Profile: Philip Burrows


After a show

A photo of Philip in 2009 after his production of "Music of The Bahamas" at The Marley Resort. (photo by T.Cartwright-Carroll)

How long have you been involved in Theatre?
I began my involvement as a child in church productions and also performed in High School productions. I got involved in the local amateur theatre scene in 1974.

What inspired you to become involved?
I loved the stuff I was doing at church and school and wanted to do the same on the bigger stage so it was just the desire to get up there and do what I had seen others doing.

In what capacity do you participate in Theatre?
Directing, lighting, sound, a little writing, set design and construction, make-up, some acting and anything else that needs to be done.

Can you list the productions that you have been involved in over the years?
Having directed approximately 100 productions:

DIRECTING
Lester B. Pearson College – Victoria, B.C., Canada
Sweeney Todd
The Rimers of Eldritch 
True West
Once On This Island
Agnes Of God
House Of Blue
Leaves Night
Mother
Six Degrees Of Separation
Twelve Angry Women
Glengarry Glen Ross
The Runner Stumbles
The Odd Couple (Female Version)
Burn This Arsenic And Old Lace

Philip at work. (courtesy of N.Bethel)

Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts – Nassau, Bahamas

And Miss Reardon Drinks A Little
The Good Doctor
Zoo Story
You Can Lead A Horse To Water
Wait Until Dark
Sammie Swain (Co-Directed with Winston Saunders)
The Odd Couple
Dark of the Moon
Mr. Speaker
Thesolanicus
The Gingerbread Lady
A Case of Libel
Bedroom Farce
The Foreigner
Crimes of the Heart
The Rimers of Eldritch
I, Nehemiah, Remember When…
Our Boys (Co-directed with Winston Saunders)
I’m Not Rappaport
Brighton Beach Memoirs
Buried Child (Co-directed with David Burrows)
The Prodigal’s Brother
I, Nehemiah, Remember When…(Chapter II)
True West
Pa and the Preacher
The Mysterious Mr. Maphusa
Powercut
Of Mice and Men
Driving Miss Daisy
Blues for Mr. Charlie
No Seeds in Babylon
Agnes of God
Music of the Bahamas
Olemi’s Passage
I, Nehemiah, Remember When…(Chapter III)
Fatal Passage
A Pack of Lies
Father’s Day
The Runner Stumbles
The Amen Corner
Twelve Angry Men
Smile Orange
Other People’s Money
God’s Trombones
The Children’s Teeth

Edinburgh Festival FringeEdinburgh, Scotland

No Seeds in Babylon
You Can Lead A Horse To Water
Music of the Bahamas

Julian Theatre – San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

You Can Lead A Horse To Water (Co-Directed with Richard Seyd)

Buena Vista Restaurant – Nassau, Bahamas

Dedicated To The End

Casuarinas Hotel – Nassau, Bahamas

Roots, Rhyme and Rhythm

Caribbean Festival of the Arts (Carifesta) – Barbados

Them
Single Seven

Regency Theatre – Freeport, Bahamas

You Can Lead A Horse To Water
I, Nehemiah, Remember When…
I, Nehemiah, Remember When…(Chapter II)

Le Cabaret Theater – Paradise Island, Bahamas

Sammie Swain (Co-Directed, with Winston Saunders)

Ardastra Gardens – Nassau, Bahamas

Father’s Day

Rainforest Theatre (Formally The Bahama Rhythm Theatre) – Nassau, Bahamas

Sammie Swain (Co-Directed, with Winston Saunders, a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II at CHOGM (Nassau) 1985)
Women Talk

Acting Roles:
 The Odd Couple (as Felix)                                  
 Orphans (as Treat)
 The Gingerbread Lady (as Lou)
 The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window (as Alton Scales)
 Blues for Mr.Charlie (as Pete)
 The Sea Gull (as Dr.Dorn)
 Journey to the Day (as Dr. Gutera)
 Wedding Band (as Nelson Green)
 The Music Man (Harold Hill)
 Hello Dolly (as Barnaby)
 Finian’s Rainbow (as Woody)
 Lovers and Other Strangers (as Johnny)
 Zoo Story (as Jerry)
 The Odd Couple (as Speed)
 Of Mice and Men (as Boss)
 Poison Tree (as Smiling Man)
 The Hollow Crown (Various)
 Shakespeare and the Indians (as Brack)
 Dinner At Eight (as Fitch)
 Major Barbara (as Bilton)

"The Children's Teeth" was featured at Carifesta in Guyana. Here Philip is building the set. (courtesy of N.Bethel)

What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre?
A moment that stands out for me was a rehearsal of Cleophas Adderley’s opera “Our Boys”. I was co-writer, with Winston Saunders, of the Libretto and co-director of the production. The Orchestra, from Julliard, had arrived and it was during our first full rehearsal that I realized what we were in fact doing, not only in The Bahamas but also in the wider Caribbean.

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 has had its up and downs. I feel it was at an up period in the late sixties and early seventies when all of the Dundas member groups were active. In the late seventies came a down period as the ability to constantly have something going on became more and more difficult. The eighties ushered in the Repertory Season and theatre thrived for almost twenty years. The biggest down point, in my opinion, was the late nineties when the theatre was pretty much on life support. We are in the midst of an upturn and our challenge it to make sure that we never go back to being on life support again.

How do you prepare to direct a show? Are there any special challenges that you must overcome when directing in The Bahamas?
Read the play. Read the play. Read the play. Oh, and read the play. I feel we have pretty much the same challenges here as people have everywhere.

Any advice for those who want to get involved in Theatre in any capacity?
If you are serious about being involved you have to commit. If you have doubts about committing then be an audience member because we need those as well but people depend on you if you are in a production and it’s most frustrating to be missing someone from rehearsal or arriving late for a performance when you are trying to pull a work together and it’s not fair to the other cast and crew members.

Philip giving advice to the 2009 cast of "Music of The Bahamas" (courtesy of N.Bethel)

Who were your mentors in Theatre?
My mentors were my teachers from acting school. My understanding of the crafts of both acting and directing began with them. I admire the work of a number of actors and directors but I’m not sure I would say they were actual mentors. When I think of a mentor I think of someone who helps and guides another individual’s development, the example set by the original Mentor in Homer’s “The Odyssey”.

How do you see your future in Bahamian Theatre?
As I mentioned earlier, we are now on an upswing and it seems as if more people are becoming interested in many aspects of the theatre so I think the future is bright for Bahamian Theatre as long as we can maintain a high standard of quality and not settle for just anything being acceptable.

What is your favorite Bahamian play?
You Can Lead a Horse To Water is not just my favorite Bahamian plays it’s one of my favorite plays period.

In your years as a director, have you seen the government support the arts in a tangible way?
No.

Philip and the late Winston Saunders in a production of "Zoo Story" (courtesy of P. Burrows)

What role, if any, should the government play in not just theatre but the arts as a whole?
I think that all an artist can ask for is support. I don’t believe that artists would want any Government involved in their actual work. The facilitation of rehearsal spaces, reasonable venue rentals, duty free supplies, grants etc. would all be greatly appreciated and some form of respect and the understand that what an artist does is their job and it’s no less important than the work of lawyer or any other professional.

Advertisements

Profile: Ian Strachan


IS

Ian Strachan in Track Road's 2001 play "The Hold Up" (photo by Derek Smith)

How long have you been involved in Theatre?
For about 20 years.  But before I was involved in “theatre” I was involved in “drama,” through church and school.  I adapted and directed and starred in a Tolstoy play when I was a teenager and performed it for church at C. W. Sawyer Primary.

What inspired you to become involved?
My mother was a playwright (though not a nationally recognized one) and I was inspired by her I believe. So I was writing short plays since Junior High.  I remember dramatizing scenes of the Bible for my Religious Knowledge Class at CH Reeves.  Scenes like “Joseph and his Coat of Many Colors.”

In what capacity(ies) do you participate in Theatre?
I have done it all.  Directing is by far the hardest.  I can write a play much more easily than direct one.  In writing I have only myself to coax, to discipline and to engage.  Once a story takes hold of me the scenes just come.  Directing is an entirely different animal.  Particularly directing in The Bahamas when you have no money to spend.

Can you list the productions that you have participated in over the years? 
I have written seven plays.
Pa and the Preacher (1990),
The Mysterious Mister Maphusa
(1990),
No Seeds in Babylon
(1991),
Fatal Passage (1992),
Black Crab’s Tragedy  (1998),
Diary of Souls (1999),
The Devil and Jacinta (2009)  (also called The Devil on the Cross).

I have directed nine plays for national audiences.  My own work:
No Seeds in Babylon.
1997,
Black Crab’s Tragedy. 1998,
Diary of Souls.
 1999,
The Devil and Jacinta, 2009
Pa and the Preacher 2010.

And the original work of other Bahamian playwrights:
Deon Simms’ Slaps (2000),
Charles Huggins’ The Hold Up (2001),
Nickeva Eve’s Island Sex (2002),
Ward Minnis’ The Cabinet (2011)
I produced Da Market Fire by Emille Hunt (2003).

What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre? Good and bad.
Performing to three people in an auditorium in Freeport.  Definitely the low point of my theatre career.  Either that or the catastrophic opening ceremony of the CAC Games when the athletes stole my set before we actually put on our show. (The bad comes to mind more easily.)  High points: performing No Seeds in Edinburgh in 1991.  The staging of Fatal Passage (which coincided with the 1992 election and a hurricane).  Taking Diary of Souls to New Orleans and Barbados.  And restaging my first play, Pa and the Preacher in 2010.

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?
To make theatre stronger in this country we need: an endowed national theatre company; an equipped national theatre space; an endowed Dundas Centre; a Bachelors degree in Theatre or Performance at COB; a transparent national grant system for theatre projects; cash prizes for new plays.  These will go a long way.  Shakespeare in Paradise is a great thing.  I think also, the state should commit to funding quality recordings of theatrical productions (ones that they have helped fund through grants, for instance, or any production where the producers are willing to allow the public station broadcasting rights).  This will ensure that all Bahamians are exposed to this important form of cultural expression.  Theatre is the most socially relevant Bahamian art form; it should be experienced by as many Bahamians as possible.

Strachan as Pol in TRT's "Diary of Souls" (photo by Peter Ramsay)

What do you do to prepare for a part? 
It would take a while for me to reconstruct my process for you here. But I would say I try to guided by The Method.  The actor must believe in and be loyal to the character.  The actor must join the world of the character.  The actor must summon real lived emotions and experiences and manifest them.  Pay attention to detail.  If it feels like you’re “acting” then you are. Your actions and utterances, should feel real and authentic to you.  If they do, they will be real and authentic for your audience.   Be what you know.  If you intend to imitate, go beyond mastering the simple speech of a well known person.  Yes. you can talk or laugh like a certain public figure.  Good.  Can you cry like him?  Really cry?  Really feel scared like he would?  That takes a level of commitment and surrender of self that most are incapable of or unwilling to attempt.  I am not a great actor.  I hope  I am competent.  Perhaps one day I will take on a role that I feel is important enough to strive to be great in.  Probably not.

How do you prepare to direct a show? Are there any special challenges that you must overcome when directing in The Bahamas? 
Many who want to act do not want to study, prepare and be instructed.  They lack discipline.  I hate the fact that actors won’t take notes during practice.  You have to give them the same direction day after day. Acting is a craft and a discipline.  There is natural talent, or a natural disposition which makes it easier for you to be successful but you still need to listen to instruction, advice or critique.  Some people lack humility and are selfish.  Such people are harder to direct.  I confess I have also been my own worst enemy because I cast some people sometimes who don’t have any facility for acting the part; I do it because I want a warm body.  But truly, they cause me such grief that I’d be better off hunting for the right person.  

 The director’s job is also harder if he doesn’t have the right support; if he must be his own stage manager, his own set builder, his own producer, his own marketing man, if he must be one of the actors.    Each of these takes you one more step away from being optimally effective at directing. 

What does it take to write a play?
Your questions are unreasonable!  I’d be here for days answering this.  The dramatist must ask the question: why do I want to tell this story?  Is this the story for this time, or a story for all time?  As for that last question, both have their place. Most of all, though, what is the conflict?  Who are the contestants in the struggle?  Why should someone care who wins this particular struggle?  Are you always complicating, deepening, tightening the conflict? If not, then cut, cut, cut.  Always remember, the degree to which things are getting more and more effed up is the degree to which your audience is interested in your play.

Any advice for those who want to get involved in Theatre in any capacity?
Try out for a part.  If you don’t get a part, volunteer to work on a show in any capacity where help is needed.  Be positive, friendly, generous, and remain focused on the job at hand.  People underestimate how important concentration and focus are in theatre, whether you are on stage or off. 

Who were your mentors in Theatre?
Shakepeare. Senorita Strachan.  James Catalyn.  Winston Saunders. Philip Burrows.  Nicolette Bethel.  Wole Soyinka. Derek Walcott. Amiri Baraka.  Stanislavksi. Harold Clurman. Brecht. Artaud. Beckett.  August Wilson.

How do you see your future in Bahamian Theatre?
Every time I direct I swear it’s my last time.  So this is not a good question for a man like me.  Right now I feel like theatre is either an irresistible whore or a syphilitic prince charming.  Take your pick.

What is your favorite Bahamian play?
Horse and Father’s Day: Bahamian. Caribbean: Dream on Monkey Mountain.  African: Death and the King’s Horseman or Lion and the Jewel.  Euro-American: Chalk Circle and Threepenny Opera. Shakespeare: Tempest, Merchant, Othello.

In your years as an actor, director and writer have you seen the government support the arts in a tangible way?
I have received government support. Yes.  The government helped fund my documentary.   The government has granted me lower rates on rental facilities.  The government has supported a children’s summer drama workshop I was involved with.  They can and have helped.  They can do more also.

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

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.