One class act

Observer senior reporter

Thursday, April 18, 2019

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NEISHA-YEN Jones had the most dramatic and emotional acceptance speech of Monday's Actor Boy Awards held at Knutsford Court Hotel in St Andrew.

When she was announced winner of the Best Actress in a Lead Role category for her performace in What Goes Around she was stunned, to say the least.

The actress, dancer, choreographer, and television host never thought she would have won, and so she had kicked off her sequinned black stilettos, relaxed in her seat, and prepared to record the reaction of the winner on her cellphone. But that was not to be.

Presenters Jerry Benzwick and Deon Silvera would reduce Jones to a shaking, tearful and disoriented winner.

“I didn't expect any of this. I wanted to make sure that I captured the moment for whoever won. I didn't bring anyone with me, because I didn't think this moment was mine; it was for someone else... But it was my moment, and it was so emotional for me because I didn't expect it at all,” she told the Jamaica Observer in a post-ceremony interview.

“When I tell people that I was in Lion King, they assume I was dancing, but I was actually playing Nala. I played Annie in Porgy and Bess, and had other roles in Dirty Dancing and Copacabana, which a lot of people don't actually know. I went to LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art), so I am an actress. I direct and I write, in addition to being a dancer and choreographer,” the co-host of Daytime Live continued.

Jones had been pitted against actresses Maylynne Lowe from Maas Matt Comes to Town; Trishana Wright in Sugar Daddy; Aisha Ritchie in One Blood; and Sabrina Thomas for As He Watches.

Despite being stunned, Jones did have the presence of mind on stage to call for more inclusion in the local theatre industry. She threw out the challenge to the fraternity to open opportunities.

“I find that Jamaican theatre is very 'cliquish'; very segmented. It's like everybody has their camp. Everybody has people that they want to work with, as opposed to just auditioning and allow the best person to get the job. So for me I only have two persons who will call me to say: 'Hey, I have this project do you want to work on it?' So I would love to see that open up a little more in the local theatre industry, because I believe that we are doing ourselves a disservice when we're are only able to work with the two actresses who are in your camp, because someone else may be able to bring something better or something else. We tend to box persons in: she is that; she does this; you do comedy; or you do writing. Well, I do all these and more, and I would love the opportunity to explore everything,” she said.

She, however, vowed to use this win, which is her second, (she previously won Best Choreography in 2015 for At The Barricades) as the impetus to start pushing harder and doing more.

“It is an honour for me, because I respect the work that we are doing here in Jamaica, because it's not as easy as it is internationally to put on a play and the profits are not as great. So I really respect the fact that a lot of persons here in Jamaica are sacrificing to make it happen. This is a huge honour for me. So it does make me think come on Neisha-Yen, get up! We're gonna do more... let's go,” she said.

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