – players in the drama unfolding before them – a reminder of of all places, the days of old Deluxe movie theatre, the only theatre most of us grew up with, with its sticky floor and audience interacting with the screen before we became too sophisticated for such things, I guess. That is to say that there was about it, a sense of there-ness, a sense of community. And speaking of community, pat yourself on the back for coming out to support in your numbers, because, hello, who says theatre is dead.

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!, Fish Outta Water, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. Seriously, a lot of time, energy, love and frustration goes in to researching and creating content for this site; please don’t just take it up just so without even a please, thank you or an ah-fu-she-subben (credit). If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, 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.

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Theatre Revival?

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For more of what’s happening right now in the local arts community, go here and here.

For more on the A & B theatre tradition, go here.

 

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Christmas with a Difference – Go M.A.D.

Just popping in to share this invite from Kanika Simpson Davis who has been creating theatre for young people under the banner of Stage One for many years.

Here are the details of the “Go M.A.D. Entertainment , “Stage 1 Drama” fundraiser on Friday, 19th December. The aim is to help raise funds to cover the production costs for our next performance of “How the Anansi Stories Got Their Name” in Black History Month, February next year.

Go to the “GoMADEntertainment” Facebook Page for more information.

JOIN US FOR AN EVENING OF FUN, MUSIC, DANCING & GAMES!

Remember games like “Charades” and “Who Am I?” Test your general knowledge of history, music, and culture! Play Musical Chairs!!

I hope that you will be able to join us and support the fundraising. It would be great to see you! Note the date in your diary/phone!

 

DATE: Friday 19th December, 2014

TIME: 7 pm.

VENUE: Nurses’ Association Building

Queen Elizabeth Highway

TICKETS: Adults = $15: Students = $10

Children 11 and under = $5

Light refreshments on sale.

Tickets available in advance or at the door.

 

It will be a very different Friday!

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This World Spin One Way

spin

ONE NIGHT ONLY

DEAN LAKE CULTURAL CENTRE Thursday November 13th 2014

Time: 8.00pm Admission EC$50 – Adults (17+) only

The play is about very intimate human relations, disappointments – finding oneself. It is about the choices people make in life. I am interested in the discussions after people see the play. It will make everyone reflect on their life.

Jean Small—UWI School of Drama/Director

UPDATED TO ADD:

TIM HECTOR called ‘THIS WORLD SPIN ONE WAY’ Dorbrene O’Marde’s best written play, and probably the best play written by an Antiguan….

The Daily News in St. Thomas claimed that the play was really good. Everyone should go. It was a combination of funny and sad. A must see!

Jean Small of the University of the West Indies School of Drama who directed the St. Thomas version, described the play as being ‘about very intimate human relations, disappointments – finding oneself…..it is about the choices people make in life. I am interested in the discussions after people see the play. It will make everyone reflect on their life.

The Dominica Online Review says that ‘while there was considerable sexual overtone in the play, i found it subtle and well-suited to the universal themes of the ups and downs of love affairs, as well as betrayal, misunderstandings and nostalgia about past relationships. The two main characters created plentiful tension that kept the audience hanging on to their every word, wondering how it would all turn out. They made sparks fly’

Drama critic Barbara Twine Thomas wrote that ‘THIS WORLD SPIN ONE WAY’ is ‘a wonderful source of entertainment that laudably raises important issues from the Caribbean perspective’. She suggests that ‘O’Marde writes to validate the unique aspects of social behaviour in the Caribbean including not only intimate relationships but also the exercise of authority.’

David Edgecombe – who produced the first version of this play and directed the second – describes the play as exploring complex relationships between men and women that permeate life in our islands. It is thought provoking….you’ll find yourself flashing-back to O’Marde’s drama in days to come’. 

Dorrett Phipps/Night Crawler’There were some very powerful scenes in this play….the audience ate them up. The artists’ creative juices blend in a most delightful, funny and provocative play. It will surely prompt discussions among those who were fortunate enough to see it during its short run here’.

ONE NIGHT ONLY – DEAN WILLIAM LAKE CULTURAL CENTRE – THURSDAY NOVEMBER 13TH 8.00PM (Tickets 464-6377 / 774-8682 / 464-5623 / 779-6301 /721–1903 / 786-2500)

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Playwrights and Screenwriters (the Antigua-Barbuda connection)

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.

This list has several sources (cited as much as possible), including: Windies_drama_bibliography_master_Aug_2013

PLAYWRIGHTS

(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).

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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)

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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.34866707_10216231041392992_5275010203664777216_n51570598_2280465188855414_7601810432784859136_n 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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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)

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David Edgecombe – 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.

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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)

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Lonne ElderCeremonies in Dark Old Men (1971) – performed by the Open Air Theatre.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. April 10 2006 Daily Observer(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.

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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

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George ‘Rick’ Jamesdeceased 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.

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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.

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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.

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Edgar O. LakeSome 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)

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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.

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Motion (Wendy Brathwaite) – Canadian of Antiguan descent, Motion’s stage productions (as writer, director, performer, or any mix of the three) include  Aneemah’s Spot/The Base, 4our Woman, ORALTORIO: A Theatrical Mixtape, and Dancing to a White Boy Song   featured at several renowned venues such as the International Black Playwrights Festival, Cross Currents Festival,  the Rock.Paper.Sistaz Festival, and the Summerworks Theatre Festival.

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Andrew O’MardeO Lord, Why Lord? and Tell It Like It Is with Harambee Open Air Theatre.

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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 BunFor 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)

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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.

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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)

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Lester SimonObeah Slave (taken in 1969 by the Grammarians to Montserrat and Barbados).

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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.

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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)

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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

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Leon Chaku SymisterVoices 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.

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Various writers – Women of Antigua – playwrights/actresses/directors Linisa George and Zahra Airall shepherd 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 down on WOA’s theatrical activities in 2012.

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Vaughn Walterdeceased 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 wadadlipen@gmail.com)

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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.

SCREENWRITERS

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.

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Howard Allen (also producer/director) – (w/Jermilla Kirwan) Diablesse (2005, HAMAfilms); and The Skin (2011, HAMAfilms) – reviewed here.

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Alexis AndrewsVanishing 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.

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Oteh Thomas Anyandjuh (African born, resident in Antigua) – Love that Bites (2010,  OTA Entertainment and Third Eye Studios) – also director.

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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.

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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).

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Centelia BrowneIdle 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.

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Courtney BoydThe 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.

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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[1] 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.

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Alvin Glen EdwardsOnce 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).

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Bridgette HannifordMy Time Now (A Wadadli Plus production, a film short directed by Melissa McLeish, 2020)

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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.

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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.

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D. Gisele Isaac

  MANGO-Poster-800x400 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.

POWA’s Programme

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Tameka Jarvis-George –

Ugly – short film (2011, Wadadli Film Studios) for which she provided character monologue – 2011

Dinner

On the set of Dinner, Tameka with her co-star and husband.

(2010, Cinque Productions w/Chris Hodge directing and Jarvis-George also acting and serving as co-executive producer) – film short versed on her poem of the same name from the collection Thoughts from the Pharcyde. UPDATE Here’s her report on the screening of the film at the Jamaica Film Festival and of her involvement (as a writing contributor) to Shabier Kirchner’s film short, Ugly. ANOTHER UPDATE! The film! courtesy BGR Mag TV:

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Jamaica Kincaid Life and Debt (a documentary film by Stephanie Mack; written by Jamaica Kincaid). 2001. New Yorker Films. USA.

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Shabier Kirchner – a cinematographer cum filmmaker with his short, Dadli (2018).

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Jermilla Kirwan – (w/Howard Allen) Diablesse (2005, Hamafilms) – also actress in this and The Sweetest Mango.

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Dr. James KnightThe Making of the Monarch – independently produced documentary on the Monarch King Short Shirt. 2013.

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Motion (Wendy Brathwaite) –

Rebirth

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.

Screen Shot 2020-09-15 at 2.08.17 PM 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.

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Nadya RaymondThe Diagnosis – (A Wadadli Plus production in association with Wadadli Creatives and C-BEN Pictures, a short film directed by Courtney Boyd). 2019.

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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.

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Chavel Thomas (credited as director; no writer credit is given) – Silence, Screams – short film (2016, Dotkidchavy x Jamzpari)

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Nigel Trellis (born Guyana, resident in Antigua) Hooked (2009, Tropical Films) Working Girl (2011, Tropical Films)

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Unknown/UncreditedThe Guest (2020, short film by Wadadli Plus)

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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 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.

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Random Photo

Who says theatre gets no love?

Theatre in Antigua and Barbuda had long been dormant …but the 2008 staging of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues by Women of Antigua proved that if you make it, they will come.

 

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Clare Hall Secondary School Performing Arts Group

..sharing some images from one of their productions, because this is the kind of arts initiative we like to encourage. Actually, these aren’t images from the production, but promotional images announcing the production, the production being The Choice II which played at the school in 2012.

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