LIFE FORCE: Actors in a scene from the Fabian Thomas-directed In the Red and Brown Water at the Pantry, May 2013.
The Jamaican theatre community has been left reeling in the wake of news that the Pantry Playhouse is on its final lap. Say it ain't so! It's indeed a bitter pill to swallow, and most of us are praying for a miracle, including Fabian Thomas, who's mounted quite a few standout shows at the theatre over the years, among them Hairpeace and the award-winning In The Red and Brown Water:
For me, the Pantry was the heart of Jamaican theatre. I always teased Uncle Karl about the theatre being aptly named. It was a centre where he nurtured people. You didn't just rent a space from Karl Hart. He took on your show, he asked you what you were doing. He brought things from his house for your set, he painted your set. He sat in on rehearsals. You never just rented a space. It was a family atmosphere.
And it became the hub of Kingston theatre because you could sometimes have up to four rehearsals going on at any given time: JYT [Jamaica Youth Theatre], my production, Dahlia [Harris]'s, somebody else's. It became an artistic, creative hub. So it is a heartbreak to see it go. With the economic times you kinda understand, but for me it's like when we lost the Barn. It was a staple.
I honestly haven't had the heart to call Mr. Hart and ask him, but I'd been hearing the rumours for a couple of months now, and then I read something, and I said I have to give Uncle Karl a call. But I hope there's a chance that it will remain open and continue serving the theatre community because we really need it. It matters to us. — As told to TALLAWAH.