Still here


For many of you who may visit ‘From The Backseat’ I’m sure you’ve been disappointed in my absence. Somewhere in there I got a job and have been solely focused on that. But I still love theater and I get emails from many people about this page and its future. I’m not sure how that will play out, but maybe something great is on the horizon.

At this moment Shakespeare in Paradise just finished its seventh annual festival. Seven. The festival has certainly come a long way. Unfortunately I was unable to see a single show. Hurricane Joaquin visited The Bahamas last week and I’ve been busy visiting storm torn islands, telling the stories of those who spent 20 hours trapped in their ceilings, bathrooms and boats.

But I digress. Congrats to the team and all the hard work I know went into SiP and please stay tuned.

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Profile: Craig Pinder


Othello and Desdemona embrace.

Craig Pinder (right) as Othello in Yellowtail’s 2011 adaptation of Shakespeare’s play. (photo courtesy of Yellowtail)

How long have you been involved in theatre?

For thirty years, as a professional actor.

What inspired you to get involved?

At school, (QC), I was always keen to take part in the plays put on there, or indeed take part in any activity that involved playing characters, singing etc. My Dad (Bill Pinder) was an actor and very active in the Operatic Society in Nassau. I took part in a couple of his productions at age eight or nine, and got the acting bug quite early on.

In what capacity have you participated in theatre? (actor, writer, director, stage manager, lights, sound etc)

Mainly as an actor, although I have directed a few productions also.

Can you list the stage productions that you have participated in over the years?

2011, Othello, Othello, Nuffield Theatre Southampton, dir. Robin Belfield

2010, John, The Subject Was Roses, English Theatre of Hamburg, dir. Jenny Lee

2009, Prospero, THE TEMPEST, Shakespeare in Paradise, Nassau, dir. Patti Anne-Ali/Craig Pinder

2009, Woodcutter, Rashoman, RADA, dir. MinJae Kang

2008, Cecil B. DeMille, Sunset Boulevard, ATG, dir. Craig Revel Horwood

2008, Stage, Gurney, When Is A Door Not A Door, Central School of Speech and Drama , dir. Geoffrey Colman

2005, Hyram/Elder/Paypal, Micro Musicals, Stephen Joseph Theatre, dir.  Laurie Sansom

2004, Rev Shaw-Moore/Principal , Footloose, UK Tour, dir. Paul Kerryson

2003, James Monahan, The Ballad Of Little Jo, Bridewell Theatre, dir. Carol Metcalf

2002, Sweeney Todd, Sweeney Todd, New Vic Theatre, dir. Chris Monks

2001, Tristram, Taking Steps, Mount Holyoke Summer Theater, dir. Susan Daniels

2000, Harry, Mamma Mia, West End, dir. Phyllida Lloyd

1999, The Marshall, Babydoll, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, dir. Lucy Bailey

1999, Calvin/Fielding/Lt.Waters/Devries, Life During Wartime, Lyric Studio, dir. Toby Reisz

1998, McBurney, Not About Nightingales, Alley Theater, Houston, dir. Trevor Nunn

1998, McBurney, Not About Nightingales, Royal National Theatre, dir. Trevor Nunn

1998, Karl, Popcorn, National Tour, dir. Lawrence Boswell

1997, Parson, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, Shakespeare’s Globe, dir. Malcolm McKay

1997, Macmorris / Rambures, Henry V, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, dir. Richard Olivier

1996, Sheldrake, Sunset Boulevard, Really Useful Group, dir. Trevor Nunn

1995, Rommel, Hands Up (For You The War Has Ended), New Vic Theatre, dir. Peter Cheeseman

1995, Banquo, Macbeth, Greenwich Theatre, dir. Mark Rylance

1995, The Mikado, The Mikado, New Vic Theatre, dir. Chris Monks

1994, Booth, Assassins, Manchester Library Theatre, dir. Roger Haines

1994, Capulet, Romeo & Juliet, Stephen Joseph Theatre, dir. Stephen Hirst

1994, Sir Toby Belch, Twelfth Night, Eye Theatre, dir. Tom Watson

1993, Frank, All My Sons, Palace Theatre, Watford, dir. Lou Stein

1993, Merchant / Practice, Comedy Of Errors/Little Murders, Royal Exchange, dir. Gregory Hersov

1993, Graham, Talking Heads (A Chip in the Sugar), Eye Theatre, dir. Tom Watson

1993, Cenci, The Cenci, Dead Poets, Lyric Studio, dir. Sydnee Blake

1992, Bobby, Company, Northcott Theatre, Exeter, dir. John Durnin

1992, Eric Bogosian Monologues, Drinking in America, Royal Exchange, dir. Chris Monks / Allan Pollock

1992, Prince/Louis, Romeo and Juliet / A View From The Bridge, Royal Exchange , dir. Gregory Hersov

1991, Shem, Children Of Eden, Prince Edward Theatre, dir. John Caird

1990, Rona Anderson/Shevardnadze, Moscow Gold, Royal Shakespeare Company, dir. Barry Kyle

1989, Amiens, As You Like It, Royal Shakespeare Company, dir. John Caird

1989, Miller/Curbishley, Singer, Royal Shakespeare Company, dir. Terry Hands

1989, Doctor/Madman, The Duchess Of Malfi, Royal Shakespeare Company, dir. Bill Alexander

1987, Lambert Le Roux, Pravda, Swan Theatre Worcester, dir. John Ginman

1985, Jean Valjean/Bishop/Bamatabois/Ensemble, Les Miserables (Original London Cast), Royal Shakespeare Company/Cameron MacIntosh, dir. Trevor Nunn/John Caird

1984, Cubitt, Brighton Rock, Belgrade Theatre Coventry, dir. Simon Dunmore

1984, Dan / Sgt. Major, THE HIRED MAN, Leicester Haymarket / Astoria Theatre, dir. David Gilmore

1983, Sandy, A TOUCH OF SPRING, Harrogate Theatre, dir. Mark Piper

1983, Powell, FIND YOUR WAY HOME, Off-Off Broadway

1982, David Bliss U/S, HAY FEVER, Kenyon Festival Theater Ohio, dir. Ted Walsh

1982, Sampson, ROMEO AND JULIET, Kenyon Festival Theater Ohio, dir. Ted Walsh

1982, Melchior, SPRING AWAKENING, Kenyon Festival Theater Ohio, dir. Charles Newell

1982, Len, THE DWARFS, Off-Off Broadway, dir. Rob Anthony

1982, Ensemble, THE GREEKS, Hartford Stage Company, dir. Mark Lamos

1982, Moon, THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND, Kenyon Festival Theater Ohio, dir. Charles Newell

1981, Ensemble, ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, Hartford Stage Company, dir. Mark Lamos

1981, Stephen Blackpool, HARD TIMES, Heritage Theatre, dir. Thomas Luce Summa

1981, Ensemble, KEAN, Hartford Stage Company, dir. Mark Lamos

"Ye eleves"

Pinder as Prospero in Shakespeare In Paradise’s adaptation of The Tempest.

What are some of your most memorable moments in theatre? Good and bad. Many Bahamians speak fondly of the production of Romeo and Juliet that your were in. Can you speak to that production?

I immediately enrolled in the drama society and played Romeo in my first term at Reading University in 1971. Mik Bancroft somehow got wind of this and hunted me down at the workface when their Dundas production in Nassau in 1978 required the quick insertion of a Romeo. This production was indeed very special: it was a very lovely and diversely talented group. It was when I first began to realize that I simply needed to pursue acting in some sort of serious way, and most likely attempt to make a career out of it. It was really through this production, working with Audrey Grindrod, that I gained the confidence to audition for, and get into, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, and so start on that career course.

A high point for me at RADA was when I played Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. (Ironically, having finally reached the right age for the part, thirty years later, I am about to play this role again quite soon!)

Playing Jean Valjean in Les Miserables in London was one of the most thrilling and challenging roles I’ve ever had the good fortune to experience.

A low point was perhaps performing in an off-off Broadway musical entitled ‘Living at the Raccoon Lodge’ (Hmm!) But I firmly believe that all experiences in theatre can teach one something, if only to try and somehow avoid making the same mistakes? And there have been many, many other high points. Each play and role presents their own set of challenges, that are almost always thrilling to undertake.

Many may not know this, but you were a Bahamian thespian first, describe some of your early years on the UK theatre scene after leaving The Bahamas.

I left the Bahamas to go to RADA in January 1979 and found it immensely exciting and fun. After leaving RADA in spring 1981, I was keen to try my luck in the acting world in New York, where I was based for two years. During that time I worked in a few theatres in and around the city (e.g. Hartford Stage, Kenyon Festival Theater etc.). However, after a couple of years I felt that I would be more at home in theatre in the UK, and so I returned. I began to get work fairly quickly in Repertory theatre in England: in 1984 I took part in a musical called ‘The Hired Man’ written by Melvin Bragg, with music composed by Howard Goodall. This musical ‘tragedy’ was really a fore-runner of the as yet unheard of musical version of Les Miserables, which opened at the RSC’s London theatre, The Barbican, in October 1985. After five auditions for this production, directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird, based on the classic novel by Victor Hugo, I joined the company. Last October I took part in the 25th Anniversary Celebration Concert at the 02 Arena in London. Since ‘Les Miz’ in 1988, I was very fortunate to be able to take parts in many musical theatre and ‘straight’ theatre productions in and around London’s West End, over the years.

How do you feel about theatre in The Bahamas? Theatre in the UK? Theatre globally?  

Theatre in the Bahamas really seems to be having a recent resurgence of life. When I was acting in Nassau many years ago, I remember The Dundas having several diverse groups that kept the place alive. After leaving Nassau and looking at it from the outside, there seems to have been various periods and stages of ebb and flow of theatre activity over the years. An example of one of the more productive periods was during the repertory seasons run by Philip and David Burrows at the Dundas several years ago. And consistency seems to be taking root once again with fantastic events such as Shakespeare in Paradise beginning to establish themselves.

As a suggestion for moving forward, I think there should be more of an exchange internationally with theatre groups in the Bahamas. Bahamian productions should travel abroad, and international companies should visit the Bahamas. I think this inter-active practice would enable theatre in the Bahamas to really grow, remain inspired and alive, while still holding onto their Bahamian roots.

The UK theatre environment is still exciting. There is a tradition of theatre practice in this country that informs contemporary practitioners and audiences alike. That said, funding cuts and, I believe, the rise of video media etc., have had a significant impact on live theatre. Many audiences are mainly comprised of older people, with the majority of young people tending to leave live theatre off their popular culture menu entirely. Even so, there exist in the UK many inspiring youth theatre groups that work tirelessly towards helping to create actors and audiences of the future. Many schools invite touring companies into their school environment with the hope that students will become inspired and help to make up the future theatre fabric. Of course one of the considerations for audiences attending performances is ticket prices, which can be prohibitive, especially in London. So you do tend to get a situation where only the well-off can afford to go to the theatre, in spite of subsidies to try to prevent this. So there tends to be a class barrier when it comes to theatre-going in the UK, where a lot of people at the lower end of the income scale will not attend theatre on a regular basis, if ever at all.

In terms of comparisons of style and as a broad generalization, theatre in the UK probably tends to be more verbal and less physical than it is, say, with its European neighbours. Many American actors gravitate towards the London stage, which for example, is given testament by Kevin Spacey, who has been Artistic Director at London’s Old Vic Theatre for several years now.

Perhaps the attractiveness of performing in London to Americans is the sense of integral kudos they get from it, combined with a ‘right to fail’, which doesn’t really exist on Broadway, and is imperative for progressive theatre practice.

Global theatre provides an eclectic smorgasbord of different theatre styles. The essential rudiments of human behaviour can often resonate with the observer more effectively when viewed through a specific cultural prism; i.e. fundamental ‘truths’ concerning the human condition can often become more clear when behaviour is expressed through the various cultural languages of the body. To give an example of the celebration of global theatre, in the UK next year the Royal Shakespeare Company is presenting a World Festival of Shakespeare Plays, which will involve participation from many different countries performing in their native languages. Relating this to theatre in the Bahamas, and as mentioned above, I passionately believe that inter-active international exchange would be an invigorating catalyst that would inspire the future development of a profound Bahamian theatre.

What do you do to prepare for a part? 

I believe, and I’m sure most writers would agree, that the TEXT is King. In the beginning was the word… Not all theatre practitioners would follow this rule, many believe that ‘behaviour’ is more important, and I would agree that behaviour forms the essence of good acting. But, the text is the ‘blue-print’ of the play, and it is the written evidence, the manifestation of ‘behaviour’ left by the playwright, the creator of the whole world of the play: It tells you what happens in the play. Eminent theatre practitioner Sanford Meisner said that ‘an ounce of behaviour is worth a pound of words’. But…that pound of words gives you the clues to what that ounce of behaviour might be… so, ignore the text at your peril, I say.

All plays are different; all actors are different, as are all directors, designers, groups of actors etc. So there really is no definitive approach to preparing for a play or a part. I believe also that the various approaches should evolve constantly, never forgetting the main remits of the theatre practitioner such as ‘holding the mirror up to nature’ or ‘making the invisible visible’ etc. Here I will outline a general approach of my own, that may vary and shouldn’t necessarily be followed like a chef’s menu. Improvise and make your own process, but it often helps to know some of the ‘rules’ and what works for other people.

Most actors will probably tend to look at their own lines first, it’s a natural reaction when receiving a new script – you want to see what your involvement with it will be. Once skipping through this vanity stage, I read the whole play, and begin to build up a picture of the ‘world of the play’. I re-read the play, and repeat until I understand what is going on in the play. I scour the script for clues. I find out about anything I don’t understand, and gradually build up a specific idea of what is being said by the playwright through all of the characters. Then gradually and more specifically, I begin to focus on my character. I go through the play and see the world of the play ‘in terms of my character’. I underline things that ring out that are relevant to my character, and picture images in my mind created by the language and situations in the play, again, particularly from my character’s point of view. If I am playing a specific part, this is how I will be viewing the world, but I also need to get a sense of the whole world of the play and put my character into this context. So, all the time I’m balancing how my part fits into this whole. I try to remember that the lines are only what the character says, and not how or why they say them, and that there is much behaviour that will be unspoken.

The choices and a balance of different acting techniques will also depend on how much time we have to rehearse. In Shakespeare, adherence to the clues given in the TEXT becomes paramount…it’s all in there. In modern, perhaps more ‘naturalistic’ plays, Meisner techniques which e.g. places your attention onto your acting partner rather than yourself, is useful for getting rid of self-consciousness and achieving a balanced and believable emotional tension in scenes. Also for emotional scenes, using Stanislavski/Strasberg emotional memory techniques can be very effective but need to be carefully monitored by actor and director to avoid dangerous emotional side-effects. Michael Chekov’s use of the imagination can be a very powerful source of invention and communication. I try to find ways of getting my character’s text into my acting body. To begin to do this effectively I need to allow my body to be relaxed, i.e. tension must be avoided at all costs (it is the enemy of the actor!) I use, and focus on my breath – it is my main source of energy for speaking and moving. I work on my voice and body…both of them must be free and relaxed if I am to create a character that will resonate on stage and have an effective impact on the souls of the audience.

I immerse myself in all of this and allow the character, through this information, my relative experience and my imagination etc., to take me over. I imagine myself in that character’s shoes, both physically and metaphorically.

I try to get on top of, and learn the text as quickly as possible. However, for me this can a bit of a ‘cart before the horse situation’ sometimes i.e. I like to know a bit about what and why I’m saying things before rigorously trying to learn the lines, but very often there just isn’t the rehearsal time that allows this indulgence…so then must just get on with it!

When preparing to go into performance: I try to Relax: Breathe: Radiate: I develop a sense of fun and play. Because after all, that’s what it is… a play!

Any advice for those who want to get involved in theatre in any capacity?

The first question I always ask a prospective actor who is thinking of going into the profession: Do you NEED to act? I.e. this need must be stronger than just casually wanting to do it, I think. There is a constant inner conflict going on with an actor: Effective acting requires that you are relaxed and open. On the other hand, with the strong need to succeed, when combined with the physical, emotional and mental demands required of an actor, you can quite easily tend to become fraught, tense and closed. It is a trap. If ways of solving this conflict cannot be developed to prevent the actor falling into this trap, then it will be difficult to achieve any sustainable success on stage. Added to these problems, as the hurdles of banality of ‘the business’ invariably present themselves at the various points along your career path, you may very well decide not to follow the folly of such a precarious profession.

However, if, once you’ve decided that a career ‘on the boards’ is the only route for you, then you must resolve be forever self–disciplined. By all means seek help: get some coaching; do some voice work; stay fit; go to a good drama school; get psychologically prepared for rejection and hard knocks and develop ways to bounce back quickly; develop networking skills for the business of acting; As Hamlet says: ‘The readiness is all’.  Without these skills it will become very hard and probably deemed untenable. But through all of this… enjoy it! Acting is fun, and it really needs to be I think, for you and so for your audience.

I’m not very qualified to talk in any detail about other aspects of theatre, but based on what I’ve observed I would say the following:

A Director: is likely to be someone who needs to throw a party (as opposed to an Actor, who just needs to GO to a party!) but would rather have someone else pick up the bill (the Producer!)

I would say you need strong organizational skills. You’re the person that makes the final decisions about things that are to go on stage. I don’t think that a desire to be over controlling is necessarily good for the well-being of a production. I think the best directors trust their actors to experiment enough to find the inner life of their characters. The more help given to the actor that allows them to get the best out of themselves, the better for the whole production really. Directors should really love actors, and have the ability to gently persuade them towards their way of thinking, while making the actors believe in the value of their own contributions.

A Stage Manager: should probably have a strong desire to keep some sort of order in a world that is often illogical and chaotic! You need to be very tolerant of directors and actors…you tend to be the one who sets up, serves and clears up after the party. Again, even though you may be a very different mind-set from your actors, you should also care for them.

A Set/Costume designer: You create the atmosphere of the party. You should have a very visual, yet practical sense of how to manifest the world of the play on stage. You need to work through the text with the director and should be willing, in my opinion, to be flexible with individual actors, and include them to some degree with your design concepts.

A Lighting Designer: You also help to create the atmosphere of the party. You work with the text, through the director to create various specific and appropriate atmospheres for the different scenes of the play.

A Producer: needing to throw the party, lays on a cover charge, because he doesn’t want to pick up the bill if not too many people show up. If he’s smart he’ll actually get other people (angels) to invest, so he doesn’t end up losing his own money.

You should have a genuine love of the theatre to be really effective, I think. A firm understanding of business, and some sort of sixth sense for knowing what the public may go for certainly helps. Perhaps a smattering of mild contempt for anyone else involved who may mistakenly think themselves above their station (including actors, or even directors!) keeps you in pole position? My favourite Producer clichés are quotes from Max Bialystock in the film of The Producers: “You can’t do business without checky!” and “If ya got it baby, flaunt it!!)

Good luck!

Who were your mentors in theatre?

My first mentor was really my Dad, who was involved in the Nassau Amateur Operative Society for many years, and played many great parts to great acclaim.

At school when in my teens, English teacher Roger Kelty encouraged me to think about a career in acting after seeing and hearing me mimic Sir Laurence Oliver’s version of Henry V. At the time, I didn’t think a stage career would have ever been possible for me.

My most influential mentor, who I met when during Romeo and Juliet at the Dundas in 1978 and who helped me get to RADA, was Audrey Grindrod. She is a very gifted teacher and was a great source of inspiration to me.

At RADA, Principal Hugh Cruttwell was immensely encouraging and tirelessly supportive towards all his students. Also while at RADA, Malcolm McKay taught me to go to great depths with my acting.

Trevor Nunn is a guru to me. John Caird taught me much also.

Mark Rylance taught me many alternative ways of acting.

Mary Hammond really helped to develop my singing voice.

Sleep.

Pinder (right) and Nicole Fair (left) as Miranda in an exchange in SiP’s 2009 adaptation of The Tempest.

How do you see your future in Bahamian theatre?

Over the last few years, I have become involved with several projects in the Bahamas. I co-directed Oleanna at The Hub; I also co-directed and played Prospero in The Tempest, for the opening season of Shakespeare in Paradise. I was involved in both Bahamian films Children of God and Wind Jammers. Working at home in the Bahamas is the realization of a much desired long-term goal, and I would really welcome doing more in future. Four thousand miles of ocean and trying to run a career on the other side of it can have its logistical problems, but I don’t see why more opportunities shouldn’t present themselves in the years to come. I think there is an amazing pool of talent in the Bahamas, and I would really like to do more to facilitate that talent with realizing its full potential. Again, one way is with cross-cultural exchange. I have been recently involved with a successful Bahamian production of Othello which originated in the UK at The Nuffield Theatre, Southampton. It was directed by Yellowtale Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Robin Belfield, who is also Bahamian, and who also directed Dat Bahamian T’ing, which featured at Shakespeare in Paradise Festival’s second season. Othello has two Bahamian participants (myself and Robin), with the other two actors being black British; It has been adapted by Robin, is set in the Bahamas, and takes the title Othello or the Tragedy of Conchy Joe. We are in the process of trying to bring this production out to the Bahamas early next year. This would realize a part of my desire to help connect the theatre of the Bahamas with that of the outside world.

 

What is your favorite play?

Well there are so many… I usually try to make it the one I’m in at the time! I’m currently preparing to play Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman again after thirty years, and ironically it is probably one of my favorite plays. With the classics, it is probably Hamlet.

 

Can you speak to the assistance that the UK government gives to theatre, if any? 

In the UK there exists a government funded body called the Arts Council which subsequently provides funding for many arts institutions throughout the country, which includes theatres and productions. There are also other, more local bodies, to which arts groups can apply. The government has also encouraged corporate sponsorship over the past several years. However, compared with many countries in Europe, government subsidies of the arts in general tend to be considerably less. This is ironic, since the income generated by theatres in the UK via the tourist trade etc. is quite staggering. I think all governments should realize the value of the arts not just in terms of revenue, but also in contributing to the fabric that makes up a harmonious society.

Profile: Dion Johnson


Caliban's monologue

Caliban (Kennedy Storr centre) quells the fears of Trinculo (D. Johnson, right) and Stephano (A. Roberts, left) in SiP's 2009, The Tempest. (photo by Peter Ramsay)

How long have you been involved in Theatre?
I’ve been involved in theatre for over thirteen years, but just like most, my acting skills were sharpened in church and school productions from a young age.

What inspired you to become involved?
From my early childhood years I enjoyed entertaining the people around me.  My father and uncle were a part of the original members of the National Youth Choir and were considered the entertainers of their time within the group. So like many children, I aspired to be like them. In addition to that, being a descendant of Cat Island, my grandmother always told me that Sir Sidney Poitier, and Tony Mackay were my cousins, I laughed, but still felt connected to the arts through them, it’s in the blood.

In what capacity (ies) do you participate in Theatre?
Primarily I participated  in the arts as a actor, but I’ve also done many works as a classical singer in different choirs. I’ve written and directed small productions for my school, and co-directed /co-produced an improv show Thoughtkatcher Presents “Da Spot”.

Can you list the productions that you have participated in over the years?
Here’s a listing of both choral and theatrical productions

Choral

Theatrical

  • Rev.- Island Fling -Rupert Missick 1998
  • LukeLife’s Choices- Gawaine Ward 2000
  • JeffThe Children’s Teeth– Dr. Nicolette Bethel, Ringplay Productions 2008
  • The WolfPeter vs. the Wolf-Mr. Justin Locke and the Bahamas National Orchestra 2008
  • SalvadorGuanahani– James Catalyn and Andrew Curry I, James Catalyn and Friends 2009
  • Summer Madness– James Catalyn and Friends 2009-2010
  • SmirnovThe Bear– written by Anton Chekov, adapted by Track Road Theatre 2009
  • TrinculoThe Tempest- William Shakespeare, Shakespeare In Paradise 2009
  • PuckA Midsummer’s Night Dream-William Shakespeare, Shakespeare In Paradise 2010
  • Assistant Producer- Da Spot– Thoughtkatcher Productions 2005-present
  • Paps/Grease Lightning/DominicanWest St Radio Soap Opera– Thoughtkatcher Productions 2010-present

What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre?
I never had moments that I would consider a bad moment, rather learning experiences that ultimately turns into a good moment because you can laugh about it in the future. But the most memorable moments to me must be working with iconic members of the artisan community such as Claudette “Cookie” Allens, Anthony “Skeebo” Roberts, and James Catalyn to name a few and to be treated as a peer in the arts.

How do you feel about Theatre in The Bahamas? What are its weak and strong points? How active is it? How can we make it better?
Theatre in the Bahamas has been making bigger strides as I remember watching my first production in the Dundas as a little boy and returning as a freshman in college. Its strength lies within the people that have that passion to pursue excellence and present a message to the masses through the art form of theatre.

The weak point in theatre lies within the ability of society to accept all forms of the arts, be it comedy, drama, thriller, horror and the likes. If it’s not funny, most Bahamians will not go to see it, and until we can embrace all genres of the industry many shows will not see the number of patrons given to a comedy show.

Through theatre groups like Ringplay, Track Road, James Catalyn and Friends, and Thoughtkatcher, and solo ventures of Dynamite Daisy, and Michael Pintard, the arts are definitely having a positive impact on the rise of patrons for theatre, and its impact on societal responses to issues in general.

What do you do to prepare for a part?
The easiest thing for me to do in preparation for a part is to read through the script and mark my sections. However, the interaction with the other cast members is what really meshes the different sections together and that allows me to memorize both my lines and the other actors’ lines, to a point where a prompter is not necessary when I’m on stage during practice; not tooting my horn, but I like to know production from all angles and perspectives.

Any advice for those who want to get involved in Theatre in any capacity?
The easiest thing to do to get involved is to come out to various shows happening, and get to know, and introduce yourself to the directors, writers, and actors. Showing initiative is always the first step in achieving any goal no matter the age; babies learn to walk by falling down first.

Who were your mentors in Theatre?
I consider Anthony “Skeebo” Roberts to be my theatrical father, because he would have been integral in my movements both on and off the stage. Also Mr. Philip Burrows, Matthew Kelly, and James Catalyn who have been an important part of my development within the industry.

How do you see your future in Bahamian Theatre?
There is a very bright future for me in Bahamian Theatre simply because I don’t intend on sitting back and accepting the status quo. 

What is your favorite Bahamian play?
Woman Take Two is an excellent staged show that deals with how society looks at race, beliefs and social status. I also liked “You Can Lead a Horse to Water” the drama was intense.

All smiles

Matthew Wildgoose (left) and Dion Johnson (right) after a show at The Hub

In your years as an actor, have you seen the government support the arts in a tangible way?
I can plead guilty with an explanation. In 2008, I had the opportunity to travel as a representative of the theatrical community to Guyana for Carifesta. Is that venture sufficient to sustain the growth of our cultural heritage, no, but it shows initiative on their behalf.

What role, if any, should the government play in not just theatre but the arts as a whole?
I believe that the governments’ role in the arts should be one as a voice to both the private sector and the world at large. In the case of our largest industry being tourism, I believe the government should and can make it mandatory to have a Bahamian Brand show within each major hotel and resort. This can be very possible seeing that every investor has terms of agreement when entering a contract with our government.

Profile: Nicolette Bethel


A scene from the 1990 production of "Powercut." left to right, Lynn Lowe as Darlene and N. Bethel as Tanya. (photo by Peter Ramsay)

How long have you been involved in Theatre?
Since 1975 when I got a bit part (a supporting acting role with at least one line of dialogue) in the Queen’s College production of “Oklahoma!”

What inspired you to become involved?
The QC musical of the year before was “Oliver!” and I wanted to be the Artful Dodger.  Since I couldn’t be the Artful Dodger, any part in “Oklahoma!” would do. 


In what capacity do you participate in Theatre?
Throughout high school I acted in the annual musicals, mostly playing bit parts and singing in the chorus.  In university, I discovered stage management, having been drafted into the St Michael’s French theatre by a zealous professor.  Back in Nassau, I worked as an actress, stage crew, lighting design and operation, sound operation, and as a writer.  In Britain, I returned to stage management, and in Canada I directed and produced.  Most recently, I’ve been working as producer, playwright, director, and, when necessary, I still operate lights.


Can you list the productions that you have participated in over the years?
High School:
Oklahoma!,
Guys and Dolls,
Fiddler on the Roof.

University of Toronto:
Les Préciuses Ridicules,
Le Malade Imaginaire.

Grace Gospel Chapel:
The Green Country,
Once Upon a Star.

Dundas:
The Rimers of Eldritch,
Brighton Beach Memoirs,
Everything in the Garden,
Buried Child,
You Can Lead a Horse to Water,
Powercut,
I, Nehemiah Remember When,
Driving Miss Daisy,
Blues for Mr Charlie,
Olemi’s Passage,
Fatal Passage,
Four Billion Circles,
The Runner Stumbles,
Dis We Tings I,
Tales of the Chickcharney,
Music of The Bahamas.

Cambridge:
Kit/Doctor Faustus.

Pearson College:
The Good Doctor,
The Crucible,
One World.

Ringplay Productions:
Macbeth,
The Landlord,
The Children’s Teeth,
Driving Miss Daisy.

Shakespeare in Paradise:
The Tempest,
A Midsummer Night’s Dream,
Dis We Tings 2011
. 


What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre?
Good: having my plays produced – “Powercut” in 1990, the first time something serious of mine made it onto a stage, and “The Children’s Teeth”, especially with our taking it to Guyana and performing it up-country before a rural audience who talked all their way through it right up to the high-tension scenes, when they reacted exactly the right way.

How do you feel about Theatre in The Bahamas? What are its weak and strong points? How active is it? How can we make it better?
Weaknesses: insularity. We keep reinventing the wheel and it’s always rough in the beginning.  It’s the same rough wheel.  We don’t believe in building on strengths; rather we seem to prefer making our own mistakes, so we make the same ones again and again.  We also seem to underestimate our audiences, and feed the lowest common denominator, going for easy laughter rather than hitting at more complex emotions, or making serious points.  Very few young companies are strong in the directing or the technical sides of theatre, which makes their work seem amateurish and wastes time and money.  Scene changes are clumsy and take far too long.  Lighting is usually pretty badly done and it’s rare to find a young company that knows how to use sound effectively.  Actors in plays shouldn’t need to be miked!  Finally, technology is gimmicky.  We’re spinning in place.  It frustrates the life out of me.

Strengths: young Bahamian actors are really good.  The best parts I’ve seen of local productions over the past several years is really talented acting.  There are some bright sparks in directing – one of the best things I’ve seen recently was the Track Road adaptation of Chekhov and Sutro – intimate, subtle, and solid.  Lots of raw talent out there!

It’s very active, sometimes a little too much so.  It’s also pretty fragmented.  Shakespeare in Paradise was founded to try and bring things together – at least to spark new work and inspire people to stretch themselves, trust their audiences, get some training and respect the theatre enough to aim high.  We can make it better by trying to be the best we can.  By searching out the best and paying attention to it.  By looking for constructive criticism rather than protecting our egos and avoiding it.  By learning every single chance we get.


What do you do to prepare for a part?
I try not to have to do that, ever.  But when I have to, I do a lot of stuff.  I prepare according to the book.  The last time I did that it was a disaster.  Every other time I’ve played the same character and I just play pretend.  And try not to laugh.

How do you prepare to direct a show? Are there any special challenges that you must overcome when directing in The Bahamas?
I read the play.  I look for the moments.  I try and open up the conversation between the audience and the actors.  I try and find the core of the production, get to the point of it, be true to what the production is all about.  If it’s a feel-good teaching-moment production (which is what, say, “Dis We Tings” is) then it’s got to be the best feel-good teaching-moment production it can.

I pray and I rely really heavily on partners – on my stage and production managers, on my husband.  I think hard about blocking.  I have to draw stuff and move people in my head, which frustrates me because Philip just sits there and feels it and that makes me jealous.

Special challenges to overcome – today’s actors seem to have the attitude that getting on stage is a social occasion rather than a job.  Commitment is hard to come by, especially among young people with some acting under their belt.  People are not great with time and reliability, unfortunately, and this is a real problem because theatre is an ensemble affair.  If a single actor is missing from a rehearsal, there’s a change in the energy and there’s a change in the result.  People underestimate their place and overestimate their importance.  A director’s dream is someone who does what they say they will do.  It’s a dream, and one that’s hard to find; when you find it, you never want to let it go.


What does it take to write a play? Describe the process from idea on a page to the stage.
It depends. Usually my plays come from an emotional impulse.  So I have to explore the impulse and find the way to express it.  Sometimes other writers meet characters or have a great dramatic idea.  I generally have to work for that.  With “Powercut” I wanted to show women in situations they couldn’t control, and the play grew from that.  “The Children’s Teeth” started life as a short story in the beginning and grew from there.  Other pieces under way start with a feeling that grows into an idea and then that has to be hammered into a play – I have to find the characters that will carry the idea, that will ground the conflict, and then have to give them a setting and a story.  I write and write and write and my plays generally take years from start to finish.


Any advice for those who want to get involved in Theatre in any capacity?
Work hard.  Take knocks.  Be open to criticism.  Be critical.  It’s not all fun and games.  Good theatre is hard work.  But good theatre is worth it.


Who were your mentors in Theatre?
Philip Cash, director in Queen’s College
Professor Paulette Collet, director in St Michael’s French Theatre
Winston Saunders
Philip Burrows 


How do you see your future in Bahamian Theatre?
I hope I will write some more plays.  I hope even more that Shakespeare in Paradise, of which I’m the producer (Festival Director is the official term) is around for twenty or thirty years and is a staple of the Bahamian year.  I hope I live long enough to see that.  But not too long.  I don’t want to be a decrepit, gibbering old fool.
 

What is your favourite Bahamian play?
“You Can Lead a Horse to Water” by Winston Saunders is one. “Fatal Passage” by Ian Strachan is another, even though it was waaayyy out of the box. “Father’s Day” by Jeanne Thompson is a third.

In your years as an actor, director and writer have you seen the government support the arts in a tangible way?
Yes, sort of, but not really.  In 1983 the government paid for “Sammie Swain” to run for an entire summer in honour of the tenth anniversary of independence.  It produced the show and the ticket revenues helped to pay for it.  Every now and then it invests in CARIFESTA and then spends several years grumbling that it wasted money.  And every year it pumps over $2 million into Junkanoo.  But our governments always invest in events, but almost never in development.  The result: stagnation, with moments of glory because we are really very talented.

What role, if any, should the government play in not just theatre but the arts as a whole?
Government should invest, facilitate, create critical mass.  It should invest in training and support – start-up funding (as with any business), freeing up capital for start-up, and be a supporter of Bahamian art – believing in our culture and investing in it.  That isn’t to say that governments should be patronizing and invest in mediocrity (which is what they tend to do); governments should seek out the best of contemporary Bahamian culture and promote it.  Governments who are proud of their nations do that.  The fact that we have yet to elect a government that does, suggests that we really aren’t all that proud.

Prove me wrong.

Profile: Matthew Kelly


Matthew Kelly at Express Yourself. (Courtesy of M.Kelly)

How long have you been involved in Theatre?
Somewhere around 18 years: if you’re counting high school. 

What inspired you to become involved?
Wanting to understand and be a part of performance and story, and then there was that whole teenage love thing.  After that first production if it’s in your blood you’re addicted.

In what capacity do you participate in Theatre?
Primarily I’m a director, but I’m a jack of all trades and believe in having a broad background.  It’s also pretty impractical for us in The Bahamas to paint little lines on the stage and say “I’m an actor!”, “I’m a director!” when what they really mean is “I don’ wanna do that over there, so I’ll give myself this job description right here, thank you very much.”  Even writers should be forced to be involved far more.  To mangle a maxim, if a playwright should write what he knows then he’d better know theatre.

Can you list the productions that you have been involved in over the years?

The Caucasian Chalk Circle

Scrooge / A Christmas Carol.

Snow White and the Seven Dudes.

Cinderella.

Black Crab‘s Tragedy.

Slaps.

The Hold Up.

Island Sex (’02).

Play Time.

Devil on the Cross.

Diary of Souls.

Da Market Fire.

Island Sex (’06).

Da Rally.

Love in Two Acts (The Bear and The Open Door).

Light.

What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre?
So many!  A random selection: 

Screaming “A fart has no nose!” in the Chalk Circle. I was pretty bad, but it freed me of stage fright.  

Performing Black Crab’s Tragedy (30 member cast) to and audience of two in Freeport

Selling out the National Center for the Performing Arts.

Having my eyes opened during Da Market Fire.

How do you feel about Theatre in The Bahamas? What are its weak and strong points? How active is it?
Thankfully theatre is on the rebound.  

Theatre in The Bahamas is in a fledgling state, a bit weird considering its decades and decades of history.  In a sense it’s really being reborn.  Not all of it or all of the people are new, not by far, but part of our legacy was a disconnect from the previous generation to the current one in theatre.  That’s no-one’s fault per se, but one consequence has been a lot of new groups pushing forward, making their own way (which is excellent) but not having the benefit of the previous generation’s experience and wisdom to pick, choose and refuse from.  It’s also meant that the public’s perception has been one of spotty theatre instead of a steady continuum which helps make it harder to build audiences

An up side is that there are all these great, energetic, passionate, and dedicated people on the scene now doing what they have to to tell their stories and express their creativity.

How do we make it better?
We all know what needs to be done, but these things are just addressing symptoms.  I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of what really plagues theatre, other arts, and even broader social issues in The Bahamas comes down to us not committing the time to building functional community.  If the mechanisms and social constructs and social capital of functional community are in place then dealing with issues becomes an automatic and second nature response because it’s in the interest of the community.  A lot of the fracturing of the ‘community’ that was present is showing signs of subsiding and this is a great time be building stronger bonds.

How do you prepare to direct a show? Are there any special challenges that you must overcome when directing in The Bahamas?
There’s some prep work that goes on before a play is chosen, but once the script is in hand there must first be a familiarity with the text. After several readings I can begin making decisions on style, spine, technical and creative design, and rough rehearsal and production schedules. All these decisions have an impact on one another but it all comes back to understanding your role as director and the considerations of the play, the place (venue, time and atmosphere), and the audience.  My style of note taking is a mash-up of a few recommendations I’ve come across and I recommend Backwards and Forwards by David Ball and On Directing by Harold Clurman as great books to start with regarding initial preparation. 

There are many challenges when directing in The Bahamas, but I suspect they’re challenges that are common anywhere that there’s not a highly functional theatre community, and that’s most places that an industry isn’t thriving in.  Time, money, skilled people, but much more than these we face a culture that’s still pretty void of thinking about theatre as a part of their lives.  Cultivating audiences and a general atmosphere where going to plays is an integral part of life is the biggest collective challenge we must address as a community right now.

A producer/production manager takes care of a lot of challenges the play has, so for the director I would say that finding a team that commits to the work a play requires is number one.  There are many who say they’re really interested in acting but they never explore the craft at all.  What they really mean is that they want to be in front of an audience and be applauded, and they expect you to give that to them.  If there’s someone with potential I’ll try to show him everything I’ve picked up along the way, but if you’re not interested in learning I quickly stop you from wasting everyone else’s time.  I give you the conditions up front and if you don’t play by the rules I fire you.  Whether it’s a paying gig or not you’re fired because you’re not working as part of the team and it’s my job to keep things honest and fair for everyone; there’s nothing personal about it.

Any advice for those who want to get involved in Theatre in any capacity?
Read, discuss & do.  Read plays, read books on the part of the craft you’re interested in, support that with books about the other parts of the craft.  Don’t think that information from books is enough, you have to discuss and do what you learn to really grasp it and you have to discuss it with people more experienced than yourself.  So get involved with one or, better, several theatre groups.  And go expecting to work while you learn. Maybe you’ll be amazed that work can actually be fun.

Who were your mentors in Theatre?
I’d have to credit my junior high English teacher, Mrs. Hunter, for showing such passion around plays and literature and learning in general.  The main thing though, was that she cared about us and our learning.  I’ve also picked up a lot of dos and don’ts from people I’ve been around, but I haven’t really had any mentors as such.  Perhaps it’s best to count good books and mistakes and a willingness to learn from them. 

How do you see your future in Bahamian Theatre?
Um… with the all new Future 5000 Glasses Combo Kit?  By reading tea leaves?  

I’m going to direct plays, actively pass on what I’ve learned and try my hand at writing.  I’ll also be involved in the work of building community in theatre.

What is your favorite Bahamian play?
Ha!  I don’t believe in favorites. Seriously.

In your years in theatre, have you seen the government support the arts in a tangible way?
Of course, but if you’re asking if it should be better the answer is also of course!  Still, I’m a big believer in going out and getting it done then shoving it in government’s face to support.  They’re always keen to swoop in for the credit and the photo op once the work is done.

What role, if any, should the government play in not just theatre but the arts as a whole?
Government should expect us to get together and figure out what we want as a community and then to reasonably fund our needs in the same way others receive funding.  They shouldn’t just prop us up, but instead should be taking care of infrastructural needs, like improving the National Centre. They also need to help in maintaining a framework that enables the arts to flourish but otherwise stay the hell out of the way.  Until we get our collective butt together I don’t think it reasonable to expect much.  It’s obvious that a national program is needed, but again I think that’s a cart-before-horse conversation.  That said, even without looking at the arts community government should recognize the value of art, and much more importantly, creativity and have a basic system in place to support consistently both the production of artistic works and the cultivation of creativity in the broad populace.

Profile: Claudette “Cookie” Allens


Cookie

Allens in SiP's "God's Trombones" 2010 (Courtesy of ringplay.org).

How long have you been involved in Theatre?
From 1970 – 41 years.

What inspired you to become involved?
A workmate – the university players was having a membership drive.

In what capacity (ies) do you participate in Theatre?
Actor, front of house, costumes, and any other area requested.

Can you list the productions that you have participated in over the years?
The list is very long, here goes;

The Chance,

God‘s Trombones,

Chippy,

You Can Lead A Horse To Water,

Woman Take Two,

Agnes of God,

Mama They Raising the New Flag Now,

Them,

Fathers Day,

Amen Corner,

A Raisin in the Sun,

Ceremonies In Dark,

Old Men,

I, Nehemiah, Remember When….

What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre? Good and bad. How do you feel about Theatre in The Bahamas?
The Bahamian theatre has been at my soul for more than 40 years.  I have been there when it was at its peak, saw it fall and I’m here now as it takes an upward turn.

What are its weak and strong points?
I feel that it’s weak points is that there is no training ground for young theatre artists.  No major programs at the Dundas or other institutions.  And the strong point is that the productions are of a high standard and there are persons still interested in viewing and participation.

How active is it?
Not as active as it has been in previous years when there were groups performing throughout the year on a very regular basis.

How can we make it better?
We have to continue the role that we are playing at the moment. This will encourage continued support. With programs like SIP I can see us providing a training ground for young people through the support and influence of the persons we attract here during our one week festival.

What do you do to prepare for a part?
First I study the character, make the choices that are not obvious together with those that are obvious in the script, consume myself with the choices and living the person.

Any advice for those who want to get involved in Theatre in any capacity?
Participation in the theatre is a total commitment.  If you are not prepared for that type of commitment, your best bet is to be an audience member.

Who were your mentors in Theatre?
Pandora Gibson Gomez and  Cicely Tyson.

What is your favorite Bahamian play?
You can Lead a Horse to Water.

In your years as an actor, have you seen the government support the arts in a tangible way?
…. Carifesta, the Arts Festival…..

Profile: Deon Simms


Deon at the "From This Day Forward" premiere. From left to right are, Minister of Culture, Charles Maynard, Deon Simms and head of Track Road Theatre, Matthew Kelly. (Photo courtesy of TRT)

How long have you been involved in Theatre?
I have been involved in theatre for 13 years.

What inspired you to become involved?
I was inspired after seeing a friend in a James Catalyn production.

In what capacity (ies) do you participate in Theatre?
I participate in any area that I’m needed.

Can you list the productions that you have participated in over the years?

I have participated in:

Black Crab‘s Tragedy– Actor

A Diary of Souls – Actor

Slaps – Actor/Writer (One Man Show)

The Holdup – Actor

Playtime – Actor/Writer (one of them)

The Devil on the Cross – Actor

Island Sex – Backstage, Sound

Da Market Fire – Director/Actor

Da Webshop Horror – Actor

Da Rally – Actor

Love in Two Acts – Lights & Sound

Light – Writer/Director/Sound

Woman Take TwoAssistant Director

What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre?
Performing in Freeport to three people.

Performing in New Orleans and signing autographs afterwards.

Watching my cast give a performance that made the head of Plays and Films Control Board Cry.

Trying to keep a straight face watching Matthew Kelly, Emile Hunt and Ward Minnis do their thing in a scene that I was in with them.

Losing my voice in the middle of a play in a scene where I had to shout.

Going to the police station in my Baron Smiley costume to ask directions and get some weird looks because it wasn’t Halloween.

Writing and Directing the first play I had ever written and have such a favorable response from the people who saw it.

How do you feel about Theatre in The Bahamas? What are its weak and strong points? How active is it? How can we make it better?
I feel theatre is a gold mine!

The weak point is that there is no constant objective critical voice that says the truth about the productions that are staged. A lot of people veterans and novices alike could benefit greatly from this and since it is not there, they get this false sense of achievement for some horribly written and/or directed productions. Compounding the problem is the ego of the some of the persons that put out theatre who see honest commentary as personal attacks on them and their work and prefer to listen to the voices of the persons paying to see them who applaud them regardless of the quality of their work.

As for strong points, this country has been blessed not only with lots of people who yearn to be involved in theatre but an audience that is yearning for it. Bahamians are starving for homegrown entertainment! Theatre I feel is poised to become the foundation for a great entertainment industry.

Theatre is not as active as it can be because most thespians are on a paper chase because it is expensive to produce for little or no return. A lot of productions are paltry in quality and reflect unjustly on other productions better ilk. Therefore, it becomes a chore to get funding. If more people would support behind the scenes with discount venues, equipment rental, and marketing packages theatre could be more active.

We can make it better by work shopping our productions more- lose the egos! When you’re finished writing a draft read it, rip it apart until it’s perfect and flawless. Require and get more from actors and directors! There should be a lot more craft being honed in rehearsals instead of the mere running of lines and blocking. Include more types of art. In my TRT’s production of LIGHT we had an original soundtrack that featured the music of local hip hop artists. As a result many people who would not have usually come out to theatre came and a lot of people who heard the music were interested in purchasing the soundtrack. If we diversify our offerings we can broaden our audience.

What do you do to prepare for a part?
Learn my lines. Think about what the character would look like, what he would sound like. Take either the thing i love/hate most about the character and build him around that.

How do you prepare to direct a show? Are there any special challenges that you must overcome when directing in The Bahamas?
I prepare to direct a show by tearing apart the script and finding the dialog that will require the actors to bring their ability to the forefront during auditions. A proper looking and sounding cast is key. With that you can make any script work. The only special challenge I see that director’s have to overcome is actors that think they do not need directing. They become a poison pill and if not taken care of they can take turn your whole cast against you. Best thing is to ferret them out at the beginning and deal with them then.

What does it take to write a play?
To write a play takes a story with characters that you know and believe in that are in a situation of which you have equal knowledge and/or belief. Once you’ve written the first draft read it and make revisions. When you are done with revisions you may want to act it out. This helps you to see the dialog in action and helps you to match it to the situation. Once you have a draft that you are comfortable with then find a cast. I find it’s better to find people who look like the characters and to mold them than it is to find someone that has the mannerisms but does not resemble the character. Then rehearse the cast until they own the characters (make time) or else they will just look like people delivering lines. However, if they look the part you may be able to get away with it. Always be fair and allow your cast to have input in their performance. If they feel ownership then you can’t lose.

Any advice for those who want to get involved in Theatre in any capacity?
Find someone who is doing a show, go see it and then tell them your intentions. Be prepared to work at it and maybe even long periods of inaction and doing other things before you see the stage. Stick with it and you will get your turn. Remember though theatre needs all sort of people to make it work.

Deon Simms in an interview with Giovanni Stuart. (Photo courtesy of TRT)

Who were your mentors in Theatre?
Dr. Ian Strachan.

How do you see your future in Bahamian Theatre?
I see me as mainly a writer.

What is your favorite Bahamian play?
Da Webshop Horror.

In your years as an actor, director and writer have you seen the government support the arts in a tangible way?
Not as tangible as I would have liked. They treat theatre like a disabled stepchild. They could impact the both the youth and social climate of The Bahamas by providing more tangible support for the arts. They are more interested in things such as marches, choirs and Junkanoo than anything else.

What role, if any, should the government play in not just theatre but the arts as a whole?
The government should provide resources for the arts. They should assist with finding funding, providing venues, and equipment (sound, light, chairs etc.).
They should also approve a calendar for different forms of the arts to visit the schools so that a certain time throughout the year a few productions from
different groups would be beneficial. Have parents pay for the productions as a part of the registration for the school year. This way when that circuit is
finished and the productions have runs outside of the school they would be attended having been marketed in the schools. Further they could give incentives to people who allow their buildings to be used by artists.