Taking J’can theatre to the US
BY CECELIA CAMPBELL-LIVINGSTON Observer staff reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
THIS is the third of a 12-part series looking at Jamaicans who have excelled in the Tri-state (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) area's entertainment and leisure industry.
AN 'outing' he planned over 35 years ago with a high school classmate, was a turning point in Junior Wellington's life.
Wellington, who is from Cheesefield district in Linstead, St Catherine, has been intrigued by show promotion since those days at Dinthill High School.
But it was not until the 1990s while living in Hartford, Connecticut, and serving as president of the West Indies Social Club, that he took it seriously.
"After two years I was almost sure which events were going to be a success or a failure based on my increasing knowledge of what the people were looking for," he told the Jamaica Observer. "In 1997 I found myself advising and helping promoters to organise dances and shows."
For over 20 years, Wellington has staged numerous Jamaican plays and live shows featuring Caribbean entertainers in Hartford, home to a sizeable West Indian community.
His first event was the 'England vs Jamaica' sound system clash between British selector David Rodigan and Jamaican 'sounds' Metro Media, Stone Love and Bodyguard in the late 90s, he followed that up with Jamaican plays including the 2003 play Christopher Come Buck-Us starring Oliver Samuels.
One of Wellington's most successful events was a 2009 stand-up comedy show with Ity and Fancy Cat, Ragashanti, Pretty Boy Floyd, Christopher 'Johnny' Daley and Owen 'Blakka' Ellis held at the Weaver High School in Hartford.
While there is still a demand for shows with Jamaican themes, Wellington says it is a challenge bringing them to Connecticut.
"Lots of these artistes want to travel with an entourage that you also have to buy their tickets, give them per diem and put them in a hotel," he explained. "That puts a great pressure on promoters to put on a decent show and keep the ticket costs reasonable for patrons."
For all the obstacles, Wellington credits the "good-minded entertainers from Jamaica who understand what it takes" for keeping business alive.
He stressed that it has got easier to promote plays than reggae shows as actors are more grounded. According to Wellington, theatre productions attract a more conservative audience.
Wellington migrated to the United States in 1981 after graduating from the College of Arts, Science and Technology (now the University of Technology) as a mechanical engineer.
He considers events promotion as more than entertainment. It is a way to serve the diaspora and give back to the community.
Last year, he partnered with the Hartford-based radio station Energy Radio through his JW Production to host the inaugural Kids Christmas Party where over 300 children were feted.
He has also contributed educational equipment to Time and Patience Primary School which he attended.
"Presently, I am doing a book drive and will be delivering a couple boxes of books there this year," he said.
Junior Wellington, who is in his 50s, is treasurer of the West Indian Foundation in Hartford and entertainment manager for the West Indian Independence Celebration.