Saturday, 24 October 2015

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Nadean Rawlins slips into the director’s chair for The Black That I Am

STAGE PRESENCE: Rawlins, starring in Basil Dawkins' Where Is My Father?, December 2012.

Easily ranked among the most gifted and accomplished theatre artists of her generation, Nadean Rawlins keeps showing and proving that there’s no ceiling on her remarkable talents. Whether she’s burning a hole in the stage (To The Finish, Where Is My Father?), bringing some star power to the silver screen (Destiny) or calling the shots on a labour-of-love project (this month’s ensemble piece The Black That I Am), the multiple award winner delivers something truly memorable. Channelling her inner Tyra Banks, Rawlins has begun expanding her mogul-in-the-making portfolio by launching Raw Talent, a skill development agency that wants to take you places. TALLAWAH rang up the multihyphenate go-getter, now based in the Second city, to talk about her new chapter, success, and making a difference. 

TALLAWAH: What made you choose The Black That I Am for your latest producing-directing effort? 
Nadean Rawlins: Karl Williams is one of my go-to writers, and we did this play about 10 years ago with the University Players, so this year marks its tenth anniversary. So we felt it would be a nice monumental occasion and, coinciding with the whole Heroes Day weekend, it seemed appropriate. 

TALLAWAH: Absolutely. So what was it like directing a six-member ensemble cast? 
Rawlins: It’s been interesting. I fully realize now what it’s like to be on the other side of the process. (Laughs). But it’s not my first time directing an ensemble cast like this because for my first show we did Country Duppy, which had a cast of five. But doing this show has been a labour-of-love. It’s manageable because it’s mainly monologues and poetry. And being very close to the writer has also helped because I know his style and I know his vision, so it’s been fun putting my own spin on his story of being a Black man. 

TALLAWAH: What do you hope viewers take away from the experience of seeing your version of Williams’ masterpiece? 
Rawlins: I’ve spoken to several of the audience members since we opened last week, and every single one of them say they enjoy it because it’s not your typical production; it’s different. They’ve never seen a play like this. And that’s one of the things I like most about doing it. So far, the audience size has been fair, but we’re anticipating larger numbers. I’ve also been trying to get the schools in this area involved, so that some of the theatre arts students can come and see the show without having to travel all the way to Kingston. 

TALLAWAH: As an artist your continued and evolving success has been nothing short of phenomenal. Are you enjoying the ride? 
Rawlins: I am, but it’s a lot of hard work really. I am grateful for the success I’ve had over the years doing what I’m passionate about. But I think my success is only just beginning. I can taste it. Sometimes mi nuh sleep, and I have a lot on my plate. My 9-to-5 is also very demanding because I work in security. But I have my grandmother’s energy in my pulse. I am a go-getter and I think I get that tenacity from her. 

TALLAWAH: Congrats on the establishment of Raw Talent, your artist management and talent agency. That’s so cool! What do you hope it accomplished in the long term? 
Rawlins: It’s a developmental agency for individuals to optimize their abilities – whether you can cook, sing, act, speak well. I will help you to build and develop what you have. It’s really about managing the person; that’s my main objective. The emphasis is also on PR, events, and communication. I’ve always wanted to do something like this because as a young artist I never had anybody to help me, so this is my way of making a difference. 

TALLAWAH: We thoroughly enjoyed your couple scene in the film Destiny. You’re one of the Jamaican stars we feel deserve way more shining time on the big screen. 
Rawlins: I want to do more work in film. I’ve been asked to do one more since I did Destiny. It’s a project by a local female director. I’ve read the script, and I’ve agreed to do it, but right no date has been set for filming to begin. I think Jampro is helping to get that sorted out. It’s an ensemble piece for four women but right now it’s still a work in progress. But I definitely want to branch out into the film world some more. That’s why I’m doing more producing and directing. I’m growing as an artist.  

TALLAWAH: By the way, now that you’re a member of the Fairfield family in MoBay, what plans do you guys have to jazz up the place some more? 
Rawlins: The theatre has been around for about 40 years now, but it was dormant for like the past two years. So when I moved to MoBay Douglas Prout was happy because he knew we could revive the place. Right now it needs a lot of renovation; there are water issues. It just need a lot of work to get back on its feet. We also want to encourage other writers and producers to come on board because this is the only theatre in the west. There was so much happening here years ago, and so the thrust is to restore it. We want the political representatives and community leaders to see what we’re doing and give us some support. 

> The Black That I Am plays weekends at the Fairfield Theatre in Montego Bay. Tickets: 375-6823

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