No place to play
Practitioners weigh in on closing theatres
BY CECELIA CAMPBELL-LIVINGSTON Observer staff reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
WHEN the curtains close on the David Tulloch-directed For My Daughter this month, it will be the final production at The Pantry Playhouse in New Kingston.
In October last year, another New Kingston venue, Stages, closed its doors. It has prompted concern in some quarters that local theatre is experiencing serious challenges.
According to director/playwright Dahlia Harris, whose plays include Judgement, God's Way and God Go Wid Yuh, although crowd support fluctuates, things have been tough in recent times, particularly for family-friendly productions.
"I see people all the time who claim that they love theatre but they don't think the kind of shows they want to see are being staged, yet when the producers commit large budgets to put out the shows they still don't come," Harris noted.
"The popular theatre (roots plays) supporters come out in their numbers so more power to them. If audiences want to see more diversity on stage, they have to support that."
For veteran playwright and chairman of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission Aston Cooke, the closure of another theatre will be devastating. It brings back sad memories of 2006 when The Barn closed its doors.
"It is even more heartbreaking to see The Pantry go. God bless (owner) Karl Hart for his continued contribution to the Jamaican theatre landscape," Cooke said. He added that Hart made The Pantry Playhouse a cultural hub which became home to several groups.
"We will surely miss this space. But we must respect that the closure is a business decision," Cooke said.
As theatres teeter on the brink of extinction, there is a renewed thrust to restore the historic Ward Theatre in downtown Kingston.
But Cooke believes while it is important to get The Ward rolling again, reviving interest in Jamaican theatre is just as critical.