On Friday 12th November, the breezy eastern exterior of Queen’s Hall Auditorium, previously known as ‘The Courtyard’, was transformed into the setting of the launch and reception of the long-awaited outdoor feature, ‘The Garden Theatre’.
The event was well hosted by master of ceremonies and morning show host Jayron Remy, who took the audience through the evening’s proceedings. Steelpan fittingly opened the evening with solos by pannist Joshua Joseph which was followed by performances by other artists throughout the night.
Remarks by General Manager Garfield George revealed the journey of The Garden Theatre from origin to execution, and he shared his hopes for the return of performances in new outdoor formats suitable for the versatile external space.
George introduced The Garden Theatre as an opportunity to view performing arts spaces in the region from a different perspective. He further positioned the venture as the beginning of an ongoing effort in having Queen’s Hall recognized as the Caribbean’s premiere outdoor venue.
This initiative was part of the performance venue’s plans to fully explore the potential of the 30,000 square-foot arts centre in light of the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and the restricted activity allowed in the main hall.
The renovations included a tent-like coverage above the 25′ x 60’/ 1500 sq. ft space, and a 20’ x 16’ x 3’h modular stage installed on the southern end of the courtyard, abutting the Helen May Johnstone Room. The northern end of the courtyard featured a branded, glass wall waterfall installation, surrounded by a beautifully appointed rock and shrubbery garden with mood lighting.
An external sound board and audio support was present at the launch, along with panel lighting on the left and right of the audience and stage lights. Stone flooring of the courtyard was replaced with wooden floorboard-themed stonework, and external sanitation washing sinks and signage were well displayed. A food and beverage area was also set up on the north-west corner of the courtyard.
In his launch address, Queen’s Hall Chairman Dr. Helmer Hilwig indicated that the board and management have been consistent in brainstorming and visioning exercises to ensure that the “compound is exploited to the max to remain the Grande Dame of the performing arts.”
Hilwig spoke excitedly of the possibilities of theatre-in-the-round and announced additional ‘wish list’ plans for the venue including a sculpture and outdoor art garden, which will invite the work and effort of young and established sculpture artists, a theatre café and an online, digital library of past performances recorded at Queen’s Hall.
He also recommended that Queen’s Hall’s internal corridor walls leading from the lobby to the hall, which are usually graced with photos demonstrating Queen’s Hall’s past and continuing performance legacy, may in the future feature the work of artists, replacing the historical performance photos referred to by Dr. Hilwig as “old faded pictures”, with new art exhibitions.
In addition to addressing some ‘Frequently Asked Questions’, which were provided with the afternoon’s printed programme, Dr. Hilwig shared that rental rates for the renovated space will continue to be tiered. The chairman quoted the Queen’s Hall mission, citing its role in “nurturing” talents and efforts of the performing arts community. In this light, he spoke encouragingly of offering reduced rates for rental of The Garden Theatre, which will include preferential rates for “Creative Sector” events and special groups such as schools and fundraisers.
Remarks were also brought by Chairman of Trinidad Tourism Limited Mr. Cliff Hamilton, who announced Trinidad and Tobago’s adoption of the ‘Safe Travels Stamp’ courtesy the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
The WTTC is a 30-year-old non-profit membership-based organisation, comprising over 200 CEOs, Chairpersons, and Presidents of the world’s leading Travel & Tourism companies from all geographies and industries. (Source: https://wttc.org/) Trinidad and Tobago has now joined over 400 destinations around the world who have already adopted WTTC’s Safe Travels stamp. The Council’s ‘Safe Travels Stamp’ is a seal of approval, which helps identify destinations and businesses that have adopted a new set of global safety and hygiene protocols.
A large focus of the evening’s contributions centered around the importance of the role of art in supporting Tourism. Minister of Tourism, Senator The Honourable Randall Mitchell addressed the small gathering and expressed his passionate endorsement of the new addition of The Garden Theatre, expressing his deep confidence in the initiative and reassuring show and event producers present of the potential opportunities.
Producers present at the event included Sonja Dumas of CoCo Dance Festival, Trevon Jugmohan of First Instinct Productions, Jules Sobion of Ceasar’s Army, Nancy Herrera of Metamorphosis Dance School and Penelope Spencer of Necessary Arts and Hahaha Productions. Also present, was Jerome Precilla musical performer and President of the Promoter’s Association of Trinidad and Tobago and others.
The Minister confirmed discussions held with some of these producers revealed their visions, dreams and plans of upcoming events, which he predicted will provide opportunities to export Trinidad and Tobago’s culture and will give creative and cultural workers opportunities to earn when visitors return to the island.
He also spoke of the proximity of hotels and other venues of the city capital, the necessity for the city to offer conference visitors additional entertainment activities, and also spoke of the reopening of the cruise sector and how events and entertainment held at venues like The Garden Theatre will facilitate those visitors.
In accordance with its mission and purpose, Queen’s Hall “provides an environment for a wide variety of world-class events and an eclectic mix of theatre, music, dance and other performing arts disciplines.” At the launch event, a variety of entertainers were invited to “bless the space” with performances including, music, spoken word, dance and live instrumentation.
Beautiful singing by David Williams and Nakita Gadsby was followed by a fiery spoken word piece by Zakiya Gill about the importance of patriotism. Comedian Rhea-Simone Auguste, stage name ‘Simmy De Trini’ took the audience on an adventure on the funny moments of motherhood and child-raising in sweet T&T.
This was followed by JONNI MAJIK who enthralled the audience with some close-up card showmanship, which included making an empty glass box suddenly produce several U.S. dollar bills that had the audience calling for more. The online, viral video, cuatro-playing sensation, Dylan Yuk Low thrilled audiences with a one-man Soca Parang serenade, followed by dancers of The Black Box Crew and the Dean Williams Trio.
For more information on Queen’s Hall’s Garden Theatre CLICK HERE.