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: Nickeva Eve


How long have you been involved in Theatre?
14 years, although in the last three years I haven’t been active.

What inspired you to become involved?
I got my first taste of theatre in junior high school when my English class wrote and staged a play about teen social issues.  I played a drug addict.  It was the first time I had ever stepped outside of myself.  The experience was at once scary and liberating; I loved it.

It was the memory of that wonderful experience in junior high school combined with encouragement from one of my favorite teachers that really pushed me to become involved. (I also like wearing costumes and find it difficult waiting all year for Halloween.)

In what capacity (ies) do you participate in Theatre?
I’ve been an actor, writer, and director.

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

No Seeds in Babylon – actor

Black Crab’s Tragedy – actor

Diary of Souls – actor

Play Time – actor

Island Sex – writer

The Sweethearts’ Club – writer, director, actor

What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre? Good and bad.
Definitely playing a homosexual man in “The Sweethearts’ Club” tops the list of good moments.  That was the most fun I’ve had on stage so far, and I made people laugh.  That’s always nice.   Another memorable moment was playing Silvi in Ian Strachan’s “Diary of Souls”.  There was a scene where Silvi recounted being sexually abused that always brought me to tears on stage.  Before that moment, I had no idea that I could feel a character so deeply.

I can’t say that I’ve ever had a bad moment in theatre, not to say that there weren’t difficulties or disappointments.  For me, the personal joy of creating something or being a part of something that people enjoyed overrode any hardships.

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?
Bahamian theatre has grown in that it is practiced and is supported by a wider ranging group of individuals.  It’s not predictable.  It’s not always traditional and that makes it exciting because it touches more of us in different ways.  What’s weak about Bahamian theatre is the fact that it has not yet become a pervasive part of our lives in the way that Junkanoo has for instance.  Not enough of us are willing to commit to it.  Not enough of us take it seriously and are willing even to support it.  How many of us actually mention it when we talk about the culture of The Bahamas? And that’s what we have to work on.  As a people, we have to grow to love and be proud of and vocal about our theatre.

What do you do to prepare for a part?
I make the character real by giving him/her a history and idiosyncrasies that extend beyond what’s on paper.   I do my best to sync myself with the character.  Right before I go on stage, I think about this person and what he/she is feeling in the upcoming scene.  I block out everything else.

Describe your process as a writer. What are your goals as a writer?
As a writer, my process has changed somewhat over the years.  Before, I wrote about what I felt and about interesting scenarios that popped into my head.  Now, I find that I have to think about what I want to write, and I often have to create inspiration. When at first I start a new story or play, I never really have a clear map from beginning to end.  I create the characters and let them steer the story.

My goals as a writer are to bring my characters to life, to tell stories that are lived but not always told, and to be relevant.

Any advice for those who want to get involved in Theatre in any capacity?
Theatre is for everyone.  If you’re looking for a type of theatre group, play or experience that does not yet exist, create it.  Don’t be afraid to be different.

Who were your mentors in Theatre?
Jane Poveromo – In senior high, I was a student in one of Jane Poveromo’s drama classes.  She encouraged me to pursue theatre, and without her encouragement I doubt that I would be in Bahamian theatre today.

Ian Strachan – He was the Director of “Track Road Theatre” when I first joined the group.   His energy and enthusiasm about Bahamian theatre was very contagious.  Through Track Road, I gained a deeper appreciation and love of theatre.

How do you see your future in Bahamian Theatre?
Well, I’ve been away from Bahamian theatre for a few years.  I’m still writing, and I’m sure that I will return to theatre.  Hopefully, my future in it will be a long one.

What is your favorite Bahamian play?
This is a hard question.  You know…I grew up on James Catalyn and Friends, watching Viveka and Cookie and of course James Catalyn.  Those plays combined Bahamian culture and comedy in a way that made me laugh and think; this is a combination that I favor in my own playwriting.  Later, it was Michael Pintard’s one-man show “Still Standing” that gave me my first taste of poetic theatre and opened my mind to the possibilities within Bahamian theatre—i.e. that Bahamian theatre could be gangster, youthful, different.   Then it was “Diary of Souls” that combined reporting and history and wonderful storytelling to create a thought-provoking look at Bahamian-Haitian relations—a topic that was and is still very relevant.  They’re all my favorites.

In your years as an actor/writer/director, have you seen the government support the arts in a tangible way?
Yes, I think so.  We’ve now got the National Centre for Performing Arts in addition to the Dundas Theatre.  We’ve got agreements between The Bahamas and other governments encouraging cultural exchanges.

Could more be done…yes.  Ultimately, however, I think that the success and continued growth of Bahamian arts depends upon the commitment and desire of the Bahamian people.   If we, as a collective unit, demand more government support of the arts, we will have it.

What role, if any, should the government play in not just theatre but the arts as a whole?
There are many individuals in government who personally support Bahamian arts.  I would love, however, for there to be a government-wide ‘policy of encouragement’ for the arts because I believe that the government has a cooperative role to play in the growth of Bahamian arts.

One form of encouragement could be to invest in a state-of-the-art theatre where Bahamian and international arts performances could be staged.  Less expensive forms of encouragement could be to arrange Bahamian performances for official visiting delegations or to include Bahamian arts (in addition to Junkanoo) in official tourism websites and overseas tourism advertisements/publications.

Speaking specifically to Bahamian theatre, it would be great for the government to invest in a performing arts compound where rehearsals could be held.  I’ve found from personal experience that a common barrier to the growth of Bahamian theatre is the difficulty in finding affordable rehearsal venues.