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Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Celebrating the genius of Tony Hall
The executive of the National Drama Association of T&T will host the gala opening of the 2013 NDATT Theatre Festival on October 22, at the Little Carib Theatre, Woodbrook. Playwright/thespian Tony Hall will be honoured at this year’s festival.
Born Anthony Michael Hall on July 16, 1948, Hall writes and makes plays for street, stage and screen functioning as an actor, director, writer, drama teacher and workshop leader. Hall was born in Port-of-Spain, and attended Naparima College, San Fernando. He gained a Bachelor’s degree in drama and education from the University of Alberta (1969-73), Edmonton, Canada and obtained a diploma in film and advanced television production at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (1978-80).
It is believed regionally that Hall is a pioneer in community television in the Caribbean. With the video production house Banyan Limited, in T&T, he was part of a group, of artists, which created indigenous soap operas, TV dramas and current affairs programmes in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
At Banyan, Hall presented, with Errol Sitahal, Dennis “Sprangalang” Hall and Niala Maharaj, one of the most successful magazine programmes on TV in the Caribbean, Gayelle (1985-90), citation given at INPUT—International Public Televison Conference.
Gayelle laid the foundation for the first community television station (24 hours of Caribbean programming) in the region, Gayelle The Channel (2004), founded by Christopher Laird and Errol Fabien.
Hall apprenticed in the Caribbean with Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott in his flagship company, Trinidad Theatre Workshop TTW), as an actor and a director (1973-1981). At the TTW, he performed in the world premier productions of Walcott’s The Joker of Seville (1975) and O’ Babylon (1976-81). He also directed, under Walcott’s astute guidance, Jean Genet’s The Maids (1977).
In 1992, Christopher Laird and Hall directed the award winning BBC/TVE/Banyan documentary film, And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon, produced by Bruce Paddington, and hailled as “an astonishingly searing look at TV” by Starweek Magazine. This film won Best Video Documentary & Best Environmental Film, Images Caraibes (Martinique, 1992) at the Third Caribbean Film & Video Festival and also won first place in the Public Affairs Documentary Category at the 13th annual International Film and Video Competition, Prized Pieces (Ohio, 1993) National Black Programming Consortium, USA.
In the early 1990s Errol Fabien and Hall launched Lordstreet Theatre Company with a prize winning trilogy of J’Ouvert masquerade Carnival bands on the streets of Port-of-Spain: A Band On Drugs (1990), A Band On Violence (1991) and A Band On US (1992). This company promoted original work for street, stage and screen from its very inception and since 2003 has done so primarily through a Playwrights Workshop.
Also in 1990, after years of participatory research into manifestations of popular culture in the Caribbean, Hall realised and presented, at the University of Winchester (King Alfred Campus), UK, Jouvay Process as a distinct and possibly helpful ‘post post-New World’ perspective on drama practice or ‘action’ in relation to living and being.
Hall established Jouvay Popular Theatre Process (JPTP), a drama workshop which involves free improvisation “the extempo impulse” and storytelling inspired by the traditional mas/mask/masquerade characters found in the Trinidad Carnival alongside ‘analogue’ folk and ancient religious characters found throughout the Caribbean and in other cultures worldwide, all as archetypes of human behaviour.
Hall’s play ‘Jean and Dinah . . . Speak Their Minds Publicly’ (1994) is a critically acclaimed work in West Indian theatre. This play has been performed throughout the Caribbean and in North America and the UK. A French version of the play was performed successfully at the UWI Inter-Campus Eighth Annual Foreign Language Theatre Festival in 2007 on the St Augustine Campus.
Hall has led drama courses and theatre workshop sessions at the University of Alberta, at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, at the University of Winchester (King Alfred Campus), at Colgate University, New York, at Indiana State University, at the University of Bradford and at the Carnival Arts Centre, Isle of Wight.
He has functioned as an Artist-in-Residence at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, between 1998 and 2007, where he directed plays and worked with students, professional actors and playwrights, and with young filmmakers at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.
Hall has also functioned as On-Site Academic Director (1999-2007) at Trinity College’s Trinity-in-Trinidad Global Learning Site. At present, functioning as a Lecturer in Global Studies (Festival and Drama), he is exploring with students, “Work & Play” and “Festival Arts as Cultural Performance” at the Trinity-in-Trinidad Global Learning Site.
Last Thursday night, in a message from Costa Rica, Hall told the T&T Guardian: “All the arts are really oxygen for the community, ‘creating breathing space’. If we don’t breathe we die. We need oxygen. Awards, like this one, help provide oxygen for the artist. This award is fully appreciated and even more so because it is from peers at the NDATT. Thanks to everyone.”
NDATT Theatre Festival
Five plays will be showcased during NDATT’s Theatre Festival from October 22-30.
Gala Opening of the Festival
Bitter Cassava by Lester Efebo Wilkinson
Directed by Shawn Smart
The play is about Samuel Blandell who is about to be arrested for the murder of his wife and child. As the story unfolds, however, these deaths are not so straightforward, but are the result of a thirteen-year-old curse from Samuel’s ex-wife Justina, who was filled with rage at being left for another woman. It’s a tale of domestic betrayal and revenge.
Independence by Anderson La Barrie
Directed by Saira Dhanoo
An allegorical play, Independence tells the story of Cheryl and Sharon, sisters. They have recently lost their mother, and seem unable to properly cope without her. Each small detail escalates into a larger fight, blame and indignation getting in the way of either of them coming to terms with real life or the loss of their mother. But as time passes and the conversation continues, they begin to realize that perhaps responsibility and collaboration will be necessary to keep moving forward.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Directed by Timmia Hearn
This classic tale is brought to new life in our interpretation. Using contemporary and traditional Carnival characters and approaching the text in our own accents with our own intonations, Shakespeare’s words, centuries old, no longer seem foreign. Throughout this world of lovers, devils, and dreamers, the inconsistency of time, memory and love, lead 20 characters, portrayed by seven actors, through a life-altering night. As these seven actors work themselves through so many characters the play starts to ask us to question where and who we really are. This play, one of the greatest farces ever written, is as bitter as it is sweet, for it explores that line between grotesque and beautiful, tragic and comedic. To quote the play itself, it is: “Very tragical mirth.”
Hearn told the T&T Guardian: “I am very excited and thrilled having this play selected. It is actually a strange situation with our play as we were a last minute addition to the festival. This version is a return to the original intent of Shakespeare. We have eight actors playing 20 roles. I was never intereted in doing Shakespeare when I lived abroad, but, I was interested in doing Shakespeare in Trinidad specifically. This play has been reworked and it includes many characters that are indigenous to Trinidad like blue devils, jab jabs and a pierrot grenade-type character. What is also quite exciting is that this staging is very accessible and family-friendly.”
Body = Barrier
Written and directed by Brendon O’Brien
The story is about the battle between good and evil for the souls of humans. The story questions whether it truly is a fight destiny that determines where the soul goes. Are the temptations of the flesh making barriers for our souls? The play is an attempt to connect situations and delusions that affect people’s daily lives with possible spiritual influences, and exploration of how insecurity influences behaviors, and the effects of peer pressure on social group interactions.
50/25 written by a collective of writers
Directed by Camille Quamina and Marvin George
The story is about Pickney who comes home with questions for his ailing mother, Sadia. With each question, each memory, Pickney makes a journey through time to discover himself. He confronts his mother, who holds the secrets to his own becoming. His becoming is our own. Through the poetics of Hosay, Kalinda, Traditional Mas, Hindu Rasas, Orisha Possession, and First People’s traditions, the dances of the spirits, we shift time, character and situation, seamlessly, to make this journey with him. As he exhumes his legacy, we unearth truths about ourselves.
All productions will be at the Little Carib Theatre and will begin at 8 pm.
Tickets are on sale at the Little Carib Box Office at $75 for one, with a special discount of $100 for two.
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