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.

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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: Dana J. Ferguson


Dana

Dana J. Ferguson (courtesy of danajferguson.com)

How long have you been involved in Theatre?
For as long as I can remember!

What inspired you to become involved?
My mother was a performer and did a number of projects while she was pregnant with me – I figure something rubbed off! But I decided to seriously pursue it as a career when I saw Romeo and Juliet performed live in England while on a summer school trip.  That performance changed my life and I knew it was something I had to do.

In what capacity (ies) do you participate in Theatre?
Actor, Assistant Stage Manager, Wardrobe Mistress, Set Design – and in any other way I can help out, I do!

Dana as Lizzie in "Stamping, Shouting and Singing Home" (courtesy of danajferguson.com)

Can you list the productions that you have participated in over the years?
I’ve been involved in a number of different productions.

2010,  Her (and all other Bahamian characters), DAT BAHAMIAN T’ING, Yellowtale Theatre Company, Robin Belfield
2010,  Hermia, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, Ringplay Productions, Patti-Anne Ali
2009, Ariel, THE TEMPEST, Ringplay Productions , Patti-Anne Ali & Craig Pinder
2009, Narrator, HEAVEN’S GROCERY STORE, World Methodist Conference
2008, Lizzie Walker, STAMPING, SHOUTING AND SINGING HOME, Forest Forge Theatre & Nuffield Theatre, Russ Tunney
2008, Negro Woman, Matron, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, Nuffield Theatre, Patrick Sandford
2007, Wendy, PETER PAN, Nuffield Theatre, Patrick Sandford
2007, Woman In The Green Dress (Lead)/All Bahamian Roles, THAT BAHAMIAN T’ING, Nuffield Theatre & Yellow Tale Theatre, Robin Belfield
2007,  Ariel [The Tempest], WILL AT THE WEALD, The Company Presents, Patrick Sandford
2007,  Phoebe [As You Like It], WILL AT THE WEALD, The Company Presents, Robin Belfield
2006, Woman In The Green Dress (Lead)/All Bahamian Roles, DAT BAHAMIAN T’ING, Forest Arts/Nuffield Theatre, Robin Belfield
2006, Pimple, SHE STOOPS TO CONQUERBristol Old Vic Theatre School, Chris Harris
2006, Dorinda, THE BEAUX’ STRATAGEM, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Chris Harris
2006, Lady Hunstanton, A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Bonnie Hurren
2006, Cecily Cardew, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Bonnie Hurren
2006, Duchess Eleanor [Henvy VI], UNEASY LIES THE HEAD THAT WEARS THE CROWN, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Sonia Fraser
2005, Titania, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, David Collins
2005, Lady [The Lady and The Lion], GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES , Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Elwyn Johnson
Wendy

Peter and Wendy (courtesy of danajferguson.com)

What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre?
A Good Memory – I once worked with a young lady who was extremely self-concious about her work, which was ludicrous because she’s really very good!  She asked me to help coach her, so I did – and when she hit the stage for opening night, she was electric.  The audience loved her and it made me feel good to know that I was able to help her make that happen.

A Bad Memory – I get really upset working with people who don’t take the job seriously.  Unless you’re a one-man show, you are part of an ensemble and are accounable to the rest of the team so you need to do your part in making the scene/show etc work.  Failure to commit to memorising lines in a timely fashion or even showing up to set on time frustrates the entire process. I once worked with a guy who sang his praises about being a committed artist and true professional – but then he came on set to shoot the scenes and was duller than dishwater!  Totally flat, lackluster performance… he couldn’t put his money where his mouth was.  Suffice it to say, he never got work with that director again.  That was a painful day on set, let me tell ya!

Hermia in love. (from left to right, Matthew Wildgoose, Dana and Nicole Fair, courtesy of danajferguson.com)

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’d love for the cultural arts in the Bahamas to be respected and revered.  To inspire the young and young at heart.  Art should never be censored – but unfortunately, the Christian Council plays a role in regulating Bahamian art, resulting in many productions losing out on the opportunity to live, breathe and exist in spite of which social or religious faction that work  may offend.  Art should spark discussion and debate. It should be taken seriously.  The Bahamas is entrenched with deep and meaningful history that is lost on today’s youth.  The development of an arts council to aid in promoting and protecting art and the artist would go a long way in preserving and promoting Bahamian cultural arts both here and abroad.  Bahamain culture is more than Junkanoo.  It’s storytelling and photography, painting and straw work, music and dance.  It’s theatre and design, cinematic creations with Bahamian directors, actors and singers who add something to their creations that no other nationality can replicate. Instead of working together to promote Bahamian talent, we have people that deliberately put stumbling blocks in the way of young directors and actors etc in an effort to frustrate their efforts to develop our culture.  Until we learn to work together, theatre will continue to be sporadic.

What do you do to prepare for a part?
The process varies depending on the project but I always start with reading the entire script a few times.  Then I start paying attention to my character and the relationships they have with other characters in the play .  But with every play, I always return to the script – sometimes you get stuck thinking a certain way but re-reading the text will help you unravel the many layers to get to the truth.  And at the end of the day, an actor should always be truthful to the script and the character.  That makes for the best performances.

Any advice for those who want to get involved in Theatre in any capacity?
There are so many aspects of theatre that one can get involved in.  For those who are shy, some of the most important work happens behind the scenes – lights, sound, costumes, stage managing, script doctor…the list is endless.  Be punctual – Bahamian time does NOT count.  And over-communicate with your director and colleagues.

Who were your mentors in Theatre?
My mother .  She’s one of the best performers I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.

How do you see your future in Bahamian Theatre?
I’m happy to be involved as much as I possibly can for as long as I can.

What is your favorite Bahamian play?
Men Talk was pretty funny – I remember seeing it years ago with some of the women in my family and we had a grand ol’ time!  Light was also very good – it was one of the first plays I watched when I returned to Nassau from Britain.  Then there is the token go-to classics, like woman Take Two.

Her

Dana as Her in "Dat Bahamian Ting" (courtesy of danajferguson.com)

In your years as an actor, have you seen the government support the arts in a tangible way?
Yes – Junkanoo.  But that was many, MANY years in the making.  Theatre has a long way to go yet to compete with Junkanoo.

What role, if any, should the government play in not just theatre but the arts as a whole?
It would be wonderful for the government to willingly assist in establishing an independent council that could aid with financing the numerous projects floating around at the moment.  I’ve had the pleasure of reading quite a few scripts that are really very good, but without the financial backing or support, those scripts will never see the light of day.  And that would be a tragedy for Bahamina artists, because there are some truly talented people in this little country.

Profile: Erin Knowles


Reva and Erin backstage at SiP's 2010 "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (left to right, Reva Cartwright-Carroll and Erin Knowles courtesy of R.CC)

How long have you been involved in Theatre?
9 months

What inspired you to become involved?

Travis & Reva Cartwright-Carroll. They were both actively involved in theatre and encouraged me to try out some aspect of theater.

Dr. Toni Francis also convinced me to try out for Horn of Plenty, I failed on that note, but ended up the assistant director.

In what capacity (ies) do you participate in Theatre?

I have worked as an assistant director, stage assistant and sound, currently directing a short film.

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

Horn of Plenty ft Indio: Shakespeare in Paradise 2010

Midsummer Night’s Dream: Shakespeare in Paradise 2010

The Cabinet: 2011

Sigma Tau Delta Short Film: 2011

What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre? Good and bad.

My first really bad experience occurred recently. I never realized how frustrating it could be for a cast member to be missing when the production is scheduled to begin. On two separate occasions two of the main characters showed up 15-20 minutes after the show was scheduled to begin. The frustration was unnerving and the tension was beyond bearable.

I’ve had good experiences in all of the productions I’ve worked with so far. I particularly enjoyed watching every performance that I assisted with, especially Horn of Plenty, as I was the assistant director. I felt proud of the male and female actors, they were my colleagues and responded well to Dr. Wisdom’ direction, as well as mine. 

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 is underappreciated. It is gradually improving as more Bahamians are becoming aware of its existence. There are more weaknesses than there are strong points at the moment. I’m fairly new to the scene, but I realize that the competition between the few playwrights tend to disadvantage them, as well as the Bahamian people. When I say that, I make reference to the lack of communication between members of the world of theatre. With so little opportunities for staging a play, other than a festival like SIP, I believe it is pointless having five different productions going on at the same time. Who really benefits? There is no strategic plan for staging plays. Communication is non-existent; no one volunteers information that can prove beneficial to all. The populations of The Bahamas is less than 400,000, and by no means do they all support theatre, with the little support garnered from the public, I think productions should be staged in consideration/support of other playwrights as well as in consideration of the audience.

With my view on the weaknesses out of the way, I think playwrights should be commended for the continuous effort exerted in theatre. In an attempt to keep it alive and develop interest in it, we are privy to productions like “Woman Take Two”, “Not my Good Child” “Pa and the Preacher”, “The Cabinet” and many others. I believe the strongest point, and one that continues to develop, is the interest in unveiling the nuances of politics in Bahamian society. This I believe is beneficial and timely.

What does it take to be a stage manager/assistant to the director?

It takes time, effort and a willingness to learn. I learned, as assistant to Dr. Wisdom, it’s not so much telling the actors what it is they need to do, but making them comfortable enough to want to do something differently. Being a stage assistant to Reva Cartwright-Carroll also taught me the importance of taking the initiative, regardless of your assignment backstage, it’s important to remain focus and look for avenues to offer assistance.

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

Theatre is not simply about acting, there are so many capacities available; finding what suits you will be the only task. I haven’t found my calling in theatre yet but through searching I’ve gained valuable experience in sound, directing and being a stage assistant, I’ve even dabbled in make-up. Taking an interest is the first step, volunteering is second, allowing theatre to embrace you is the final step and there you will be subject to possibilities.

Who were your mentors in Theatre?

Reva Cartwright-Carroll; Dr. Toni Francis

How do you see your future in Bahamian Theatre?

Good question. It is my ultimate goal to be a teacher, but I will offer assistance in any capacity if needed. I’m also determined to reach out for further opportunities to gain experience that will be useful in my classroom. 

What is your favorite Bahamian play?

“Diary of Souls”

In your years as a member of theatre, have you seen the government support the arts in a tangible way?

NOT AT ALL! For the short period of time I’ve been around, the only support I’ve noticed is the few politicians that turn out to see the production.

What role, if any, should the government play in not just theatre but the arts as a whole?

Beginning in the schools, it is important for students to focus on art in its entirety; it should not merely be about junkanoo. Students are ignorant to theatre; they are underestimated and considered too dumb to read Shakespeare or “Diary of Souls”, there is a need for elevation of the Bahamian students, through theatre, they can be raised from the slump they are in and given the necessary tools to garner an appreciation for art in its whole!

The support from the government can also come in the form of respect for theatre. 

Profile: Jane Poveromo


Alonso

Jane backstage at SiP's "The Tempest" (courtesy of R.Whitehouse 2009)

How long have you been involved in Theatre?

I have been involved in the Bahamas since 1983.

What inspired you to become involved?

I was trying to get my ‘foot in the door’ for a long time. I played Toad in Toad of Toad Hall in Primary school and that got the juices going. I did some stuff in college too. When I came to Nassau marriage got in the way. Then by chance I went to pick up Sammy Bethel from a rehearsal at the Dundas for Witness for the Prosecution and Warren Jones put a script in my hand and asked me to read and I got the part of the judge.

 
In what capacity (ies) do you participate in Theatre? 

I’m an actor. My first audition for Philip Burrows was for The Dark of the Moon and until Patti Anne-Ali came down in 2009 I never had to audition for a part again. I have been in over 20 productions at the Dundas and one at COB, our first Bahamian Macbeth. I have also done pantomime and worked with Keith Wisdom. I was also part of the group who performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 1991 and travelled to Freeport for a couple of productions.

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

Judge in Witness for the Prosecution (1983),
Mrs Summery in Dark of the Moon (1984),
small role, chorus, dancer in Mother Goose (1985),
Rose Kirk in Nuts (1986),
Vera in Stepping Out (1986),
Baroness Roach in Cinderella (1987),
Martha in The Rimers of Eldritch (1987),
Woman 3 in I Nehemiah Remember When (1987),
Blanche in Brighton Beach Memoirs (1988),
Teacher in You Can Lead a Horse to Water (1988),
Woman 3 in Nehemiah part 2 (1989),
Dis we Tings (1989),
Mother in True West (1989),
Evil Queen in Snow White (1989),
Blues for Mr Charlie (1990),
Dis We Tings  2 (1990),
Teacher in You Can Lead a Horse to Water at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Dundas (1991),
Woman 3 in Nehemiah part3 (1992),
Music of The Bahamas (1992),
Mrs Shandig in The Runner Stumbles (Dansa award) (1993),
Betty Meeks in The Foreigner (Dansa award) (1994),
Gwendolyn Pigeon in The Odd Couple (Dansa award) (1995),
Woman 3 in Nehemiah part 4 (1998),
Witch/Porter in Macbeth (2001 & 2004),
Daisy Werthan in Driving Miss Daisy (2008),
Michaela Alonso-Naples-Sands in The Tempest (Shakespeare in Paradise) (2009),
Matilda Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare in Paradise) (2010)

Jane backstage at "The Tempest" (courtesy of J. Poveromo 2009)

What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre?

Memorable moments….mmmm?… have to think about that.

Who were your mentors in Theatre?

My mentor of course is Philip Burrows. Theatre was on fire for years while he was doing rep. Now hopefully with SiP it will take off again.

What is your favorite Bahamian play?
And my favourite Bahamian play is 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?

Government support….not really. They need to respect theatre and the arts the same as they do sports but fat chance!

Profile: Nicole Fair


Nicole and Craig

Nicole as Miranda and Craig Pinder as Prospero in SiP's 2009 "The Tempest" (courtesy of Rachael Whitehouse)

How long have you been involved in Theatre?

For 14 years but with a break of five years (when I was birthin’ and nursin’ mah chirren).

What inspired you to become involved? 

I tried out for Stella in “A Streetcar Named Desire” (by Tennessee Williams) at university and got the role.  I was hooked after that!

In what capacity (ies) do you participate in Theatre?

As an actor, writer, director and dramatic arts instructor. 

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

Local:  The Most Massive Woman Wins (Dr. Fritz/Maria, Cel, telephone operators & other characters); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Helena); The Tempest (Miranda); Bahamian Macbeth (Ross); Death of Silence (Maritsa); Branch of the Blue Nile (Marylin)

Abroad: Pinocchio (Pinocchio); Erin/Jester (The Dark Castle); Sam/Gino/Teacher (Jeremy Snow); LAMDA: The Cherry Orchard (Varya); Duchess of Malfi (Duchess); The Country Wife (Dainty Fidget); Antony & Cleopatra (Cleopatra).  University: Romeo & Juliet (the Nurse); A Streetcar Named Desire (Stella)

What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre?

When doing Restoration Comedy at drama school we had to self-direct a few scenes (our director had fallen ill) and one of them was an 18th century version of a verbal cat fight and the rhythm of the lines (like a ball being thrown backwards and forwards) was so spot on that the audience erupted in spontaneous applause in the middle of the scene.  Hadn’t happened to me before and hasn’t happened since.  It was some kind of magic! 

When I was directing a school play, I ended up doing it all – filling in for a no-show actor, doing lights, sound, not to mention all the rehearsals and admin prior to the show.  I realized then and there that a reliable team is essential when it comes to putting on a production. 

When the lights went out during the middle of The Tempest and we all pulled together – breaking out flashlights from our cars; the actors carried on without missing a beat and the audience were breathless.   Again it was all about teamwork – from both the backstage crew, the actors onstage and backstage and the audience themselves – and it worked!

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?

With the advent of Ringplay Productions’ Shakespeare in Paradise I think this marks a real turning point in the evolution of theatre in the Bahamas.  I believe that theatre is reawakening in the Bahamas after a decade or more of slumber.  Strong points: we have a lot of talent for a small country and we are starting to gather together into small groups which means more organisation and efficiency.  Weak points: we lack training – I’d like to see this addressed through more workshops; we lack a professional base ie those participants in theatre who are recognised as professionals and are remunerated adequately for their jobs.  Seeing performance art as a job means that the theatre arts will be taken more seriously by both audience members, sponsors and theatre participants. 

What do you do to prepare for a part? 

Well, read the play first off, highlight my lines.  For classical theatre there is more research involved as the meanings of the lines are deeper and not as superficial as modern plays.  For Shakespeare I use the iambic pentameter beats method ie the idea that English (especially Shakespearean English) has a rhythm of short/long/short/long repeating – 5 pairs of short/long for each line.  For monologues the ‘telegram’ method can be very helpful.  Also, I think about the character’s intentions in each scene and build a story in my head of the character’s life (even and especially those parts that are not in the actual play).  Breathwork is necessary as it informs changes of mood and thought and determines the emotional life of the character.  Bodywork and posture are also extremely important when portraying a character.  Living with the lines is important – that is going over them daily as the time for performance nears. 

Nicole

Nicole at SiP 2009 Festival Bar

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

Contact Ringplay Productions, Track Road Theatre, Peacock Theatre Company or any other theatre companies you know of and volunteer to see how you like it and to discover what areas you like most.  Do you want the limelight?  Then acting is for you.  Do you prefer to be behind the scenes – a part of the camaraderie and preparation, ensuring the show runs smoothly?  Are you technical?  Then lighting and sound might be your forte.  One thing I can say about theatre – it takes all kinds – so there is always something for everyone no matter what their talent. 

Who were your mentors in Theatre?

Tamara Harvey and John Link – my first directors at university and at drama school.  They were very encouraging of me and extremely professional. 

How do you see your future in Bahamian Theatre?

I hope to continue to stretch myself as an actor – Most Massive Woman Wins was the first time I’d ever done any modern comedy or written any for that matter.  I’d like to do more collaborative writing as Jules Carey and I did for our piece Every Woman.  The process was very organic, with us changing our lines in every rehearsal (almost up until we opened) to suit the character, the flow.  Changing all the time was part of the process – a combination of learned lines and improvisation.  It’s scary but it tests your skills as an actor.  I see myself taking more risks as an actor.  Most Massive Woman Wins was a brave step in terms of its subject matter and the way it was portrayed – it could be offensive to some and funny to others but on the other hand it could also make people think – and I think not stretching my boundaries creatively  – playing it safe – would be the wrong way to go.

I would like to see Peacock Theatre Company, in collaboration with other theatre companies, offering workshops to interested individuals and developing an annual repertory theatre which utilises a greater range of talent, performance genres – from modern to classical, serious to comedic – and venues.  For instance we should be doing more outdoor theatre – our climate practically begs for it! 

What is your favorite Bahamian play?

Woman Take Two.  I just saw it last year at Shakespeare in Paradise 2010 and its themes are timeless and humorous, its relationships so real. 

In your years as an actor, have you seen the government support the arts in a tangible way?

Personally, I don’t think the government is at all supportive of the theatre arts.  I can’t speak for other spheres of the art world as I am not in the know.  I do think that even if the government did not give money per se that its Ministries could give more support.  In particular the Ministry of Tourism could get more involved in helping us expand our audience base.  In addition, as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also a communicator of Bahamian culture around the globe we could expand our opportunities through their contacts which would include exposure, travel and grant applications.

What role, if any, should the government play in not just theatre but the arts as a whole?

The arts are often subsidised in other countries though to what extent this happens in the current economy I am not sure.  I do think that the real thrust has to come from the people, that a combination of education and entertainment can turn a profit.  In my opinion it is the private sector which will have to drive this resurrection of the theatre and hopefully once government realises how important this sector is we can then attract more funding.  Pressure from the populace is what is needed and only when a larger group of people perceive the advantages of having a well-developed theatre arts industry will the tide turn in our favour in terms of both public and private funding.  Realistically speaking, though, theatre has always struggled and survived despite low budgets with very few theatre companies becoming hugely profitable.  The thing is we have a skewed vision as it is the success stories which are publicised.  By way of example, in the U.K. the average actor in an average theatre company is making a very low wage.  Having said that, it is a richly rewarding art form for those who are called to it.  Once you are struck by theatre fever, you won’t be able to stop doing it!