By Jairo Rodrigues
Malcolm De Freitas is a predominant character in the Theatre Guild. He has been an active member since the early 1980s and currently is quite active in his position as a director for several upcoming plays, but he does quite a bit more in the dramatic arts; writing plays, writes short stories and poems, teaching young prospective actors, and producing plays.
Drama was highly influential in Alberttown, Georgetown where Malcolm grew up. He recalled that it all sprang from playing lots of games and creating stories in his big backyard. “That’s when I started writing stories and then we would perform those stories,” he said. The cinemas and dramatists of the age were dynamical additions to the above. Malcolm was also fully immersed in drama from the young adolescent age of 13, while attending the now defunct Muslim Education Trust College. He noted that he would usually perform in skits at school concerts.
Influenced by the many theorists who induced and added to the study of drama, Malcolm said, “I am fortunate to have worked with some good actors and great directors,” he said. “I came up in a period where drama was a huge credit. There were people who loved the art.” He highly values the youth of expression and admires the strength and youthfulness of those he now works with. He mentioned that he grooms them up and many times had to “raise” them up to the standards of the characters in his plays.
What is it that really motivates this all-doer and pushes him to accomplish what may seem impossible to others? He simply replied “just searching for essential truth.”
Malcolm De Freitas is a deep thinker who believes every aspect of his life is influenced by a higher power. He said that drama influences life, it poses questions like why are things the way they are, how can they be changed or altered. “Many plays seem to have their own interpretation of these very same questions,” he said.
For Malcolm, his most accomplished work to date was directing the multi-award winning play Makantalli. Makantalli won the most honours at the recent Theatre Guild Awards, which included Best Director, Best Production, Best Costumes, among others. When asked if Makantalli would be staged again soon, he said, “I don’t see why it should not be. Makantalli is perhaps the best play staged in the Caribbean – we should mount it again.” But he noted that it would be up to the executives.
The politically driven Malcolm revealed that he had presented a script-less one hour thesis to Parliament in consideration for the revision of some parts of the Constitution, which he feels is badly needed, though he did not wish to go into the full details of that.
However he is adamant that the government needs to do more for theatre and the first item on his agenda would be they payment to all of the dramatists who performed at Carifesta X held in 2008. “The state of itself does not support us. I hope in this year’s budget the Ministry of Finance makes a personal commitment to pay off the $1.3 million owed.” Malcolm strongly stated that the past administration ran “a personal government”, but he is hopeful that this administration, from what he has seen so far, is running “a more open, rational government”.
In improving and promoting the dramatic arts in Guyana, Malcolm said, the state needs to respect copyrights, invest in culture through films and theatrical performances, most importantly encourage far more writing, “A society is only strong with the impulse of expression from its people,” he added. “Theatre has difficulties, one of them is because young people are not reading as much, at least not as deeply.” He continued to say that Guyana is going places but is yet to achieve more. “We are Guyanese because we have a shared mental concept: our mix, folklore, culture, the things we fear – all parts of nature, and theatre makes you express and explore.”
He mentioned that the Theatre Guild is playing a very conspicuous role in improving the arts in Guyana. He would like to invite the youths to participate; the Guild is a training institution that holds occasional workshops in acting, dramatizing and other things in collaboration with Merundoi such as staging, directing, lighting etc. “It really improves character and aids in different transformations and development, you learn about life and people, and appreciation for the sub-texts. Drama is a religion to me; it helps you to shape your life better – as all religions do,” he said.
Malcolm describes himself as a diversified being, his current jobs include being a company secretary, a salesman, assistant to lawyers in writing legal solutions and real estate. He mentioned that all of his jobs came out of the theatre business. In the future he hopes to put together some of his earlier plays and bring them back to life. He is still in the process of writing and publishing a few of his short stories and his book entitled The Theory of Drama.
In his spare time, he writes and writes and writes and would attend a show or two but other than that he has little to no social life.
He mentioned that he is divorced and is, “eagerly looking forward to the next wife in my life. I want to join the process of looking for that.”