Wanted: New home for Centerstage Theatre

Wanted: New home for Centerstage Theatre

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, October 25, 2020

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Local theatre producers Jambiz International, operators of the Centerstage Theatre, is now searching for a new home.

The theatre was forced to close its doors in March of this year with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the ensuing six months, with no productions on stage the company was no longer in a position to continue the lease obligations with the openers of the property and ended the arrangements. The property on Dominica Drive in New Kingston has now reverted to the New Kingston Drive-In cinema operated by Palace Amusement Company.

“It was an amicable ending to the agreement,” Jambiz director Lenford Slamon told the Jamaica Observer.

“With no plays being staged we were not in a position to continue the lease and given the uncertainty as to when this pandemic will end, we just couldn't continue. We had a great run. We were in the space for 20 years and gave Jamaica some great moments in theatre. The time came for a change and we just had to move . There is no malice or ill feeling towards our former landlords. It is the nature of the business market and we just have to move on,” he continued.

For the past two decades the Jambiz International team and Centerstage's former location had become a staple in the local theatre community. It provided a constant stream of local productions, which gained the reputation of providing quality entertainment. The productions by this company solidified the status writer/director duo of Patrick Brown and Trevor Nairne, as well as principal actor Glen “Titus” Campbell. It also introduced local audiences to emerging talents such as Camille Davis, Sakina Deer, Sharee McDonald-Russell, and Courtney Wilson, who all became regulars on the boards of the theatre stage.

With nearly 50 plays under its belt over the past 20 years, Jambiz is not going to sit idly by and allow that reputation to go down the drain and Salmon explained that the company is actively searching for a new home at this time so that their productions can return to the stage once the prevailing conditions allow.

“We are actively searching for a new location at this time. We have not found anything suitable at this time, but the search continues. What were able to do over the years is bridge that gap and provide a safe space for patrons from uptown, downtown, across town and out of town by providing a customer-friendly environment at Centerstage. We did a survey and found that 70 per cent of our patrons were women and their primary requirements to go out to the theatre were clean bathrooms and safe parking… the quality of what is on stage came in third. So we took this information serious from the very start, and it remains key and absolutely high on our hierarchy of priorities and that has not changed,” said Salmon.

Another factor, which is important in the search, is seating capacity. The old Centerstage accommodated 250 patrons. Salmon and the team are looking for a space which doubles that to cater to the ever-increasing demand to see their productions. However, he has ruled out making a bid on the historic Ward theatre in downtown Kingston where refurbishing work is soon-to-be completed.

“One of the things we have to be conscious about is that we don't want to be accused of locking out anyone out of theatre space. We operate a year-round schedule of activities with a consistent show run and we don't want to disenfranchise anyone who wants to use the theatre.”

Over the years the Centerstage Theatre has been home to Jambiz productions including Alligator High, Where There's a Will, Ladies of the Night, Straight Jacket, Wrong Address and the latest comedy Windscream Posse, which had its run halted due to COVID-19.


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