Renowned playwright Patrick Brown is encouraging emerging theatre practitioners to stay true to their craft despite the challenges. After receiving the Order of Distinction in October, his latest achievement came in November as a Musgrave Medal (bronze) recipient.
"Honestly, it's difficult here. The numbers are small but I would say to anybody to pursue your dreams, whatever they are. Who can I tell that they can't pursue their dreams and make a success of it? Aim for quality because that's what's going to be important. Quality, of course, is subjective because for some people quality could mean Shakespeare. You have to know what product will appeal to the Jamaican audience. Theatre is not theatre without an audience. You have to know what your audience is and what will please them," Brown told the Jamaica Observer.
The official ceremony was held on November 22, at Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts at University of the West Indies' Mona campus. Brown was unable to attend.
The holder of a Bachelor's degree in engineering from the University of the West Indies' St Augustine campus in Trinidad and Tobago, the Central Kingston native decided to pursue what he truly loved shortly after graduating from Kingston College in 1976.
"I went to KC and a Spanish teacher took four of us to The Ward Theatre and that was my first exposure to theatre and it stuck with me. I studied in Trinidad and I was designated as entertainment manager for my hall. That year, I wrote a skit for the hall concert and once I graduated I expanded that skit into a two-hour play. It was called Cornflakes and it was directed by Keith Noel," he recalled.
Brown's hit plays include Puppy Love, Mo, Joe, and Flo, Right Girl Wrong Address, and Straight Jacket?
Brown said getting a Musgrave Medal was the farthest thing from his mind.
"I don't normally think about stuff like that, I just enjoy my craft. It's a symbol of appreciation, but I get that from my audience. I'm not thinking about that kinda thing from anyone. I think about being better than the last time and leaving my audience wanting more," he said.
As for the state of Jamaican theatre, Brown believes it is starting to get back on track following the novel coronavirus.
"Pre-Covid, we had a little thing going. We are relatively young in terms of theatre, comparatively speaking. My thing is to help craft what we can call Jamaican theatre," Brown said.
The gold Musgrave Medal recipients were cultural engineer Lenford Salmon, author and environmental activist Diana McCaulay and chemist and master blender Joy Spence; silver recipients were entomologist and lecturer Dr Eric Garraway and author Geoffrey Philip. Other bronze recipients were author and lecturer Dr Safiya Sinclair and biologist Dr Susan Koenig.
Rhodes Scholar David Salmon is the 2022 recipient of the youth medal award for advocacy and leadership. He was also unable to attend.