2nd dose

Jamaica Women in Theatre Festival prepares for year two

Observer senior reporter

Sunday, March 18, 2018

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Having been flooded with questions from women regarding how to enter, develop and sustain a career in the world of theatre, actress, producer and director Dahlia Harris decided to create the Jamaica Women in Theatre Festival.

This year's staging, set for March 19–25 at the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts, continues the celebration of women's contributions to storytelling, artistic advancement and creative innovation on the local stage, and Harris and her team are eager to follow up on the successes of last year's inaugural event.

“I don't have all the answers to give all the persons who stop me in the streets asking: 'How do I get into theatre?', 'What do I need to do to expand my talents?' Plus I just wanted to showcase the role of women in Jamaican theatre and create a forum to foster development,” said Harris.

“Last year's event showed us just how many talented women work in the local theatre space. For example, Maya Wilkinson gave us an early reading of her play Heist and this year she has 12 Actor Boy Award nominations. There was also Makeda Solomon who performed the one-woman production Who Will Sing For Lena, and coming out of the festival she had the opportunity to perform in Dubai, so we are seeing results,” she added.

Last year the festival focussed on the technical elements of theatre, and this year scriptwriting takes centre stage. Participants will be introduced to the elements required to write narratives about women and how to create interesting and engaging characters.

Harris also noted that this year the festival will honour Patricia Cumper, Lois Kelly-Miller and Sistren Theatre Collective.

On March 19 the programme will focus on women as actors through five pieces which reflect the diversity of local theatre. These include the productions Right Girl Wrong Address, featuring Sakina Deer and Sharee Elise, and Wha Sweet Nanny Goat. Tribe Sankofa, Jamaica Youth Theatre and Quilt Performing Arts Company will also showcase excerpts of performances staged in 2017.

The writers showcase on March 20 will features works from Andrea Wright, Maya Wilkinson, Nicole Williams and Dahlia Harris. The Tempest is among the pieces included in the directors showcase on March 21. The piece is directed by Evone Walters, who is featured along with Suzanne Beadle, Dorraine Reid and graduates from the School of Drama at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.

There has been a change of venue for this year's event with Jampro coming on board as co-host of the event. This will not only provide an opportunity for more people to attend; it will also add technical and production value to the performances.

“Performances will take place in the Bert Rose Studio and the Dennis Scott Theatre, while panel discussions will be held at the Jampro Training Room. The panel discussions will take place from March 23-25 at the Jampro Training Room.

“Author and lecturer in the Department of Literatures in English at The UWI Mona, Dr Curdella Forbes, will be among the panellists, which includes, among other distinguished members, Velma Pollard, Paul O Beale, Aston Cooke, and Grub Cooper,” Harris noted.

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