Tackling theatre with Ainsley Whyte
Stage actor Ainsley Whyte is currently in rehearsals for Aston Cooke's Jamaica Fifty 2 Rhatid which opens on August 1, Emancipation Day.
For an actor in only his second commercial production, Whyte will have just a matter of days to change costumes as his first major play, Dahlia Harris' God's Way, is still running and closes on July 29.
It is this break-neck pace at which this newbie seems to be travelling through the world of commercial theatre.
In April, the local theatre fraternity handed out the Actor Boy Awards for excellence. Among the winners was Whyte, who snagged the Best Supporting Actor award for his performance in God's Way.
On the night of the awards, when his name was called, a shell-shocked Whyte stood speechless to accept the trophy which brought the play's tally of awards to three, as it also won for Best New Play and Best Drama.
Whyte tells Splash that he was in production with Father Richard Ho Lung's Acts of the Apostles, when he got a call from playright, actress and theatre producer Harris encouraging him to try out for the role of Deacon Russell in a gospel theatre production she was about to mount.
He recalls reading the script, falling in love with the character and
then being pulled in two directions — whether to take the plunge into commercial theatre, or play it safe and continue with Father Ho Lung.
The former prevailed, and the actor with no experience in commercial theatre boldly stepped under the stage lights.
"I have no regrets," Whyte states. "The guiding force behind my decision was Dahlia saying, 'I would not have cast you if I did not think you could do it'," he continues.
Although it was his maiden voyage in the world of commercial theatre,
Whyte had appeared in a few small productions including No Compromise in 2008 directed by Bobby Clarke; the Australian play After Dinner, which ran for one weekend in 2010, as well as a number of productions staged by the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company.
"It was very demanding for me to play 60-year-old Deacon Russell, an extremely outspoken Christian. Although I possess some of the characteristics, I had to put in some research in order to make the character believable," says Whyte.
He said he received help from the cast as well as the theatre fraternity, pointing to the guidance from seasoned practitioners Douglas Prout, Aston Cooke, Deon Silvera and Karl Hart.
So what did it feel like going into the Actor Boy Awards with a nomination for your first job in commercial theatre?
For Whyte the experience was humbling. "I kept looking at the nominees I was up against. These were theatre veterans the like of an Alwyn Scott. I kept thinking that just being nominated is a big accomplishment," says Whyte.