Room for improvement

Entertainment

Room for improvement

Judges call for more attention to writing in local theatre

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

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In 2019 there was an increase in the number of plays which were submitted for adjudication for the Actor Boy Awards (ABA), compared with the previous two years.

A total of 27 plays were submitted to be judged from last year's stock. This is an increase over the 21 productions which were submitted to be judged in 2018 and 2017. However, it still falls below the 32 productions which were judged in 2016.

Of the numbers for the 2019 cycle, there were 18 dramas, 14 comedies, six musicals, five productions aimed at children, one described as a tragedy, and one revue. Some productions covered more than one genre. Eighteen of these plays were new scripts written by Jamaican playwrights.

In delivering the judges report at the awards ceremony which was staged online on Saturday, chief judge Cecile Clayton stated that the signs were generally encouraging for local theatre, but shared that thespians need to pay greater attention to a number of areas when it comes to writing a play to be mounted in local playhouses.

“While the standards of theatre generally remain high, there is room for improvement in the writing — for greater thematic variety – in order to generate productions which are easily transferable among generations. I encourage our playwrights to delve deeper into the rich cultural store of the Jamaican story for material. Also, the line between children's theatre and theatre about children forced into adult situations needs sharper definition,” she told her virtual audience which numbered over 200 on Zoom as well as the Actor Boy Awards' Facebook page.

Among the areas which Clayton noted showed marked improvement over the past year was that of set design.

“Standards of acting, directing, as well as the technical stuff remained gratifyingly high and, in this regard, set design stood out. The late master set designer, Michael Lorde, would've been pleased at the attention being paid to detail in the construction of sets, even with very limited stage space. Sadly, the quality of theatre venues varies widely and we were really sorry to lose one of the better ones — Phoenix Theatre on Haining Road. At the same time, the development of a theatre space at the Edith Dalton High School, as well as the community's support and involvement, are most welcome and augurs well for the future,” she said.

She further pointed to the fact that the vibrant theatre scene in Kingston is unfortunately not reflected in other parts of the country, and looked forward to the revival of Fairfield Theatre in Montego Bay. She further noted that there was no shortage of talent in the second city, and the staging of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar by First Dance Studios of Montego Bay was testament to that.

The panel of adjudicators for the Actor Boy Awards comprises Clayton, Janilee Abrikian, Jeanette Campbell, Melville Cooke, Faith Francis and Joan Belfon, with Dr Michael Bucknor as reserve judge.

This year, Father Richard Ho Lung's production Isaiah was the big winner, taking home a total of seven trophies, followed by Straight Jacket from Jambiz Productions which won in five categories.


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