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JYT Claims Victory at Tallawah 2012
They came... They acted... They won some awards. The Jamaica Youth Theatre (JYT) were amongst the most triumphant when the curtains closed on the 2012 Tallawah Festival, at its long-time home at the Phillip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, UWI Mona. The group’s one act play Belly Woman, directed by Leslie Ann Wanliss, received the award for Best Production.
Belly Woman was among the productions which made the Best of Tallawah performances that preceded the announcement and presentation of awards. Though not a complete success, Belly Woman makes some interesting experimentations. It employs the Jonkunnu masquerade as its trope with the characters assuming the identity of Jonkunnu characters, and with the exception of The Devil (who is instead called White Man, a clearly not too subtle political statement) are simply called by their Jonkunnu name.
At its core, Belly Woman is the tragic romance between Belly Woman and Jack-in-the-Green, which is built along the lines of the Lover’s Leap legend. The production’s use of verse for the dialogue is also interesting, however the fact that Pitchy Patchy and The Devil display a vocal duality which is indicated nowhere else in the characterization, was certainly confusing. However, Belly Woman earns high praise for stepping outside of the box, which is one of the major opportunities that Tallawah provides.
Over its 45 year history, Tallawah, a festival for tertiary institutions, has allowed for great experimentation and is one of the few outlets for this kind of work in Jamaica, and possibly the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean. Festival director, Dr. Brian Heap, made sure to point out the value of experimentation. He encouraged the participants to embrace the possibility of failure because it encouraged experimentation and growth.
“One of the things that we are concerned about is that the competition not be seen as a place where people have to succeed,” Heap said. “Failure can be extremely important to improving yourself,” he advised.
However, as the night’s victors screamed their euphoria, often drowning out the announcement in shrill screams, it was not at all clear that the value of failure was being given apt recognition.
Notably, only 17 of the 23 possible awards were handed out. Chief Judge Micheal Daley, therefore encouraged participants to explore areas such as Storytelling and Monologues which had either no, or weak entries.
The Best Production award was the crowning glory for the JYT as their coups for the night included Best Use of Music and Best Multi-Media for Jubilation 50, directed by Fabian Thomas. Belly Woman also earned the Best Actor Award.
Other productions which made winning impressions on the judges included the slice of life comedy Village Matters, produced by the University Dramatic Arts Society (UDAS). The production, based on poems by Easton Lee, was particularly bouyed by strong performances. It copped the awards for Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and the Best Off the Page Production.
White Coffee, written by Joel Miller and staged by the group Dare to Dream, earned the Best New Play and Best Actress awards while Centre Stage Theatre’s production of Dennis Scott’s The Crime Anabel Campbell earned Best Costumes and Best Lighting. Two Can Play, produced by the EXCED Community College also earned double trophies, scooping up the Best Set and Best Sound awards. Rafiki’s dub poetry effort Man/Woman also boasted double victories, garnering the Best Group Poetry and Best Use of Stage Properties awards. BEPCO earned the final award for the night, Best Female Monologue with ‘For Willy’.