Bringing theatre practitioners together | T&T New Play Festival hits its mark

The recently concluded T&T New Play Festival successfully achieved its aims of bringing theatre practitioners together and getting people to come out and support the Festival. This is according to one of the organizers, playwright Safa Niamat-Ali.

The Festival which ran from which ran from October 28 to 31, consisted of three plays which had never been staged before: Miracle, written by Ronald John and directed by Brendon O’Brien; Angels Live in Tunapuna, written by Sonja Dumas and directed by Johnathon Thatcher; and Hell, written by Safa Niamat-Ali and directed by Cydelle Crosby.

Actors Jovon Browne and Kala Neehall in the play Miracle | Photo credit: Patrick Rasoanaivo of Culturego Magazine

The directors, who are relatively new, were assisted by experienced dramaturges Wendell Manwarren and Rawle Gibbons, with the further assistance of Michael Cherrie and Raymond Choo Kong. The productions also featured an array of new and up-and coming actors, including Kearn Samuel, Omar Jarra, Kala Neehall, Jovon Browne, Kwasi Shade, Jarod Baptiste, Robyn Beckles, Verne Guerin, Eric Nicholson, Makesi Algernon, Justin McKenzie, Shelby Outar, Nicholas Subero and Kirt Davis.

Miracle, which was loosely based on a true story, told the tale of a young woman who is kidnapped and the lengths she goes to in order to escape from her kidnappers. Angels Live in Tunapuna told the story of two men who meet each other in the ante-room to Heaven and have to resolve some left-over issues before they can move on. Hell was the story of a young woman who journeys into an unknown space to challenge the gods because her life has become an unbearable Hell. All actors and directors received high praises from the audiences for their performances and characterizations, although there were some tweaks that needed to be made.

Actors Verne Guerin, Justin McKenzie and Eric Nicholson in the play Angels Live in Tunapuna | Photo credit: Patrick Rasoanaivo of Culturego Magazine

Niamat-Ali said the Festival had a large turn-out, with the house being sold out for most performances over the weekend, with some being standing room only. On Saturday and Sunday, each play was followed by a panel discussion, which were an important aspect of the Festival.

“They provided insight and guidance for the directors and playwrights from the audience as well as the dramaturges, so that the plays can be re-written and re-worked before they are presented again.”

Niamat-Ali said the Festival was a success in bringing experienced and new theatre practitioners together, as “some of the actors and myself were grateful for the opportunity to work with and be mentored by the theatre veterans involved.”

She thanked veteran thespian Tony Hall for conceptualizing the idea for the New Play Festival, as “without his idea, we would not have had this brilliant workshop exercise.”

She also thanked the National Drama Association of T&T and outgoing President Trevor Jadunath for supporting the Festival. Hall said the point of the Festival for him was to bring generations of T&T theatre practitioners together in order to create fraternity and move the theatre industry forward.

He said he was surprised and gratified by the audience turnout, which included varying generations. Niamat-Ali said the experience of the Festival helped her to understand more about theatre. She said she is now even more committed to revitalizing NDATT, as there is the need for a governing body for theatre in T&T and this should be the role of the Association.

This article was originally published in the T&T Guardian (06/11/2016)

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