Style Observer

Cocktails with... Coleen Lewis

Sunday, May 06, 2018

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Coleen Lewis has always worn multiple hats. An attorney and law lecturer by profession, the former University Singers and Jamaican Folk Singers member has taken on yet another challenge. She is the creator of the local TV magazine show 5 Minutes to Showtime .

The University of the West Indies and Strathclyde alumna is also a researcher in the areas of Contract Law, Defamation Law, Media Ethics and Law, and Information Technology Telecommunications.

With so much going on, how does she strike a balance? Over drinks at the Mango Tree Bar at Devon House, she shares the deets, plus the connection linking her three worlds.

What is your favourite sip?

I think my favourite sip right now is the Argentinian Catena Malbec.

What do you do for fun?

... a number of things: dining out with friends, playing tennis, going to the theatre, and linking up with my cousins. These are my definite favourites.

A woman of many hats, how do you balance the different styles to ensure none of them falls?

At an early age my mother told me I could pursue all my various and varied interests as long as I found balance. I still have various and varied interests which I enjoy participating in. It just means my days are long and I use all seven days of the week.

What sparked your interest in the arts?

My mother introduced me to the arts by taking me to the theatre when I was quite young. I did guitar, piano, and ballet lessons. My interests grew as I got older and I moved from being in church and school choirs and plays, to the University Singers and the Jamaican Folk Singers, before acting in professional theatre — performing with JMTC, Jambiz, and alongside theatre greats like Trevor Rhone and Leonie Forbes.

Who/what inspires you and why?

My mother inspires me most for her resilience, faith, compassion, selflessness and forgiving heart.

Costumes or robes?

That's a good question. I believe that life has different seasons and I try to enjoy it to the fullest whatever season I'm in.

Do you miss being on the stage, and if you do, what do you miss most?

Yes, I do miss being onstage. I miss the process of getting the script, finding out about the character, going on the journey to becoming that character, and being onstage interacting with my fellow actors. That gives you a certain energy. That... energy you get from being creative and being in a theatrical space is quite special.

How did you first become involved in the production aspect of the industry?

My introduction to theatrical production was working backstage with the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company (JMTC) and being a part of the crew working with Jenny Stephenson to make props. From my experience on stage, and my other involvements in the theatre community, I eventually wrote and produced my own theatrical revue with an all-male cast. It was called Rrrr.

As it relates to TV, Christopher “Johnny” Daley and I first acted together in a JMTC production. I ended up working at JIS Radio. He ended up working at JIS TV. We remained good friends, so when I returned to Jamaica after studying and working overseas as a lawyer for a while, we joined forces and co-created and produced the TV show Comedy Buss.

TV or stage?

I enjoy being onstage! But, strangely enough, I enjoy being backstage — being creative and producing more from behind the scenes.

To date, which award or accomplishment has been most significant?

I think the production that I'm most proud of is Comedy Buss because it was pioneering. There has been none like it since. It unearthed talent and established the careers of people who are now household names locally and internationally such as Rohan Gunter, Keith Shebada Ramsey, Dufton Shepherd, and Leighton Smith.

Which of the three brings you most gratification: producing, educating, or entertaining?

All three involve being creative in one way or another. I treasure being able to pursue all three areas of interests.

How does your working knowledge of the law influence your approach to the work you do in the arts?

I have used my knowledge of and experience in the law to provide advice to my fellow actors and producers in areas of importance, such as the value and protection of their intellectual property rights, setting up and registration of production companies, and general contract law. I have presented on panels and workshops for the theatre industry.

Where do you see 5 Minutes to Showtime in the next five years?

In the next five years I hope that 5 Minutes to Showtime will be known locally and internationally for showcasing the special and outstanding creative talent and theatrical productions of Jamaica.

If you could go back to any stage of your life and fix any one thing, what would it be?

I would tell my teenage self that it's okay to have various and varied creative and academic interests. I think it's great to see persons now being able to explore and exploit all their talents and interests, and excelling in all.

Where would your dream home be and why?

My dream home would be anywhere overlooking the sea with access to the beach, because I think it has therapeutic qualities, healing attributes. I always feel revitalised when I go to the beach and when I see the sea.

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