Wednesday, 17 October 2018

2018 NATIONAL HONOURS & AWARDS: Grace Jones honoured; Blake-Hannah, Yellowman among arts-community honorees

GRAND OCCASION: The OJ recipients (at centre) gather for photos with Culture minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, left, and Tourism minister, Ed Bartlett.

DUE to ill health, Harry Belafonte wasn’t on hand to be presented with the Order of Merit (OM) by Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen, but fellow entertainment legend Grace Jones was in attendance and was conferred with the Order of Jamaica (OJ) for “exceptional contribution to her field internationally.” Stepping out in a stylish black top, asymmetrical pattern skirt, hat and shades, Jones was in for resounding applause as she made her way up to the podium. 

The arts and entertainment community was very well represented among the large batch of honorees, as the 2018 National Honours & Awards ceremony took over the lawns of King’s House on Monday morning. 

For outstanding contribution to popular music and broadcasting, Winston Barnes was recognized with the Order of Distinction (OD) in the rank of Commander. Among the Officer Class honorees were the likes of Barbara Blake-Hannah (for her work in culture, public service and cultural heritage preservation), Joan Andrea Hutchinson (for contribution to the cultural arts), Johnny Gourzong (tourism and entertainment), Bob Clarke (broadcasting and entertainment), Sheila Rickards (dance and music), Mazie Miller (culinary arts), Dermot Hussey (promotion of Jamaican music) and Winston ‘Yellowman’ Foster for his decades in the music industry. 

Kingston College choirmaster Audley Davidson was among 20 individuals presented with a badge of honour for meritorious service. Renowned music man Donovan Dacres was one of 29 persons presented with the badge of honour for long and faithful service. 

Meanwhile, four stalwarts earned appointment to the Order of Jamaica (OJ) this year. In addition to Grace Jones, Guisseppi Francesco Maffessanti (construction/ social development), Godfrey Dyer (tourism) and Earl Jarrett (finance and public service) were also honoured. 

Monday’s entertainment package featured the Purple String Ensemble, singer André Shepherd and songbird Etana, who gave a stirring rendition of her hit “I Rise.”

Saturday, 13 October 2018

MODERN FAMILY: Dawkins’ Uptown Bangarang still provokes, surprises and entertains

AS GOOD AS IT GETS: Brown (Edgar) and Allen (Precious) having the talk; Below, Lowe in her element as Verona.

Uptown Bangarang (Basil Dawkins Productions) 
Director: E. Wayne McDonald 
Cast: Maylynne Lowe, Earle Brown, Chris McFarlane, Brian Johnson, Rachael Allen and Ruth HoShing 
Venue: Little Theatre, Kingston 

IN the end, family is all you’ve got. A fabulous revival of Basil Dawkins’ 2006 hit Uptown Bangarang, recently mounted for a weekend run at the Little Theatre, drove this point home. 

Gorgeously staged (the set design is a divine piece of architecture) and very well-acted (the six-member cast delivers), the show sizzles with its unflinching exploration of class and dignity, youthful angst and sexuality, morals and family values. 

It’s been a decade since we last saw this play and, to say the least, it’s lost none of its power to surprise, provoke and entertain, thanks in large part to a robust meditation on the dynamics of the modern family. 

With no shortage of relish and pizzazz, Maylynne Lowe reprises her role as the pompous, paranoid Verona Webster, a nut-case of a housewife (still reeling from a car robbery a year ago), who frustrates her husband Edgar (Earle Brown), a televangelist and aspiring politician, insults their ghetto-raised helper Precious (Rachael Allen) and earns the ire of their only son Abe (Brian Johnson), a headstrong teenager with a ganja habit and musical dreams. He can’t stand his parents, but he finds a confidante in Precious, who is quietly nursing her own ambitions and desire for a better life. 

Verona gets a jolt of reality when she flies to New York to visit her older sis Alma (Ruth HoShing) and what was supposed to be dream-house accommodations turns out to be cramped-apartment space, complete with Alma’s gigolo boyfriend Bobby Benson, a sweet-talker/con artist played by Chris McFarlane. 

Meanwhile, back in Jamaica, other shocking revelations come tumbling out into the open: Are Edgar and Precious carrying on an affair? Is Abe really gay? 

Dawkins skillfully weaves these plot points together while raising intriguing questions about what we as human beings truly value most in our lives. Director E. Wayne McDonald, a New York-based thespian making his Jamaican commercial-theatre debut, proves himself a fine director of a mixed cast, pulling strong performances from the actors. 

We particularly loved Lowe’s work (captivating, consistent and frequently funny); the nuances and tough-love style that HoShing brings to her portrayal of Alma; and the steely masculinity that drives Brown’s take on Edgar Webster. McFarlane and Johnson have their moments but, for the most part, their portrayals are surprisingly one-note. Newcomer Allen, in the meantime, shows incredible promise. 

Hugely enjoyable, Uptown Bangarang brims with humour and sobering reminders. At the same time, it immerses us in the goings-on of a family that you could easily recognize as your own. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

2018 SUNSHINE SERIES: Jamaica defeat English rivals 55-43 to take early lead in three-test series

ON THE BALL: The Jamaicans and the English continue their intense rivalry.

DESPITE a few less-than-stellar moments, Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls maintained their impressive run in the 2018 Lasco Sunshine Series on Thursday night, defeating the England Roses 55-43 to take a 1-0 lead in their three-test series, which resumes at the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston on Saturday.

The Jamaicans stamped their superiority from the get-go, taking early leads of 2-0 and 4-0 before the English girls managed to close the gap and equalize at 5-5. The visitors became even more aggressive in their plays, but the Jamaicans were in a no-nonsense mood and quickly pulled away with consecutive goals to take the score to 11-7, 12-8 and 16-11 at the end of the first quarter.

Jamaica’s careful ball possession and shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid’s goal-circle dominance continued in the second stanza, with Jamaica leading 18-11 and 22-15. By the time the tally reached 25-16, Fowler-Reid was on fire, with great support from goal-attack Shanice Beckford. Strong defensive work from Shamera Sterling and Stacian Facey also helped, as Jamaica raced to a ten-point lead at 28-18, and then 31-18 with three minutes to go in the half. The lob passes to Fowler-Reid, coupled with her accurate shooting afforded the Sunshine Girls a 35-21 advantage at the half-time whistle.

Shantal Slater came on for Fowler-Reid at goal-shooter, but England got more of the same treatment in a rather uneventful third quarter, which saw scorelines of 37-26 and 40-28 in favour of the home side. The English shooters gave Sterling and Facey some challenging work as the visitors desperately tried to reduce the deficit. Jamaica stayed in control, ending that quarter 46-32.

Fowler-Reid replaced Slater and Thristina Harwood (Beckford’s replacement) got her first taste of the action at the top of the last quarter. The England girls, unsurprisingly, looked hungry for a breakthrough and forced the Jamaicans into numerous turnovers. Several squandered opportunities by the local girls allowed the visitors to rally with several unanswered shots, bringing the score to 50-40.

Determined to maintain a wide margin, the Sunshine Girls refocused on the task at hand, maintaining their ten-point lead at 52-42 and 53-43. Kadie-Ann Dehaney came on for Sterling in the last minute of the match, as the Jamaicans re-established their dominance. At the sound of the final buzzer, Fowler-Reid sank a long-range shot to end the match at 55-43.

WOMAN OF THE MATCH: Jhaniele Fowler-Reid
A towering and dominant presence in the goal circle, the team captain led the home girls to victory with a masterful performance that further solidifies her status as one of the world’s top goal-shooters.

>> MATCH REPORT: Jamaica vs. T&T

Thursday, 11 October 2018

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: Peter Ashbourne and Mervyn Morris collaborating on ‘Mikey’ reggae opera

PREMIERE LEAGUE: Members of the 'Fortis' family at Wednesday's Musgrave ceremony at the IOJ; Above, gold awardees Morris and Ashbourne.

WHAT happens when you combine the talents of one of Jamaica’s leading musical maestros with the genius of a literary stalwart? A project that’s potentially a classic in the making. That’s precisely what Peter Ashbourne and Prof. Mervyn Morris are cooking up, having decided to merge their artistic gifts to craft a reggae opera based on the life and work of the late great Jamaican poet Mikey Smith.

Ashbourne is composing the music. Morris is supplying the libretto and lyrics. “It’s been an enjoyable experience. We’ve been working on it for over a very long period. I would be doing lyrics and Peter would be working on the tunes. I’m new to writing song lyrics, so they helped me a lot,” Morris tells TALLAWAH at Wednesday’s 2018 Musgrave Medal Awards ceremony at the Institute of Jamaica, where both men were honoured.

How did the collaboration come about? “Peter invited me to work with him on it because he knew that I knew Mikey, and that I had edited his work,” Morris reports. For his part, Ashbourne (whose wife Rosina Moder is also a contributor) felt Morris was the ideal collaborator. “When we came up with the idea, we knew he would be the right person to work on the libretto because he knows Mikey’s work very well,” says Ashbourne.

According to the musician, no premiere date has been scheduled, but he’s hoping the finished product can be given a grand-opening fanfare sometime next year. 

Coincidentally, Morris, his reggae-opera collaborator, received a gold medal at the ceremony on Wednesday for eminent work in the literary arts, while he was being recognized with the gold for distinguished contribution to music. “I’m very flattered, moreso because of the very good company I’m in,” Ashbourne says. “I’m always working on something, always doing something, so this is encouragement to continue the work.”

Dr. Basil Burke was also made a member of the rarefied company of Musgrave gold medallists. Silver medals were presented to pioneering dub poet Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, the 71-year-old Kingston College Chapel Choir and scientist Dr. Henry Lowe, who was unavoidably absent.

This year’s bronze recipients were contemporary novelist Roland Watson-Grant, bird-conservation expert Dr. Leo Douglas and legal luminary and art collector Prof. Oswald Harding, who was honoured for his vast and comprehensive collection.

Entrepreneur and scholar Arthur Williams III received the Youth medal.

2018 SUNSHINE SERIES: Jamaica wrap up Trini test with solid 51-40 win

PLAY MAKERS: The J'cans and the Trinis treated spectators to an exciting Game Two.

COMING off a 61-40 triumph in their opening match on Sunday, Jamaica’s senior netball squad, the Sunshine Girls, put on another largely impressive display to defeat their Trinidadian counterparts 51-40, as action continued in the Lasco Sunshine Series inside the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston on Tuesday evening. 

Playing before a lively home crowd, the Marvette Anderson/Winston Nevers-coached girls demonstrated that they are making commendable progress as they inch closer to the fast-approaching Fast5 World Series in Melbourne, Australia and next year’s eagerly anticipated World Championships in Liverpool, England.

With sharp-shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid getting a rest day, rising stars Thristina Harwood and Shanice Beckford led the attack for the home side, which started off shakily, as we trailed the Soca Girls before roaring back in the dying seconds of the first quarter to tie the score at 12-12 before eking out a 13-12 lead at the sound of the buzzer. 

With goalkeeper Shamera Sterling forcing Trini turnovers in defence and Beckford a workhorse for the attack (very accurate and consistent attempts at goal), the teams continued to trade goals in the second quarter. The score equaled at 16-16; T&T moved ahead 20-18; Jamaica reclaimed the lead 24-23 and, with two minutes remaining in the half, the scores locked again at 26-26 and 28-28 at the buzzer. 

An even more keenly contested match-up kicked off the second half, but Jamaica (with a new Beckford/Shantal Slater combination in the goal circle) managed to sneak away with leads of 33-31 and 36-32. We were up by five at one point (37-32), thanks to some brilliant manouevres by the centre-court players and interceptions in defence. The third quarter ended with Jamaica leading 42-33.

T&T fought valiantly to re-emerge in the final quarter, but the Jamaicans, despite numerous unforced errors and mid-court turnovers, held on to the lead, moving ahead 44-33 and 46-34. A smart decision was to take vice-captain Vangelee Williams off the bench and reintroduce her at goal-defence. With only five minutes left in the match, the Sunshine Girls kept their composure and held a 49-37 advantage. 

And with just three minutes to go, Harwood was summoned to replace Beckford in the attack. A 51-38 scoreline eventually became 51-40 at the final whistle. 

>> WOMAN OF THE MATCH: Shanice Beckford 
A smart, wily attacker who plays to her strengths. Very agile and very accurate with her attempts at goal, her on-court moves reap dividends for the team in the heat of battle.

The Lasco Sunshine Series resumes at the NISC with Jamaica facing England in three tests (Oct. 11, 13 and 15).

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

TALLAWAH BOOK CLUB: Lorna Goodison publishes Redemption Ground, her first essay collection

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Goodison 'grounds' her latest collection in the personal and the political.

STILL super-productive and at the height of her creative powers, Lorna Goodison continues to accomplish firsts in her illustrious literary career. Coming on the heels of her massive Collected Poems, the multi-prize-winning scribe has dropped her debut essay collection, the curiously titled Redemption Ground: Essays and Adventures, adding to an estimable and celebrated body of work that spans a dozen poetry anthologies, short-story collections and an acclaimed memoir, From Harvey River. 

Published by Myriad Editions, Redemption Ground finds Goodison interweaving the person and the political to explore themes that have captured her working life. “They are essays and adventures about poetry and my relationship with poetry and things that have happened to me as I’ve travelled,” the reigning poet laureate has said about the 224-page collection. 

Specifically, she zones in on her love of the written word and the arts, even as she examines such subjects as colonialism and its legacy, racism and social justice and the enduring power of friendship. 

What’s more, the author introduces readers to a vivid cast of characters and places, including a now-defunct Jamaican cinema, New York’s Bottom Line Club and a fascinating Black hairdresser in Paris.  

The book’s title, interestingly, is borrowed from one of the oldest markets in Kingston, Jamaica. 

Among the more interesting essay titles in Redemption Ground, you’ll find “For Derek Walcott,” “Nadine Gordimer Lecture” and “Hurricanes.” 

>> More Books: Marguerite Orane publishes Forget It: What’s the Point?

THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT: At 21, Leneka Rhoden combines book smarts, cool style and immense drive

BRAIN POWER: "I like to write down my goals and go after them," says Rhoden, with members of the Jamaica Tallawahs below. 

IT’s minutes after 2:00 pm when Leneka Rhoden swans into the hotel lobby, looking cool-girl chic in skinny black jeans, a sleeveless top and a black headpiece that’s a cross between a tam and a turban. Supermodel-thin and impossibly tall with next to no makeup on and lots of easy-breezy charm to spare, she’s the high-school classmate you’re happy to bump into after too long, eager to catch up on old times.

But, as we come to learn, a proper conversation with Rhoden, the reigning Miss Kingston & St. Andrew Festival Queen, is the intellectually stimulating kind. She’s what you call a brainy beauty. Prepare to hear words and phrases like “blue economy,” “desalination” and “sustainable development,” the subject that will form the basis of her Master’s degree programme next year, as long as all goes according to plan.

You know before she even tells you: academics has always been her forte “I’ve always performed well academically. And at the university level, the pressure is on, especially when you have to keep a scholarship,” says the Queen’s High alumna, who is in her final year at UWI Mona, majoring in Marine Biology with a double minor (International Relations and Human Geography).

At 21, Rhoden is a full-time student juggling her studies with many side projects, including E-Biome, her months-old company that tackles socio-environmental issues. “Our mission is to use science and technology to help propel development,” says Rhoden, who is keenly interested in developing proposals for grant funding around issues concerning ecosystem management, etc.

So far she’s caught the attention of a few local companies and has done work with such celebrity clients as Sizzla (for whom she supplied biodegradable items for a party he was throwing in Portland) and Barrington Levey, with whom she collaborated for the launch of his Roses FM project, getting equipment cleared at the wharf, with the aid of culture and entertainment minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange. 

Rhoden originally hails from out East (Bull Bay/Harbour View) and was raised by her mom, a trained geriatric nurse and teacher (now working as an entomologist with USAID), who became her daughter’s first role model. “My mom is an educator, so education and academics became a priority for me,” she says, looking back. 

In addition to mommy dearest, she ardently admires great women like Michelle Obama (“I love how she held her own right next to her husband”) and Ambassador Audrey Marks, whose Paymaster idea, she says, was simply brilliant. “She used the proliferation of IT to her advantage, and I think it just shows how innovative she is as a leader.” 
Evidently, Rhoden is well on her way to becoming such a formidable lady herself. The former Students’ Council president and school board representative, who was practically harassed by friends and well-wishers to enter the Festival Queen competition because of her numerous attributes, keeps her goals in sharp focus. 

After the Master’s she’s going after the PhD. “I want to see how I can help the country achieve some of its long-term goals. I’d love to visit Africa and Bangladesh to learn more about their economy and their urban geography,” says the go-getter who was voted Most Active in the Community at the National Festival Queen finals this summer. 

Casting an eye islandwide, she notes, “I do believe more needs to be done to develop our rural peripheries, and how we can diversify income streams to benefit the small farmers.” 

But Rhoden is not all bookworm. She’s into the Marleys, Chronixx and Ding Dong. “I’m not a nerd! I’m very free-spirited. I’m interested in the arts in general,” she says, laughing, playing her own defense attorney. But she does admit that when hanging with friends they are surprised by the depth of her reggae/dancehall knowledge. “I love to embrace my Jamaicanness,” is how she puts it. 

Some folks, Leneka included, are simply blessed with an intelligence, maturity and a self-confidence that makes them appear well ahead of their time – and their age bracket. I think she agrees. “For a 21-year-old I think I’ve done way too much. I just keep going. For some people, their drive doesn’t kick in till after university,” she reflects. “I just like to write down my goals and go after them.”

Monday, 8 October 2018

PLAYING HER PART: Barbara Gloudon riffs on theatre’s transformative power, Oliver’s legacy and bringing back the Ward

ON MESSAGE: Gloudon paid tribute to the legends and shared some keen observations.

WATCHING the players in a theatrical production carry out their roles with panache and effortless conviction, the uninitiated are easily convinced that showbiz is light, easy work. But Dr. The Hon Barbara Gloudon will be the first to say it’s anything but. The esteemed playwright-producer and living legend of Jamaican journalism gave a lecture at the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) on Thursday morning, addressing “Theatre in Jamaica’s Heritage.” 

“It is hard work, even a lot of people who say they do theatre do not understand that it is hard work. Everything must be done properly and done the right way,” stressed Gloudon, whose work also includes the often humorous and witty pantomimes, which open at the Little Theatre on Boxing Day each year.

Gloudon, who spoke without recourse to a written speech, made no bones about calling out the lack of discipline and professionalism she sees lurking in certain parts of the industry. “You go to some plays and they can’t start on time. Why? It sends the wrong message. Punctuality is important; the discipline is important. Actors who are coming into this business must realize that time is money; you have to get there on time,” she told the packed lecture theatre, comprised mainly of high-school theatre arts students hailing from such institutions as DeCarteret College and Immaculate Conception.  

Mrs. Gloudon says she’s also peeved about the snail-pace rehabilitation of the Ward Theatre. “Why can’t we get it fixed back? It has some things that other theatre houses don’t have,” she pointed out. 

While taking a trip down memory lane, she paid homage to the likes of Louise Bennett, Ranny Williams, Lois Kelly Miller and Prof. Rex Nettleford. One of her all-time favourite theatre people is Oliver Samuels, whose early career she was instrumental in getting off the ground. “Oliver was one of the finest actors I ever met. He knew what he was doing,” she said. 

And today, it’s actors like Samuels, she says, who make the best of Jamaican theatre such a delight. “Theatre is a wonderful gift,” she emphasized. “We can create; we can make mistakes and correct them for the next performance.” 

Aspiring theatre practitioners, she cautioned, would do well to take a leaf out of the books of the iconic forerunners. “Learn your role and excel in it. Take good care of your instrument. Learn the words and always be ready to present,” she advised. “Over time you learn that theatre gives you the creative freedom to take real life and turn into something more important.”

CHEERFUL GIVERS: Father Gregory Ramkissoon inducted into volunteers’ Hall of Fame; Sagicor among 7 honorees

MODEL CITIZENS: Ramkissoon and Williams sharing a moment; Williams accepting her award from National Bakery's Craig Hendrickson and Saffrey Brown.

FOR his selfless, inspiring work with the Mustard Seed Communities, which he started with a still-unrepaid $600 loan from Joseph Matalon in 1978, Father Gregory Ramkissoon got his due on Thursday night, when he was inducted into the Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS) Hall of Fame, during the well-attended National Volunteer Awards Banquet at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. 

“It is very important that everybody gets involved,” the Catholic priest said during his brief remarks, urging Jamaicans to give more of their time, talent and treasure to help the country’s less fortunate. “When we put many hands together, the work becomes lighter. It is vital that we improve the community spirit in Jamaica.” 

Now serving over 600 kids and young adults (including pregnant teens, disabled and HIV-infected persons), Mustard Seed has grown into an international ministry with some 20 outreach programmes. 

Sagicor, known for its vibrant community spirit and corporate social responsibility, was another of the night’s honorees, receiving the award for Private Sector Volunteer of the Year. A group known as Young Women/Young Men of Purpose was presented with the Non-Profit Volunteer Organization of the Year award. The Jamaica Cancer Society (represented by Earl Jarrett and Yulit Gordon) was named CVSS Member Agency of the Year. 

Individual awards were also handed out. Sergeant Nickoyon Brown, who runs a schoolboy mentorship programme, exposing kids to “experiences outside of their inner-city communities,” picked up the award for Public Sector Volunteer of the Year. Ardenne High alum Keenan Joseph Falconer, who started D’Yutes, with activities including a regular inner-city quiz competition, was announced as Young Leader Volunteer of the Year. 

“You give a little, you get a lot,” is the motto of Marilyn Lilith Williams, a former UK native now living in St. Mary (with over 50 years of volunteer service to her credit), who took home the award for Outstanding Volunteer of the Year. 

According to selection committee chair Lady Rheima Hall, the public was invited to submit nominations for all seven categories. The awardees were selected from the 29 shortlisted candidates. “We call for support of the CVSS and their sterling efforts towards Vision 2030,” Lady Hall noted, before congratulating the winners. “We urge you to keep up the good work in the spirit of volunteerism.” 

Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica, Laurie Peters, who delivered the keynote address, says losing oneself in the service of others is the best way to go. “Volunteers are quiet builders and the backbone of every society. In Canada you don’t graduate high school without a certain amount of volunteer hours to your credit,” she told the gathering. “Companies have a lot to gain from corporate philanthropy. History shows that companies are better positioned to succeed in the long run when they contribute to the well-being of their society.”

Saturday, 6 October 2018

SCENE & HEARD: Birthday boy Chris Gayle parties in style; Ed Bartlett supports JAPEX 2018; Agent Sasco and Sevana rock the stage, and more

OUR SONG: Sep. 29, St. Andrew. Hosting a launch party for his critically acclaimed new album (Hope River) at the Hope Zoo’s Serengeti, Agent Sasco performed his groovy, wised-up duet “They Will Rob You” with sultry songstress Sevana. (Photo: Sleek) 

SHOW OF SUPPORT: There was no shortage of avid female fans to share lens time at Agent Sasco’s album launch party at the Hope Zoo. The well-supported live-music event also drew appearances by Asafa Powell, Romain Virgo and ZJ Bambino, among others. (Photo: Sleek)  

SNAP CHAT: Sep. 26, Kingston. Star athlete Chris Taylor and Wisynco chairman William Mahfood share a photo-op following a brief cheque handing-over ceremony for the construction of a gymnasium at Calabar High. School principal Albert Corcho, Dejour Russell and other members of the Rabalac track-and-field fraternity were also in attendance. (Photo: Sleek) 

DEMAND & SUPPLY: Sep. 24, St. James. Easily one of the busiest government ministers in the Holness administration, Tourism minister Ed Bartlett (centre) beams with pride wile bonding with members of the Appleton team on Day Two of the Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) Expo at the Montego Bay Convention Centre. (Photo: Skkan Media) 

HOME RUN: Sep. 21, St. Andrew. Fresh from his exploits in international cricket, star batsman Chris Gayle was looking like a million bucks as he celebrated another birthday at his upper St. Andrew digs, with the likes of Beenie Man, Dwayne Bravo, among other bros, showing support. (Photo: Sleek) 

Friday, 5 October 2018

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?: Rawlins and Menou are the perfect match in ‘Owl & Pussycat’

STRIKE A POSE: Rawlins and Menou give sizzling performances as the "actress" and the "writer."

The Owl and the Pussycat (Jamaica Theatre for Charity) 
Director: Pablo Hoilett 
Cast: Jean-Paul Menou and Nadean Rawlins
Venue: Courtleigh Auditorium, New Kingston 

“THIS is a nightmare. I’m screaming but I can’t make a sound,” wails Felix Sherman, midway a terrific staging of The Owl and the Pussycat at the Courtleigh last weekend. 

Felix (Jean-Paul Menou, superb) has become, more or less, a hostage in his upper St. Andrew apartment, thanks to the “arrival” of Doris Wheeler (Nadean Rawlins, excellent), who has made herself at home. Why? Because she was a prostitute with a thriving business and Felix, who has been spying on her from next door, had the audacity to call the cops on her. Subsequently, her landlord had her evicted. 

With nowhere to go, she’s come to Felix, with her bags and pans and radio, because her homelessness is all his fault, and he’s obligated to provide her with lodgings until she gets back on her feet. Right? Doris Wheeler, we feel your pain. 

Laced with moments of searing dramatic tension, screaming matches and hefty doses of humour, the play tackles everything from identity and sexuality to classism and literacy to pride and prejudice and personal growth. 

It’s a very well-made play, directed by Pablo Hoilett, who has a penchant for orchestrating dramedies (often Jamaicanizing classic works) with solid results. He continues that track record with this two-hander (originally penned by Bill Manhoff) fuelled by Rawlins and Menou’s dynamic chemistry. 

They give performances that are nothing short of first-rate. Hoilett makes some smart directorial choices as far as the overall staging goes, but for the most part it’s Menou and Rawlins sparring under the lights and disappearing into these meaty parts like the pros they are. 

While Menou captures the neuroses of a writer and quasi-intellectual (who rides a bicycle to the bookshop where he works), who can’t decide if he despises Doris or secretly has the hots for her, Rawlins zones in on Doris’ idiosyncrasies, from her fear of big words to her temper to her tendency to fall, by her own admission, for men who are on the downlow. 

The clever, witty dialogue, the sensible set (the interior of Felix’s apartment) and the eclectic soundtrack add layers of sexy-spiky charm to the whole thing. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

CULTURE VULTURE: Peter Tosh Festival returns for 3rd staging + J’ca Food & Drink Fest kicks off Oct. 20 + Mervyn Morris, Peter Ashbourne cop Musgrave gold

PRIZE WORTHY: Prof. Mervyn Morris (literature), Dr. Basil Waite (science) and Peter Ashbourne (music) head the list of the 2018 recipients of the Musgrave Medals. The three men are set to receive the uber-prestigious gold medal. At the upcoming ceremony, silver medals will be presented to poetess Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, scientist Dr. Henry Lowe and the internationally acclaimed Kingston College Chapel Choir. This year’s bronze medallists are legal luminary Prof. Ossie Harding, Dr. Leo Douglas and novelist Roland Watson-Grant. The Youth Award goes to Arthur Williams for his standout work in innovation and entrepreneurship. The Musgrave Medals were first awarded in 1897, and is considered the oldest accolade of its kind in the region. The medals are presented annually by the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ), in recognition of excellent work in science, literature and art. The 2018 ceremony is scheduled for next Thursday, Oct. 10, inside the IOJ’s Lecture Hall, downtown Kingston. 
LIVING LEGACY: This month brings the third annual Peter Tosh Festival, scheduled for October 17-21. The Gala Awards take place on Oct. 18 at Pulse Rooms on Trafalgar Road, with such prizes as the Legalize It Award (for research and awareness efforts), the Steppin’ Razor Award (honoring influential players in arts and entertainment) and the Equal Rights Award (for strides in the promotion and advancement of human rights) to be handed out. On the previous night, a segment of Puls8’s popular Pepperseed party will be dedicated to Tosh. On Oct. 19, the action shifts to the Mona Campus for the Peter Tosh Symposium, and on Oct. 20, the Trafalgar Road-based Peter Tosh Museum will provide the backdrop for the music festival, featuring performances by Freddie McGregor, Luciano, Etana and Jesse Royal. The fest comes to a close on Sunday, Oct. 21 with an excursion to Tosh’s mausoleum in Belmont, Westmoreland. 
ALL YOU CAN EAT: The Jamaica Food & Drink Festival returns to the social scene from Sat. Oct. 20 to Sunday, Oct. 28, with eight events set to take local foodies to a gastronomical heaven. Pork Palooza (Oct. 20) kicks things off at Hope Gardens; D’Vine (Oct. 21) invites wine lovers to “swirl, sip and savour” at White Mist, Peter’s Rock; Chop Stix (Oct. 24) brings the action back to Hope Gardens for oriental fare with a twist; Downtown Kingston will join the festivities when Crisp (Oct. 25) takes place at the festival marketplace (beside the craft market) and Meet Street & the Market (Oct. 27) takes over the Kingston Waterfront. The Ruins at UWI Mona’s Mona Visitor’s Lodge will host Picante (Oct. 25) for those who like it hot, while the National Stadium car park comes alive on Oct. 28 with a free-entry-to-the-public Pan chicken extravaganza, starting at 2pm. Visit for details.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: On-the-rise gospel singer Shaundré Cowan charts a course with passion and persistence

SOUL BROTHER: Cowan, who has an EP in the works, says he's "ready for the journey."

SEATED across from me inside the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel lobby, gospel singer-songwriter Shaundré Cowan is telling me about making it to the national finals of this year’s Jamaica Gospel Song Competition. His catchy mid-tempo tune “Worship – The Victory Edition” quickly became a crowd favourite among the ten finalists. The song went on to snag trophies and cash awards for Best Arrangement and Best Lyrics, and though many considered him a shoo-in for at least a runner-up finish at the grand finale inside the National Arena, he was shockingly not announced among the top three.

“It was really surprising, but I’m not bitter. The person who won deserved it, and if it wasn’t her, it would have been me. They had to sacrifice somebody,” he reflects, laughing. “When I went home I was beating myself up because I felt that my performance on the night wasn’t strong enough. But my mom comforted me. She said I did well, but that it wasn’t meant to be this time.”

Disappointment aside, Cowan, who also entered in 2017, cherishes the life-changing experience and the valuable lessons. “It was good because of the training I received. They opened my eyes to how much better you can make your song and how to get the best out of yourself in the studio,” he remembers. “It really helped with my confidence, how to work the stage and give the audience a full performance.”

Talented, yes. But the most fascinating thing about Shaundré Cowan is his persistence. A UWI Mona-trained accountant with a day job, he hails from Sandy Bay in Hanover. But, as he puts it, “everything happens in Kingston.” So travelling back and forth became a piece of cake for the 25-year-old, who is of slender/medium built and stands at about five-foot-ten. In fact, to make it into Kingston for this mid-morning interview, he jumped on a bus and made it right on time.

How does he define himself after 25 years on the planet? “Shaundré is a confident and outgoing young man who is becoming more knowledgeable about the music industry. I’m very ambitious when it comes to success, and I’m ready for the journey and to represent God in the best way. It’s all about him,” says the Rusea’s High grad, a multiple JCDC Festival gold medallist, who has done All Together Sing, ahead of embarking on a solo career that has seen him hitting the stage at shows like Converge and Genesis in Montego Bay.
He’s gained immense popularity in his neck of the woods, but Jamaica Gospel Song has given him the kind of platform he’s been waiting for. “I’m in the studio now, working on my EP, which I’m hoping to release with six tracks by the end of the year,” shares the artiste who, at age 16, did an album, which his uncle produced. “It didn’t work out,” he says now, with a chuckle.

So it’s back to the drawing board. “Having learned and matured, I now know what I’m looking for. Vocally, I’ve grown a lot. I understand my voice now. I think the gospel-song competition has shown that I am ready.”

At the outset, his parents (mom a retired banker; his dad a veteran police officer) worried that ‘the music thing’ would only bring him stress and heartache. But they’ve since come around. His family and friends give him the support. Paying his dues, he’s given a lot of free performances at gospel concerts and other church-based events. Now, “the big shows are calling me because I was persistent.” 

The young gospel ambassador has some sobering words of advice for fellow up-and-comers. “A lot of persons think of the money, but you should really focus on giving of yourself,” he says. “Don’t give up on the big dream, but give of yourself and your talent.” 

>> That’s What I Like: Shaundré shares his guilty pleasures 
Sport: Football 
Movies: Anything with Tyler Perry and Madea 
Food: Ackee and saltfish and jerked pork 
Book: Gifted Hands by Ben Carson

CHAT ’BOUT: Quotables from Commissioner Antony Anderson, Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown, PM Andrew Holness, and more

“I want to assure you that the Government has put in place several crime-fighting strategies, but more than that, we have put in place several national security strategies that are all working to improve the safety and security of Jamaicans. It is not something that is going to change overnight; it will not change by the snap of a finger or the flip of a switch. It will take some time to return Jamaica to the point where our murder rate was well below 500 murders per year.” – PM Andrew Holness addressing members of the Diaspora in New York last Tuesday 

“This type of arrangement where we build better facilities is critical to building that bridge with the Jamaican public. It will be a welcoming environment, where those complaining can do so in privacy. We will keep delivering better and better service.” – Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson commenting on the announced $3 billion budget to carry out repairs (sanitation, reconstruction) at nearly 200 police stations islandwide 

“The whole notion of the performance-enhancing drug is certainly something we are not going to condone in our culture. So I am using this opportunity as a learning moment for all our students and student athletes that this is not something that the Government supports, and they are not to take any medication that is not prescribed by an authorized person – medical practitioner, preferably.” – Minister of Education Senator Ruel Reid responding to a recent case of drugs in schools 

“Our relations have grown into a strong partnership based on close political dialogue and technical and economic cooperation, as well as increased collaboration at the multilateral level. The Jamaica and Chile partnership is undoubtedly in good hands. I am confident that with your enthusiasm and a strong interest in getting to know the Jamaican people and our unique culture, our relations will continue to flourish.” – State Minister Pearnel Charles Jr hailing Chile’s significant economic success on the occasion of the 208th anniversary of the South American country’s independence 

“Politicians are people too. They are somebody’s children. They are married. They have their own children. They need to be treated with a high degree of concern, consideration and respect. We won’t get a lot done if we start off by cussing people who are really sacrificing. There is no politician who has not, and is not experiencing a sacrificial life on our behalf.” – Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown speaking out in support of political representatives at the recent 13th anniversary ceremony for the signing of the Political Code of Conduct

NEWS & NOTES: PM Andrew Holness addresses human rights concerns at UN + Makeba Bennett-Easy given the nod as new PSOJ CEO

HEART & MIND: Addressing the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last Thursday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness reminded global leaders to be mindful of those who suffer discrimination, on the eve of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “Jamaica has been at the forefront of international human rights, having been the first country to incorporate human rights into our foreign policy strategy – a principle that we guard fiercely,” the PM said. “We never lose sight of the responsibility to promote and protect the interests of the vulnerable. We are especially keen to ensure that our women, children and persons living with disabilities, elderly and young people can make meaningful contributions and reap the benefits of a safe and prosperous society.”

WOMAN IN CHARGE: With her appointment taking effect Monday, October 1, Makeba Bennett-Easy is the new CEO of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ), succeeding Jennifer McDonald, who has resigned. Bennett-Easy, whose corporate world trajectory includes stints at First Global Bank, Flow and Executive Dynamix, says stepping up to the coveted CEO post is the opportunity of a lifetime. “This is an exciting time for the PSOJ, as it transforms to facilitate continued delivery on its commitment to promote a productive private sector and influence national policy issues,” she says. “I am grateful to have been selected and provided with the opportunity to lead the organization through this exciting phase.”

Quote Me!
“He was the root and the tree of the [Private Sector Organization of Jamaica] for many years. The advice and service he gave were invaluable to us.” – PSOJ President Howard Mitchell paying tribute to the late William ‘Billy’ McConnell

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

THE MAN WITH THE PLAN: Netball’s Winston Nevers sets his sights on taking Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls all the way to the top

YES, COACH: A veteran of the sport, Nevers has risen to a new level in his career.

WEARING his bright yellow Netball Jamaica tee-shirt and black sweat pants, Winston Nevers is deep in thought as he watches his girls (split into Team A and Team B) play a keenly contested practice match inside the National Indoor Sports Centre on this cool Friday evening. The new Sunshine Girls co-coach (alongside Marvette Anderson) has a talented bunch of girls working with – an impressive mix of newcomers to the senior squad and experienced stars of the game.

Fresh from the Suncorp league Down Under, Jhaniele Fowler-Reid has rejoined the squad, so tonight she’s on-court bonding with such team-mates as Tristina Harwood, Shamera Sterling Shanice Beckford and newly appointed skipper Vangelee Williams.

By all accounts, coaching Jamaica’s senior netball team is the role Winston Nevers has been waiting for; a job he’s perfect for. For many, given his enormous success at the semi-professional club level and his uncanny ability to groom young players into top-class performers (Jamaica’s Elaine Davis, Queensland Firebirds’ Romelda Aiken), it’s a job he should have been offered a long time ago. But nothing happens before its time.

Could also be a blessing in disguise. For one thing, Nevers has spent the last decade and more closely observing the national netball programme, particularly in this post-Maureen Hall era, and he’s seen the strengths and the weaknesses. He knows the players. And he knows what it will take to get the Sunshine Girls to that elusive number-one world ranking.

To this end, in preparing the girls to take on the world’s best, there’s one key aspect of the game he wants to zoom in on. “We have to work on the last part of our game, especially the last ten minutes. When we are playing countries like Australia and New Zealand, it’s not that they beat us because they are better. We stick with them right up until the last part of the game, and then the fatigue sets in, and we start to lose concentration,” he explains, standing by the Leila Robinson Courts, a week earlier, where his team Scotia Bank A is competing in the annual Business House League. “The concentration is poor, and it’s something that’s been plaguing us, and we have to correct it.”

When asked if the Sunshine Girls can win the gold medal at next year’s World Championships, Nevers doesn’t vacillate. Improvements in concentration, combined with appropriate fitness levels and stamina – and all-important team work – is the winning formula. “I believe we can reach number one. That is what I’m looking at. Over the years I’ve been looking at the programme, and I see what the problem is,” he says. “That is why I was glad to join the programme. Not that I’m better than the past coaches, but I see where we fall down and how we can coach the girls properly. Work on the decision-making and the concentration.”

At 61 years old, Winston Nevers unreservedly declares that the sport of netball has been good to him. He looks back on the decades-long journey to this point in his coaching career with memory-lane fondness. “If I was doing football I probably wouldn’t last this long. But what keeps me going is the respect and the support from the people I work with, and I get to help a lot of young players,” the Clarendon-based stalwart explains. “I get a lot of scholarships from Jamalco, BNS and those companies that I work with, and it feels good to be able to contribute to the players’ development in other ways.”

Nevers doesn’t seem the least bit jaded, having been a fixture in Jamaican netball for so long, but has he started making retirement plans? “I think I’m gonna give netball another five years. I want to retire on a high. My aim is to make this Sunshine Girls team reach number one,” he says. “I want to give this [Netball Jamaica] president a number-one trophy because the previous president said she would never allow any men to coach in the programme, and this president come and break that.”

There’s vibrant new energy in Jamaica’s senior netball programme, the veteran coach observes. “There are three new people in the programme – the president is new, the coach is new and the captain is new,” he notes. “We have a young and committed first-time captain, and the players are working well together with her, and so we expect the good results.”

>> The Sunshine Girls take on Trinidad & Tobago on Oct. 7 and 9, ahead of a three-test series against England from Oct. 11-15, at the NISC in KIngston.