Wednesday, 21 May 2014

SHOW TIME: Michael Holgate savours the transformative power of the performing arts

THE NATURAL: "I want something that I do to reach Broadway or London’s West End."

As the curtains go up on his latest theatrical offering, the youth-driven musical Blogs & Mirrors (starring the University Players and the Ashe Company) at Mona's Philip Sherlock Centre, multi-hyphenate artist (playwright, director, novelist, choreographer, PhD candidate) Michael Holgate riffs on theatre as a reflection of the society, tapping into his creative depths, and why he dares to dream big.

TALLAWAH: Your new play is called Blogs & Mirrors. Interesting title. What inspired this latest work? 
MICHAEL HOLGATE: Every now and again something sparks my attention, and this time I found myself thinking of empowerment and how disempowered we are as a people around various issues like race, gender, sex, social standing and education. So I wanted to create something that asks us ‘What do we see when we look in the mirror?’ And not necessarily a physical mirror but looking at yourself, taking an introspective look. And the theatre is supposed to be a mirror to show the society its strengths and weaknesses, and I wanted to fuse that with a look at the modern changes in technology.

TALLAWAH: And it’s yet another musical production. You have quite an affinity for song-and-dance shows, and given the critical success of hits like Curfew and Jonkanoo Jamboree the form is clearly one of your strengths.
M.H.: I’ve realized that I only love doing musicals. I only love writing musicals, and I only love directing musicals. And that’s probably what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life. If not choreography then musicals.

TALLAWAH: Blogs & Mirrors sounds like a worthy addition to your overall body of work as an artist which, by the way, I find deeply impressive. 
M.H.: Thank you. I feel good about what I’ve achieved. Over the years I’ve had a couple of mentors, and one of the things I’ve learned is to create a body of work that can stand on its own and say this is who you are. I feel good that I can look back at stuff and say, Oh yeah, this is the foundation that I am building on.

TALLAWAH: Does it surprise you that life as you know it has morphed into a serious meditation on the cultural arts. You’re even doing your PhD in Cultural Studies right now.
M.H.:The arts is my life, and I’m so grateful for that. I’ve never done any other kind of work. I’ve travelled the world so much, and I’ve never bought a plane ticket for myself. Ever. And so looking back on my life, I’m grateful. I’m not a young chicken any more, but I’m not yet an old man, so I’m giving thanks for what’s ahead.

TALLAWAH: And what do you see when you gaze into the future? What feat are you aiming to accomplish next?
M.H.: I want something that I do to reach Broadway or London’s West End; something that is readily accessible not just to Jamaica but to the region and the wider world. I feel that Jamaica has so much to say to the rest of the world. It might seem egotistical to some, but for me it’s about wanting to contribute in a bigger way. And that’s what this musical is really about, becoming empowered around what you believe.

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