Guyana’s fourth annual National Drama Festival closed last week after the performance of 27 plays in five categories. Tonight it holds its Awards Presentation at the National Cultural Centre from 7 pm, and this will be the crowning glory for all its achievements in 2014.
As would be expected, this festival gave a good indication of the current trends on the contemporary Guyanese stage, partly because of the large number of new plays that it normally attracts. Further, the contest has now caught the interest of the large commercial productions and leading national dramatists.
It is also a good exhibition of these trends because it showcases a very wide range of performances by groups in five categories from the top professionals to the newcomers and secondary schools. What is even more, the productions came from various regions including East Berbice, Mahaica, Essequibo Coast and the North West.
The festival was therefore a virtual survey of Guyanese drama and underlined the fact that many new groups are developing an interest in theatre.
This interest is not only in performing but in using drama to communicate messages, as in the cases of a number of church/religious groups, and to comment on several problematic social issues plaguing Guyanese society. This is a recent trend in local theatre, demonstrated by the way many secondary schools created plays around surprisingly common subjects; an indication that these social problems are not only widespread and deep-rooted, but that they somehow weigh on the minds of many, including the teenagers.
This was evidenced by the fact that the clear majority of plays most notably in the Debutantes and Schools sections were new. Overwhelmingly, the new plays tackled such issues as human trafficking – its tragic ruthlessness and its unsuspecting victims.
Given equal common treatment was the abuse of children: ill-treatment by parents, sexual abuse and the ‘cruel stepmother’ syndrome. Added to that was domestic abuse generally, domestic violence and turbulent disorder in homes. The plays interrogated these problems to the point where the judges saw merit in even a few badly handled productions because of their treatment of these issues. The dramas were sufficiently insightful to show how domestic disorder or negligence led to errant behaviour including sexual deviance and its consequences among teenagers.
That was a factor of the recent trends mentioned. Over the past six years (roughly) the tendency has been observed for new Guyanese drama to focus on social realism, overtaking the previous trend, which was comedy and farce. This has been a notable feature of plays entered in the festival since it began in 2011. The Debutante category revealed how new groups that never did drama before developed an interest in this branch of the performing arts. They then used it for social messages. Christian groups used it to claim the ascendancy of their faith over the same social plagues prevalent in the new plays.
However, along with the rise of or the rebirth of social realism, has been an interest in modernist creativity and experimental theatre techniques. This was a marked feature in the Drama Festival in 2013 and certainly in 2014.
Both playwrights and directors have ventured out in these directions. This was striking in 2013 with plays like Creative Burial Ground by Rae Wiltshire directed by Nickose Layne; Before Her Parting by Mosa Telford, directed by Tivia Collins; and Mammy by Sonia Yarde in particular. This year there was similar artistry in a few productions, suggesting that another approach to the stage is developing among both playwrights and directors. Partnering the rise of realism is the ascendancy of symbolism, illusion, avante-garde techniques, the use of multimedia and video and even mild forms of absurdism.
These latest developments might well be the influence of the new National School of Theatre Arts and Drama which has now taken over oversight responsibility for the Drama Festival. This is evidenced by the appearance of the creative innovations among plays entered in the festival written and directed by graduates of the Drama School in both 2013 and 2014. The recent public performances of the school such as The Sirens, Ol Higue, The Baccoo, The Stick Fight, The Trouble With Neketa and Pandora’s Box as well as their performances of Greek and Ritualistic theatre demonstrated the various forms and research studied at the school. These ventured out into experimentations beyond the ubiquitous naturalist drama and seem to have strengthened and influenced students to explore.
Meanwhile the festival itself, has been a major influence on new playwriting and production. It has certainly provided incentives for established and new groups and is responsible for most of the recent new plays, the social realism and the innovative. Additionally, old and existing Guyanese plays have been brought back and reproduced for the festival, giving many more plays further public exposure.
At the culmination of all this, the National Drama Festival has released the shortlisted plays competing for the many prizes and awards for 2014. They are listed below.
- Open Full Length Plays
Best Production: Till Ah Find A Place 3 -H & T Theatre Arts Group; Shattered Dreamz -Horizon Arts Productions; Colour Of Race – Queen Of Arts Productions
Best Director: Sheron Cadogan-Taylor – Till Ah Find A Place 3; Mariatha Causway – Shattered Dreamz; Sonia Yarde – Colour Of Race
Best Costume: Till Ah Find A Place 3; Shattered Dreamz; Colour Of Race
Best Set Design & Use: Till Ah Find A Place 3; Shattered Dreamz; Colour Of Race
Best Light Design & Use: Till Ah Find A Place 3 Shattered Dreamz; Colour Of Race
Best Use Of Sound: Till Ah Find A Place 3; Shattered Dreamz; Colour Of Race
Best New Original Guyanese Stageplay: Shattered Dreamz – Sheron Cadogan-Taylor
Best Performing Cast: Till Ah Find A Place 3; Shattered Dreamz; Colour Of Race
Best Actor: Mark Luke-Edwards – Till Ah Find A Place 3; Nickose Layne – Shattered Dreamz; Sean Budnah – Colour Of Race
Best Supporting Actor: Paul Budnah and Kirwin Mars – Till Ah Find A Place 3; Paul Budnah – Colour Of Race; Max Massiah, Mark Luke-Edwards, Renne Chester and Johan David – Shattered Dreamz
Best Actress: Leslyn Lashley-Fraser – Shattered Dreamz; Sonia Yarde – Till Ah Find A Place 3; Marissa Morgan-Bonie and Clemencio Goddette – Colour Of Race
Best Supporting Actress: Clemencio Goddette and Malika Edmondson – Till Ah Find A Place 3; Kimberly Fernandes and Abigail Brower – Shattered Dreamz; Oceanna Hoppie – Colour Of Race
- Open Short or One Act Plays
Best Production: Beaten – Queen Of Arts Production; Bones In My Closet – Surmounting Thespians; Guilty Pleasures – Lady Of The Moon; Decadence – Trooperz
Best Set Design & Use: Beaten; Bones In My Closet; Guilty Pleasures; Decadence
Best Use Of Lights: Beaten; Guilty Pleasures; Decadence
Best Use Of Sound: Beaten; Guilty Pleasures; Decadence
Best New Guyanese Stageplay: Beaten; Bones In My Closet; Guilty Pleasures; Decadence
Best Performing Cast: Beaten; Guilty Pleasures; Decadence
Best Director: Ayanna Waddell – Guilty Pleasures; Randolph Critchlow – Decadence; Sonia Yarde – Beaten; Vanessa Hinds – Bones In My Closet
Best Actor: Jamal LaRose – Beaten; Jonathan Hamer – Guilty Pleasures; Randolph Critchlow -Decadence
Best Supporting Actor: Troy Parbu – Beaten; Johan David and Onix Rodney – Decadence; Brian Goodman – Bones In My Closet
Best Actress: Esther Hamer – Guilty Pleasures; Nathaya Whaul – Beaten; Candace Baveghems –Decadence; Shontel Semple – Bones In My Closet
Best Supporting Actress: Kimberly Samuels – Bones In My Closet; Ladonna Kissoon and Kimberly Fernandes – Beaten; Jasmine Wong – Guilty Pleasures; Lateisha Dasilva – Decadence
Best Costume: Beaten; Bones In My Closet; Guilty Pleasures
Best Production: Sins Of My Mother – West Side Youth Ambassadors; Trafficking – Why Me Lord? – Ebenezer Youth Group; Chupucabra – New Opportunity Corps; A Slight Twist – West Side Youth Ambassadors; The Obedient One – Mahaica Youth In Progress
Best Set Design & Use: Trafficking – Why Me Lord?; Chupucabra; The Obedient One;
Best Use of Lights: Trafficking – Why Me Lord?; Chupucabra; The Obedient One
Best Use of Sound: Trafficking – Why Me Lord?; Chupucabra; A Slight Twist;
Best New Guyanese Stageplay: Trafficking-Why Me Lord; The Obedient One – Romel Rodney;
Sins Of My Mother – Tandeka Caldeira
Best Performing Cast: Chupucabra; A Slight Twist
Best Director: David Loncke – A Slight Twist; Nicola Moonsammy – Chupucabra; Kelvin Gittens – Trafficking-Why Me Lord?
Best Actor: Shaquille Wellington – Trafficking-Why Me Lord?; Denzil St Hill – Sins Of My Mother; Jared Collymore – A Slight Twist; Kyeash Wilson – The Obedient One
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Wilson and Leandre Nelson – Trafficking-Why Me Lord?; David Loncke – A Slight Twist; Joel Bess and Lawrence Cliff – Chupucabra
Best Actress: Narissa Stuart – Trafficking-Why Me Lord?; Monika Pilgrim – Sins Of My Mother; Kimberley Grumble – A Slight Twist; Tinecise Rouse – The Obedient One
Best Supporting Actress: Towana Fletcher – Trafficking-Why Me Lord?; Shauntae Washington – Sins Of My Mother; Lisa Ramnarine and Shemena Knights – Chupucabra; Kerri Merchant and Twyla Sealey – A Slight Twist
Best Costume: Trafficking-Why Me Lord?; Chupucabra; A Slight Twist;
Best Production: Old Guana – The Conquers; What If – Centre Stage Productions; Summer Breeze – Isleshire; Double Take – Surmounting Thespians
Best Set Design & Use: Old Guana; What If; Summer Breeze; Double Take
Best Use of Light: Old Guana; What If; Summer Breeze; Double Take
Best Use of Sound: Old Guana; What If; Summer Breeze
Best New Guyanese Stageplay: What If – Nickose Layne; Summer Breeze – Linden Isles; Double Take – Vanessa Hinds
Best Performing Cast: Old Guana; What If; Summer Breeze
Best Director: Nickose Layne – What If; Rae Wiltshire – Summer Breeze
Best Actor: Nickose Layne – Summer Breeze and What If; Tejraj – Old Guana; Selwin Felix -Double Take
Best Supporting Actor: Adesh – Old Guana; Marlon Joseph – Double Take; Gerard Gilkes -Summer Breeze; Nelan Benjamin – What If
Best Actress: Candace Baveghems – Summer Breeze and What If; Gladdis – Ole Guana; Kimberly Samuels – Double Take
Best Supporting Actress: Stacy Semple – Double Take; Maneesha – Old Guana; Nicola Moonsammy – Summer Breeze; Kimberly Fernandes, Malika Edmondson and Abigail Brower – What If
Best Costume: Old Guana; What If; Summer Breeze
Best Production: Chupucabra – Berbice High; Her Story – Tutorial High; Sins Of The Father -Bladen Hall Secondary; A Dramatic Turn Of Events/Procrastination – Annandale Secondary; Anansi’s Way – President’s College
Best Set Design & Use: Chupucabra; Sins Of The Father; Anansi’s Way; Baba Scissors & The Dictionary – Leonora Secondary; Death Of A Songbird – Institute Of Business Education
Best Use of Lights: Death Of A Songbird; A Dramatic Turn Of Events/Procrastination; Chupucabra; Right Unda Yuh Nose – St John’s College
Best Use of Sound: Chupucabra; Right Unda Yuh Nose; Her Story; Death Of A Songbird
Best New Guyanese Stageplay: Her Story – Melinda Primo-Soloman; A Dramatic Turn Of Events/Procrastination – Deon Abrams; Tailor Made – Andrew Timran; Right Unda Yuh Nose -Chenille Bowen
Best Performing Cast: Anansi’s Way; A Dramatic Turn Of Events/Procrastination; Right Unda Yuh Nose; Sins Of The Father; Baba Scissors & The Dictionary
Best Director: Melinda Primo-Soloman & Felice Rosario-Monroe – Her Story; Forbes Abrams – A Dramatic Turn Of Events/Procrastination; Tamika Wilson – Anansi’s Way; Denecia Glasgow – Death Of A Songbird; Jermaine Braithwaite – Sins Of The Father
Best Actor: Jamal Bishop – Baba Scissors & The Dictionary; Max Gunn – Anansi’s Way; Omar Anderson – Sins Of The Father; Amika Persaud – Tailor Made; Dennis Adonis – Death Of A Songbird; Joshua Sobers – Right Under Yuh Nose
Best Supporting Actor: Ezekiel Morris – Right Under Yuh Nose; Romel Hintzen – A Dramatic Turn Of Events/Procrastination; Noland Braithwaite – Sins Of The Father; Steadman Martins -Anansi’s Way; Tamanie Whitney – Her Story
Best Actress: Kescia Marques – Death Of A Songbird; Wahanda Khan – A Dramatic Turn Of Events/Procrastination; Mafeesa Fletcher – Right Under Yuh Nose; Jasmine Richardson – Anansi’s Way; Donelle Griffith – Her Story
Best Supporting Actress: Kinnia Edmondson – Death Of A Songbird; Tatianna Miller – A Dramatic Turn Of Events/Procrastination; Kaysel Andries, Shalisa Yasin and Esther Mckenzie – Anansi’s Way; Cheville Prince – Right Under Yuh Nose
Best Costume: Chupucabra; Right Unda Yuh Nose; A Dramatic Turn Of Events/ Procrastination; Anansi’s Way