Is the theatre under-played?

Monday, January 06, 2014    

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THE role theatre can play in a developing economy has to be further examined as we seek creative ways to stimulate growth. The creative economy/industry is definitely one which the Jamaican institution should pay keener attention to as it heads towards the 2030 vision of being the place where people want to do business, grow their children, and lead a healthy and wholesome life.

Theatre pretty much defines the people, places, food, and so many other things in a community. Therefore, effort should be made to support the narratives by providing some of the following:

* Appropriate spaces for the theatre

* Appropriate education and academic programmes to support the diversity of the theatre and its accompanying careers, jobs and linkage systems

* An agency which create value-added to the local theatre for export

* The incentive to create additional elements of the theatre into books, films and other masterpieces

Theatre connects people in so many ways. It empowers a community and creates a foundation for a definitive sense of place. It attracts new and emerging audiences, even visitors from other countries. Theatre also builds the value of a community through use of its language and its perspectives on life and contributes to the development of a skilled workforce.

I want to make the case for theatre under the cliché of "art imitating life", where the authentic story comes out in creative stories through the stage which parades music, acting, food, and fashion. Jamaica is a hotbed of creative stories, and more and more the efforts to formalise the creative industry should be seen as a priority.

Research has shown that the creative industries are one economy of growth across the board, irrespective of the economic variables at work. The United Nations Special Economy Report for 2013 reveals:

The creative economy is one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy and a highly transformative one in terms of income generation, job creation and export earnings. But this is not all there is to it. Unlocking the potential of the creative economy also means promoting the overall creativity of societies, affirming the distinctive identity of the places where it flourishes and clusters, improving the quality of life there, enhancing local image and prestige, and strengthening the resources for the imagining of diverse new futures.

The evidence provided demonstrates how the cultural and creative industries are at the core of local creative economies in the global South and how they forge "new development pathways that encourage creativity and innovation in the pursuit of inclusive, equitable and sustainable growth and development" that the UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda exhorts the international community to take.

Read more here:

The report does not distinguish economies, but it does speak to the planning, building of capacity and the 'creative' use of resources to reinforce messages. It points to the international debates which they suggest will go on for a very long time.

Jamaican theatre has the elements for its own industry and a road map should be prepared to look at a more sustainable plan to make it viable for the major stakeholders, while forging a relationship with corporate entities to re-engage consumers.

A better physical space must be a priority. The Ward Theatre languishes in the downtown area of Kingston. The 101-year-old facility has way too much history not to be preserved. There are so many benefits to having that facility restored. And, it has the potential to be not just a place where audiences are thrilled by superior acting, but also may be utilised as a major attraction for both tourists and locals. Catch up on the history here:

The 2013/2014 theatre season looks great by the many shows which opened in the last week. While that, by itself, is commendable, there is one thing wrong about that, there is not one space where all that information is available -- each production has to be promoting its own. Maybe there is an opportunity for a marketing firm to get behind theatre productions. It is an opportunity after all.

Tom Stoppard is quoted as saying: "We do on stage things that are supposed to happen off; which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else."

Carole Beckford is president of The Business of Sport and special assistant to the West Indies Cricket Board president.






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