Saturday, 28 March 2015

THE BUZZ REPORT: Five Things We're Talking About

THE KID: He's a legend in the making whose name has become synonymous with astonishing performances on the track. Jaheel Hyde's latest stunner came on Day Four of the ISSA/Grace Kennedy Boys Athletics Championships, where the golden boy powered his way to a new national junior record in the Boys' Class One 400M hurdles at the National Stadium. Per media reports, Hyde's time of 49.01 seconds (down from 49.49) is the second fastest time in the world so far this year, bettered only by the American Michael Stigler (University of Kansas, the Texas Relays), who clocked 48.44 on Friday. Hyde is also a top contender for the gold in the Class One 110 M hurdles, one of the key events expected to bring the crowd to its feet on Saturday's final day of the championships. At the end of Friday's events, Edwin Allen held a commanding lead of 131 points among the girls, while Calabar High was in front on the boys' side with 104 points.
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SECOND TIME AROUND: It was there, in May 2008, that he stunned the world by shattering the world 100M record, setting a new time of 9.72 seconds, subsequently lowered in Beijing. Now, seven years later, Usain Bolt is making his long-awaited return to the Adidas Grand Prix, set for June 13 in New York City. We're expecting another magical performance from Jamaica's sprint king. The organizers have already dubbed it the 'Bolt homecoming', and the event is expected to draw tens of thousands of spectators to the Icahn Stadium. The Adidas Grand Prix is the latest addition to the growing list of meets the World's Fastest Man will grace this season in the run-up to the 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing, China, in August. On July 9, Bolt will face the starter at the Areva Diamond League meeting in Paris. Before that, on April 19, he'll treat his South American fans to an appearance at the Mano a Mano meet at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, where he'll compete in a special 100M exhibition race for the second year in a row.
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VOICE OF REASON: Call it the end of an era. After hosting the long-running call-in programme for almost three decades, Barbara Gloudon and RJR FM's Hotline are parting company. Confirming the news in an email distributed to staff on Friay, Gary Allen, Managing Director of the RJR Group, hailed Gloudon as "a creative genius" who's given stalwart service to the country. "This brings to a close one chapter of her association with RJR 94FM, which she embarked on some three decades ago. We wish to place on record our sincere appeciation for her service to the nation via the Hotline programme, even as we look forward to engaging with her in other capacities moving forward," Allen said. Remaining with the RJR FM family, but in a slightly different role, Gloudon is set to host an upcoming Sunday afternoon programme at the station. No word yet as to whether she will be taking on-air calls.
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CALLED TO SERVE: Hearty congrats to Jeffrey McKenzie, a noted man of the cloth, who's been appointed the new Custos Rotolorum of St. Catherine. Pastor of the landmark Phillipo Baptist Church in Spanish Town, McKenzie's appointment will take effect on April 1, according to the office of the Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, who recently presented the new custos with his instrument of appointment. McKenzie succeeds Sophia Azan, also a reverend, who has retired after 12 years in the role. 
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SHOW TIME: It's the single most anticipated theatrical event of the year, so naturally the production team is pulling out all the stops. To help make King David the musical a truly unforgettable affair, Father HoLung and Friends have reportedly enlisted reggae superstars Shaggy and Tarrus Riley to contribute material for the show's soundtrack. Excellent choices, given their impressive track record and knack for tuneful, crowd-pleasing records. Meanwhile, we're dying to hear who's been cast in the lead roles for the show that opens at the National Arena in early May. Father HoLung productions always play before capacity crowds, with special days set aside for student audiences, and if the early buzz is anything to go by it's a rousing and visually stunning hit-in-the-making.




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Friday, 27 March 2015

MAN OF THE MOMENT: Is actor Glen Campbell having the best Easter ever?

HEAD OF THE CLASS: Campbell (centre), with costars, in Saving Alligator High

For Glen Campbell, starring in the vibrant TV ads for Maxfield Easter Bun that always come on this time of year brings him the kind of attention usually reserved for spotlight regulars, meaning things get really weird sometimes, but in an amazing way. "Some people think that because I'm in the commercial I work at [Maxfield] and always have bun to give away. So everywhere I go no, people are asking me for Easter bun," Campbell recalls, laughing. They even show up at his house, he adds, asking his mom for the bun Glen left for them. Like I said, weird. 

While starring in Patrick Brown's now-classic comedy series Titus, Campbell and his co-star Rosie Murray were approached by marketing personnel from Maxfield to appear in the TV ad they were working on. Of course they said yes. 25 years later, Campbell is still tight with the Maxfield fam. "It's a family business, so the mother has now passed on the responsibilities to the son, who has seen it fit to continue the association with Skatta, the character that I play." 

In 2015, Glen Campbell has more or less becomes the face of finger-lickin Easter, given his association with not just Maxfield Bakery but the immensely popular Tastee Cheese as well. And it's purely by coincidence - and a stroke of good fortune on Campbell's part. Much deserved, too, when one considers the actor's high-wattage theatre and TV career that spans decades and has arguably made him the quintessential Jamaican leading man of his generation. 

"The best part for me is the visibility because as actors we do need it," Campbell explains. "As you know the industry is very fickle and there are actors who have spent years and years performing on stage and then they are just forgotten. So it feels good to be recognized and to get this kind of support." 

And speaking of acknowledgement, the much-laurelled comedy veteran could be adding more shiny hardware to his collection later this month when he vies for Best Actor at the March 30 Actor Boy Awards. "My thing is that once you're nominated it says something about the level of work that you're doing; your peers figure your work is of such a standard that it warrants recognition," reflects the star, who is nominated for his memorable turn in Saving Alligator High and is up for a Thespy for Funnny Kind 'A Love. "But the work is what drives me and keeps me motivated. We have a thing here where every night before we go on stage we remind ourselves that we were born to do this." 

As he tells it, the high point of Alligator High this season has to do with the rare chance to slip into the guise of one of the most challenging yet rewarding professions ever - the role of a schoolteacher. "I have given workshops, done seminars and given talks at different schools, and I take my hat off to teachers. They are made of a different mettle than the average human being. Mi nuh have that at all. Teaching takes a lot," Campbell, who turned 50 last year, admits. 

But that doesn't mean he didn't knock himself out researching the role of cricket-loving maths prof Jeff Jones - and turning it out on stage every night for the audience. "The preparation was very eye-opening as to what Jamaican teachers are faced with, particularly the tools they need to get the job done and the lack thereof," Campbell observes. "So I think the play, and Patrick's writing, very cleverly highlights the plight of students and teachers and how we can improve the education system on a whole."




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WATCH THE THRONE: School of Drama's Oedipus offers a solid take on a stage classic

MEN OF VALOUR: Roye (as The King) and Burke (as Creon) settle their differences.

As far as classic stage tragedies go, if William Shakespeare's Hamlet has any deserving equal it's Oedipus the King by Sophocles, a wrenching Greek masterpiece that's as relevant today as it was back in the BC era. It gets a fresh, strongly acted and visually stunning interpretation at the School of Drama this month, thanks to the brilliance of visionary director Robert 'Bobby' Clarke and a fine cast of student actors who bring the complex work to life with palpable gusto and rousingly fierce performances.

It's by no means a flawless show, however; the production team takes a few creative liberties with aspects of the original source material and it's a tad too long. But the production is, in all fairness, a success beautifully lit, the costumes are gorgeously designed, and the whole thing is anchored by a highly commendable lead turn by Damornay Roye as the titular ruler who must face the inconvenient truth that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

The story is set in the city of Thebes, a land plagued by disease and a raft of social ills. The people look to the king for answers but he has problems of his own, caught up as he is dodging plots of treachery, ironing out family issues, and coming to terms with his destiny and his mortality. We watch, riveted, as Oedipus clashes with his strong-willed brother-in-law Creon (a solid DuVaughn Burke), square off against a blind prophetess (Joylene Alexander, terrific) and rattle his high-strung wife (Imaresha Smith-Cooke). And, like Hamlet, he's practically driven mad by the overwhelming circumstances.

Laden with eloquent speeches and moments that are deeply moving, both Hamlet and Oedipus keenly observe their respective creators' clear fascination with the doings of rich, regal, powerful men and the mistrust, disloyalty and thirst for revenge that pushes them to the edge. As both works climax, the actions of their heroes bear dire consequences and lead to unspeakable tragedy.

It's tricky adapting such a magna opus for today's audiences, but Clarke, a veteran director with the LTM National Pantomime, has proven he's game for (almost) anything. His ambitious take on Sophocles' vision has it hiccups, but as a whole it's nothing short of enlightening and full of visual interest. Tyrone's Verdict: B+




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Thursday, 26 March 2015

ON HER MIND: Yvonne Chin reflects on her roots and becoming a woman in full

HER BRILLIANT CAREER: The radiant hostess brightens the studio at Television Jamaica.

If you were to take a peek at Schools' Challenge Quiz hostess Yvonne Chin-Irving's long list of all the things she wants to accomplish in her next chapter, you'd probably find her dream of collaborating with and mentoring Jamaican youth at the top. "Young people really matter to me, and it's my dream to work with as many of them as I can, helping them attain the life skills necessary for future success," says Chin-Irving, who currently teaches television production at both UTech and UWI. "A lot of them don't know that they have to have a dream. Many of them need guidance and to learn how to be disciplined and manage their time wisely. I want to help where I can. God has been good to me, so I want to be good to others." 

Never has this been more clearer in Yvonne's mind than during her current stint as a quizmistress for Schools' Challenge Quiz, after spending some seven years in the UK, working in public relations at the Commonwealth Secretariat. But Yvonne's no stranger to the SCQ experience, however, having served the show back in the 90s when TV J had a different name, and she was a rising media star earning her stripes. So for those of us who've been admirers of hers since those halcyon days, she'll always be that on-camera pro whose disarming aura and megawatt star power light up the screen. 

In person today, she's just as down-to-earth and sincere as one would expect. The consummate professional. Having a conversation with her after a recent quiz match at TV-J, I ask if she still gets nervous when the cameras are rolling. "Yes and no. My nervousness has more to do with other things than being on-camera," she responds with a laugh. "I'm at my most relaxed when I am extremely well-prepared and have worked out in my mind all the possible scenarios that could arise while I'm on." 

By her own admission, the Schools' Challenge Quiz experience of 2015 is a cut way above that of yesteryear. "It's totally different; it's a whole new ball game," says the veteran presenter. "As simple as [being a quizmistress] looks, it's a demanding job. You have to be on top of things, keeping the pace, maintaining the clarity. But the judges are brilliant and they provide a lot of support." 

Now 42, Yvonne Chin-Irving got her start in journalism at 16, hosting the hip and informative show Rappin' that catered largely to a teenage crowd. She followed that up with a stint at Power 106 before moving on to the RJR Group, where she worked the news desk and later served as a producer for Smile Jamaica in the early days. A St. Hugh's High alumna, Yvonne counts the late great Wycliffe Bennett and the Atlanta-based voice trainer Judith Sullivan among her heroes. A product of St. Andrew's Kintyre community, she currently holds two Master degrees - in Business Administration (Lancaster University) and television journalism, courtesy of a Chevening scholarship. 

But perhaps the most life-changing part of her remarkable journey was the period she spent at the Commonwealth Secretariat, from which she "just got back to Jamaica," home sweet home. "I am extremely thankful for that experience.I was able to grow so much and become a more rounded person in the truest sense of the word," she recalls. 

Among other valuable lessons, she's come away with a renewed respect for the tireless efforts of world leaders. "To hear prime ministers talk about their work and listen as government ministers address their different challenges was just fascinating to me," she says. "I'd always been pro-development, but that experience totally opened my eyes."




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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK: LMH Publishing on the cutting edge + Kudos for Oedipus actors + Bolt to renew his Brazilian connection

THE LEGS HAVE IT: Brazil wants more Bolt. For the second year in a row, the World's Fastest Man has been invited to headline the Mano a Mano 100M sprint in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro. Incidentally, Rio is hosting the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, where Bolt is hoping to create more history when he lines up for the sprint double and the sprint relay. Meanwhile, marking a repeat of last year's event, Bolt will compete against three other sprinters on the 100M track, at the Mano a Mano meet on April 19. Watch a clip HERE of the Jamaican sprinter's run at the 2014 staging. 

COSTUME DRAMA: Season after season, student actors at the Edna Manley College's School of Drama never fail to astonish with performances so committed and luminous that one can only conclude that the school's faculty is doing its job! This semester is no exception, with a trio of genial turns emerging from their first major production of the year, Sophocles' Oedipus the King, a fresh and solidly acted interpretation, helmed by Robert 'Bobby' Clarke (Princess Boonoonoonoos). Damornay Roye (as the titular king of Thebes), DuVaughn Burke (his tough-minded brother-in-law Creon) and a regal Joylene Alexander (as Teiresias the blind prophetess) are the standouts in a cast brimming with exceptional talent. Roye, in particular, is in splendid form, nailing the strength and steely stupor as an embattled monarch coming to terms with the inconvenient truth that uneasy lies the head that wears a crown and absolute power corrupts absolutely. 

MAKING STRIDES: An air of crisp modernity courses through the offices of LMH Publishing these days, and this new mood is a reflection of the company's renewed vision of catering to their ever-expanding customer base as the swift shifts in literary technology keep everybody on their toes. "A lot of the focus right now is on e-books, and not just in publishing but in the book industry on a whole," reports the ever-enterprising Dawn Henry, who's been kept busy ushering the company into most vibrant yet increasingly challenging new era. "Book sales are down on a whole, so what we've been doing is tapping into all the new platforms that publishers are using to attract readers all over the world. So now our website is playing a major role where that is concerned. For the past few years, LMH has made significant strides in academic publishing, churning out a raft of educational texts for CXC students in particular, which Henry told TALLAWAH are being gobbled up by the schools across Jamaica. As for what's next, more educational stuff is in the pipeline, as well as new works by some of the company's most popular authors and at least two autobiographies from boldface Jamaican names, which she predicts will be flying off the shelves. "It's too early to give details," Henry said, doing her best to contain her glee, "but these are books that everybody will be talking about."




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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

GAME, SET, MATCH: Former Archer pupils win big at TV J for their late mentor

WE ARE FAMILY: The Ardenne-ites (from left) Falconer, Giles, Gordon and Dunn.

The four-member Masters team that represented the Ardenne High family inside the TV J studios on Monday morning didn't lack for motivation as they went up against a St. Jago High quartet, largely because they had come together to pay tribute to their fallen hero Rev. Glen Archer, in whose honour the friendly match was being staged this year. A fun, light atmosphere enveloped the studio once quizmaster Kalando Wilmot got the ball rolling and judges Ave McIntosh and Theresa Easy - and a sizeable audience - took their seats.

Overall, it was a spirited encounter, keenly contested by both sides, but in the end Ardenne's team managed to surge ahead to secure the victory. (You'll have to tune in to TV J later this week to see for yourself and to get the final score.) "This result was very important to us because we came here to win and do our alma mater and Rev. Archer proud," captain Keenan Falconer, who represented Ardenne in Schools' Challenge Quiz from 2012-13, told TALLAWAH. "We were told about the match only three weeks ago, and we had only yesterday to practise as a team, so the preparation was very limited."

Still, despite the odds, Falconer (Ardenne's current SCQ head coach) felt they pulled off a job well done, a performance of which Rev. Archer, a man of notoriously high standards would have approved. "He was a colossus, and his legacy is well-respected by all of us. It's not a minor achievement by any standard," Falconer said. Anthony Williams, who chaperoned the team, heartily concurred. "[Archer] was a stalwart, a man of great educational and inspirational legacy who lived up to our school motto, 'With God as our guide, we seek the best.'"

That's why winning the 2015 SCQ championship would mean the world to not only Falconer and Williams, but the entire Ardenne family and their throngs of supporters. "It would certainly add to the school's profile as the most sought-after secondary institution in Jamaica," observed Williams, a past head boy. On Wednesday of this week, Ardenne (the 2013 champs) will face perennial powerhouses Kingston College in the semi-final round to book a place in the grand finale, set for March 31, against either Campion College or St. Jago High. 

"We're looking forward to it, because [KC] beat us last year and we want to settle the score," Falconer noted. But, when all is said and done, winning the title for their dearly departed coach and mentor is perhaps the greatest motivation they'll ever need. "Winning the match on Wednesday and going on to win the finals would be exceptional, and the best possible tribute to him."

For the Masters match, the St. Jago family was represented by Greg Drummond, Desmond Campbell, Dalton Martin and Shawn Henry, while Ardenne's players were Dujon Dunn, Akeem Gordon, Janielle Giles, and Falconer.




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KEEPING IT REAL: Author K. Sean Harris spins juicy tales that captivate and titillate

ROYAL SEAT: "When you're shining bright, the spotlight finds you," Harris reflects.

Neatly arranged near the top left hand corner of K. Sean Harris' work desk is a stack of about seven novels, his own creations, boasting such titles as The Stud, Merchants of Death, Redemption and The Snake Charmer. That's only a handful of the books Harris has penned and published over the course of his decade-long writing career, consequently winning a legion of fans who can't get enough of his combustible mix of sex, relationship drama, harsh socio-economic realities and the scourge of crime across Jamaica.

A long-serving managing editor at LMH Publishing, who publishes his work under his own imprint Book Fetish, the Kingston native prides himself on the eclectic number of genres he's tackled and his prolific output at least two books a year, thank you very much. The keenly observant and immensely private scribe (he won't even reveal his age!) is gearing up to publish his 20th book, a wide-ranging story collection titled The Flying Ostrich, due out in May, while basking in the buzz that his most recent release, Queen of the Damned 2, is generating at home and abroad.

Last week, TALLAWAH called on this stalwart storyteller at his office at LMH to talk about his burgeoning literary career, why he shuns the spotlight, and his message for those who say reading is boring.

TALLAWAH: As a relentlessly productive Jamaican author you've published more than a dozen novels, including a number of sequels, yet your fans and the wider public knows hardly anything about you. Is that deliberate?
Harris: I don't put myself out there; that's just me. And I won't change that approach just because I've reached a certain level of success. I want to be able to look back and say I did it my way. I just do the writing, get the book published and let the work do its job.

TALLAWAH: So you're not one who craves the spotlight? 
Harris: I'm more of a reserved person, and again I just don't see the need. The work will speak for itself. And I trust the rhythm of the universe. When you're shining bright the spotlight finds you; you don't have to seek it out.

TALLAWAH: Who are some the authors who pulled you into the literary world as young writer still puzzling out your voice? 
Harris: I've been an avid reader since I was about six. And as I got older, the kids I knew were reading the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books. But I was more into books by Sidney Sheldon and Robert Ludlum. I never planned to write, so I wouldn't say I have any major influences. About ten years ago, I wanted to publish a collection of erotic Jamaican stories, but the person who was supposed to do the writing couldn't deliver, so I ended up writing the book myself. And I've been writing ever since.

TALLAWAH: And now here you are, 19 books later. How do you define yourself as a storyteller?
Harris: Life is my muse. I like to tackle real-life issues I find other writers are afraid to write about, especially sex. When I'm writing I don't censor myself. I'll go in depth. I like to create organically. I don't write with the audience in mind. I just tell the story.

TALLAWAH: Through your managerial job at LMH, you have the clout to take a person's work from edited manuscript to published hard copy. As an editor, what are you usually looking for?
Harris: First and foremost, you're looking for a good book, something that's well-written, relevant and complements our catalogue. As you know we are known for books that are mainly based in Jamaica, but we want the kinds of stories that can be exported abroad. Show the world that we can compete with anybody in terms of talent and quality.

TALLAWAH: What are you currently reading? 
Harris: I won't call any names, but I'm reading a lot of esoteric material at the moment. It's what I'm drawn to right now, but I have my next fiction book lined up: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. 

TALLAWAH: If you were to toot your own horn for a bit, what would you say has got so many readers hooked on K. Sean Harris? 
Harris: I would say my storytelling ability is top-of-the-line. I have the utmost respect for my abilities. The consensus is that when you pick up one of my books, you better have time on your hands and a comfortable seat because you're gonna be there for a while. You have those people who say reading is boring. Well, they're definitely reading the wrong books. 

> For more on K. Sean Harris and his body of work, visit kseanharris.com.





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