Entertainment

The Phoenix dies

Local theatre to close its doors in December

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, October 06, 2019

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Come January 2020 Phoenix Theatre, the local playhouse on Haining Road in New Kingston, will cease to exist.

According to theatre producer David Tulloch, who has been under contract to manage the theatre for the past four years, the owners have decided to sell so come December the curtains will close on the Phoenix Theatre.

“It comes as a shock. I was always aware that this was a distinct possibility, and I know it is their right to do whatever they please with their property, but now that it has hit, it is truly hard to swallow,” Tulloch told the Jamaica Observer.

Tulloch and the owners entered into a management contract that saw him running the facility which housed two theatres as well as office space. This theatre became the home of Tulloch's own productions, as well as staged the works of a number of other practitioners including Dahlia Harris, Pablo Hoilett and Rosie Murray. The theatre was also used to stage events including the annual Actor Boy Awards, which recognises excellence in local theatre.

Tulloch noted that with a full slate of productions set to take to the boards at the theatre well into next year, he will now have to sit down and decide how he will arrange this schedule for the rest of the year as well as inform his fellow theatre producers who were set to book the theatre for productions next year.

“Right now I just have to sit down and try to wrap my head around this. The news is still fresh and I can't say how it will all pan out for the rest of the year. Currently the production From Pit To Pulpit is still running and that will continue. I will not have to decide on a three-month plan to take me to the rest of the year. I may just invite persons to do short runs until December. Oliver Samuels had booked the theatre for his play starting January 1 and Dahlia (Harris) had started discussions about staging a production later in the year. They will now have to find new homes for their work.”

Tulloch noted that purchasing the property is not an option for him at this time as the asking price is above the level of his business model at this time.

He, however, does not subscribe to the widely-held belief that there is a dearth of theatre space in the Corporate Area. He noted that it is time for producers to get creative and come up with imaginative ways of utilising the space that currently exists.

“We just have to be creative with what we have. Yes another space has closed down, but how can we best utilise what we have?” Tulloch questioned.

“ Most of our theatres are only opened on weekends, and the stages are dark on weekdays. How can we introduce our audiences to weekday performances? Jambiz International continues to do it. They run productions for as many as six days a week at times, and for the most part they play to full houses. We have done weekday shows with some of our productions and they have been successful. We just need to know what it is that we are doing.”

Tulloch, who started managing the Phoenix Theatre , which formerly operated as The Theatre Place, in 2016, shared that he had quite a few new plans in place to inject more into the space and, by extension local theatre.

“It is always said companies move up a gear after the fifth year of operation. I was now on the cusp of year five and was truly looking forward to take the management of the theatre to another level. I was beginning to work on some ideas which I really believed would take the theatre to new places. This is truly a setback. However, probably it is time for me to take a step back and refocus. I have just launched a music career so perhaps this is a way of getting me to focus on this new side, plus I have not taken a vacation in quite some time, so perhaps I need the time off to do just that,” said Tulloch.


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