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Successful first Ja Women in Theatre Festival

Jamaica Gleaner / About the time El Numero Uno was closing in the drama school’s Dennis Scott Theatre last Sunday, over in The Blue Room at Phoenix Theatre on Haining Road, New Kingston, the Jamaica Women in Theatre Festival was wrapping up a successful week of activities.

In congratulating organisers Dahlia Harris and Nicole Brown, one of the most active participants, actress-director-playwright Suzanne Beadle, opined that “theatre has the power to generate so much change”. There was general agreement from the audience.

I saw only three of the festival’s seven presentations. They were the opening panel discussion on The Business of Theatre, The Actor’s Showcase (March 16), and the final one, which featured staged readings in tribute to three pioneering female theatre practitioners.

Five of the six excerpts in The Actor’s Showcase were Jamaican and they mostly showed women as victims of oppression and abuse. Many were strong and fought back, but, generally, the mood of the pieces was dark.

The fighters included the persona of Tribe Sankofa’s dramatisation of Lorna Goodison’s poem For My Mother . There were also three characters from The Trial of Governor Eyre – Mrs Lucy Gordon (Hilary Nicholson), wife of National Hero George William Gordon; Tallawah (Alicia Taylor), who was beaten and imprisoned for arson; and Paula Geohagen (Beadle), whose pregnant sister was brutalised before being hanged.

SHANTOL JACKSON THE STAR The star of the evening was Shantol Jackson, who shone in an American monologue from Mountain Top , a play about the imagined final evening of Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday’s staged readings were from Sylvia Wynter’s verse play Maskarade (directed by Samantha Thompson), Louise Bennett Coverley’s Buzz Biznizz (directed by Dorraine Reid) and Una Marson’s London Calling (directed by Beadle). All have some worth, as they reflect the values of their times.

– M.R.

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