Friday, 16 November 2018

DRAMAFEST 2018: Two provocative plays look at class, pride and family dynamics

WRONG ADDRESS: The negative social forces that prey on impressionable and vulnerable Jamaican youngsters, as well as the scourge of poverty, bubble to the surface in Step Up Ghetto Yout’, a short community-theatre production that opened this year’s Dramafest (put on by Freedom Ministry) at the Phoenix Theatre. It centres on Twister (Lachim Cunningham), a promising schoolboy who wants a better life than what the zinc fence/standpipe setup of No Man’s Land is offering. But his close pal Slinger (David Smith) is a bad influence, eager to immerse him in the rudebwoy lifestyle. Luckily, Twister’s tough-cookie schoolmate and neighbour Ginger (Karen Wright) is keeping tabs on their so-called friendship. The play’s sizeable cast is comprised of other folks also trying to make it amidst life’s harsh realities: struggling shopkeeper Miss Pat (Creslyn Thomas), a deportee they call Dippie (André Alleyne), matriarch Miss Precious (Karen Fray), a fallen-on-hard-times big shot named Slick (Mark Rush) and the ghetto-fabulous Poochie (Staci-Ann Goodison), who has ‘big plans’ for Ginger. When a mysterious fire destroys living quarters in their tenement yard, they quickly realize they must put aside their differences and unite in the name of survival. In the end, Step Up Ghetto Yout’ is both entertaining and thought-provoking, examining the plight of the lower-income class with ample humour and utter realism.

DIRTY LAUNDRY: Somewhere between the realms of August: Osage County and the TV hit Empire you’ll find the antics of the family members at the heart of Granddaddy Legacy which, in spite of occasionally melodramatic moments, crackles with dramatic tension and emotional heft. Patriarch Mr. Percy has died, and his departure prompts bereaved relatives to show their true colours. All the deep-seated resentment, jealousies and long-buried rage come to the fore. Adult siblings Dimples (Patricia Martin), Donna (Karen Wright), Peter (Mark Rush) and Desrine (Paula Thompson) are at loggerheads over Daddy’s dead lef’, much to the dismay of widow Mrs. Percy (Karen Fray). The action comes to a boil when it’s time for the contents of the will to be disclosed. But things take an explosive turn when granddaughter Sue (Stacy-Ann Morgan-Duvalier) phones the authorities to expose shocking family secrets. It’s a crafty little play, full of grit, wit and convincing performances. B+

Thursday, 15 November 2018

NEWS FEED: Major changes for BOJ + Lloyd Distant is new JCC head + JHTA president addresses tourist safety concerns

>> ‘Our resorts are safe’: JHTA boss reassures locals, foreign visitors
Are Jamaican officials worried over any possible negative impact on the tourism sector in the wake of the USA Today article highlighting cases of sexual assault at numerous Jamaican-based resorts over the years? According to President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Omar Robinson, time will tell. “It is a little bit early to say there will be any fallout. [Some] properties have received queries about concerns for safety, and properties were able to reassure the guests that they are safe,” Robinson said in a Gleaner interview. “Our resorts are safe and they provide that secured environment that visitors have come to expect over the years.” What’s more, Robinson insists, crimes against tourists almost never go unreported. “I don’t think there was any attempt or any deceptions at all to cover up any incidents. Usually when such incidents happen the properties work along with the local police, if it is a police matter, and the other stakeholders [like] the Tourist Board, which would advise the embassies.”

>> Operational changes coming for Bank of Jamaica
In the wake of proposed legislation, major changes are afoot for operations at the central bank, the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ). The proposed amendments relate to the Bank of Jamaica Act, Banking Services Act, and the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act. According to the finance ministry, under the proposed reforms, Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke will no longer give directions on monetary policy, thereby giving the central bank greater autonomy and making the entity operationally independent.

>> J’ca Chamber of Commerce elects new president
Lloyd Distant has been installed as President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC). Replacing Larry Watson, Distant heads up an executive that includes Michael McMorris (1st Vice-President), Ian Neita (2nd VP), Keith Collister (3rd VP) and Melanie Subratie (4th VP). Lazarus Bucknor and Michael G. Ammar are the directors emeritus. “Over the coming year and beyond, the chamber will be a more vocal proponent of the things that will maintain and continue to drive growth,” says the president. “We are urging the government to provide more opportunities for local businesses to participate in the myriad of planned infrastructure projects.”

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

@THEDISH: D’Angel sizzles at MC finale; Miss Kitty, wonder woman; Celebs share their ‘style star’ picks

>> Blazin’: D’Angel plans to end 2018 “with a bang” 
All eyes were on dancehall diva D’Angel as she ripped the runway at the star-studded Mission Catwalk season finale showdown at Devon House on Saturday night. Sexy and slender with legs for days, the 30-plus-year-old star opened the show with a fiery performance of a medley of her hits, oozing sex appeal in a multi-layered blush-pink number designed by her go-to girl Pebblez, who collaborated with her stylist Stephanie Fashion. A team leader for this season’s Celebrity Edition, D’Angel says 2018 surpassed her expectations. “I’m looking to end the year with a bang,” she tells The Dish. “I always spend this time of year in Jamaica, so I’m looking forward to doing a lot of work towards the end of the year. I have a number of road shows coming up, new music and new videos. So most of my focus will be on those projects and continuing to please the fans.” 

>> How does she do it? Miss Kitty on her A-game 
How did Miss Kitty manage to juggle so many projects and responsibilities throughout the year and still earn a First Class Honours degree in Law at UWI – and the title of valedictorian for the graduating class? “I had to cut out most, if not all of my leisure time,” she confessed to a Gleaner reporter. “I can remember that I had a show in Barbados on a Sunday and a criminal law exam the following Tuesday. I flew to Barbados on Saturday, did the show on Sunday, flew back to Jamaica on Monday and did the exam on Tuesday.” So what’s next for the wonder woman, who holds a BA in English in addition to her new LLB? Is she planning to open up her own practice? “There is no specific area I’m zoned in on yet,” she says. “The most important thing for me is to always be the best version of myself, so as to inspire others to do the same.” 

>> Who is a style star? The Dish on duty @ Mission Catwalk finale 

Marisa Benain: “Carlton Brown. Just look at him. Always exquisite. There not many of them around. (Laughs).” 

Carlton Brown: “Colin Hylton. He uses nice blends of colours. Always well put together. You always look at his outfits and say ‘Wow’.” 

D’Angel: “Beenie Man. He’s been setting the trends even before he became big. And I love Beyoncé. She can do no wrong for me.”

Saturday, 10 November 2018

WOMAN TIME: A Letter from the Editor

GETTING IT DONE: White and Murray are both in the midst of major new professional projects.

IT just so happens that this month’s issue has morphed into a salute to formidable women across the age spectrum who are making their presence felt. Even more fascinating, two of them are first-time authors. While incredible wise woman Pat Reid-Waugh draws on her vast expertise as a coach and resource person to share tips on retirement living (from her must-read book Retirement: A New Adventure), Mary White is all about reflection and soul-searching and counting your blessings. 

White’s recently launched devotional Glass Houses (which has spawned a national book tour) will move you in profound ways and, as you will discover after reading “Time to Reflect,” so too will her personal narrative. White is one of those doers who know how to push and excel but still, modestly, consider themselves works-in-progress. The honesty is refreshing. At 40-plus, she says, she’s still making mistakes and learning, but there’s no stopping her when it comes to making strides on the road to the top. 

It’s the same kind of thinking that propels Neisha Yen Jones, who not only radiates outer beauty on our cover but brings amazing inner beauty and candour to my conversation with her for “Having It Her Way.” By all accounts, the Daytime Live hostess has set no ceiling for what she will accomplish in her lifetime. Further diversifying that impressive résumé (Broadway actress, prize-winning choreographer, TV personality, dance lecturer, doting mom) is the name of her game, and we’re intrigued to see what she will accomplish next. Is first-time author in her future? It would come as no surprise. 

What you will find surprising – shocking, maybe – are the never-before-revealed details about the Mary Lynch murder saga that rapidly emerge in The Innocence of Guilt, playwright-producer Michael Dawson’s theatrical take on the scandal that rocked Jamaica in the ’90s. 

For this controversial one-woman show, Thespy and Actor Boy winner Rosie Murray steps into the role of the still-embattled Mrs. Lynch and bares all! As I am writing this, I’d just seen the production the previous evening, and it is riveting stuff that will raise a few eyebrows and certainly ruffle a few feathers. 

Meantime, on a lighter note, November will bring our usual coverage of Youth Month events, Restaurant Week activities and lots of highlights from the latest happenings in and around this culture capital of the Caribbean.

HAVING IT HER WAY: Neisha Yen Jones gets real about the single life, women and power, and making strides

THE TALENTED MISS JONES: The TV host is all about doing you and embracing your power.

In a TALLAWAH exclusive, Actor Boy winner, TV hostess and cover girl Neisha Yen Jones takes us inside her world! Great company for conversation, she dishes on everything from career moves and making strides to women and power, and why a gorgeous girl like her is still single. 
* * * * *

ON this cool August night in Kingston, the Miss Jamaica Universe coronation show is unfolding a few doors away from the table where Neisha Yen Jones and I are discussing the remarkable career evolution that now has her positioned as one of the hottest stars on Jamaican TV. This, of course, is thanks to the increasingly popular gabfest Daytime Live, which she’s been co-hosting for the past two years. 

“One thing I would say is that my career always has me growing,” she tells me. “When I was younger, I never thought I was pretty enough to be on TV, and that kind of thinking brought me dread. But I decided that I wasn’t going to let my fear deter me from the possibility of being great.”

She’s come a long way. With résumé highlights including Broadway and West End productions (The Lion King, Stomp), Actor Boy-winning work as a choreographer (2015’s At the Barricade), education (lecturing at the EMC School of Dance) and the list goes on, Jones continues to find work that pushes her to achieve greatness. 

That’s why she’s so happy that Daytime Live has found a niche, and that she’s now part of a product that’s educating, entertaining and empowering Jamaicans of all ages. “It’s a very important show, and we strive to keep it fresh and relevant. Sometimes on TV a lot of the material fails to connect with viewers as it should. A talk show is where the influence is, how people can spread information, so it’s a very important platform,” she argues. “As a society, we’re feeling certain social pressures, and it’s nice to let people come on and talk about it. It’s a great medium for self-expression.” 

And as the proliferation of social media has proven, self-expression is the new entertainment of our age. Even so, Jones will be the first to tell you that the Neisha you see holding her own with opinionated co-hosts Craigy T, Joel, Dufton and Sanique wasn’t always this confident and outspoken. “To be honest, I wasn’t confident enough. Even now I’m very shy. I love being quiet. I don’t like the party scene. One of my favourite things to do is curl up with a book.” 

So how does one reconcile the shy girl with the megawatt-diva persona people so readily associate with the name Neisha Yen Jones? As she tells it, it’s simply a matter of definition. “Being a diva means you’re learned about your craft. You’re a professional. You’re among the best. Aretha Franklin was a diva. I am great at what I do. I embrace that, so yes I am a diva,” she states frankly. “My objective is that I set out to be excellent, do a good job all the time. I set out to be on time, to be professional, and I strive to accomplish that every single time. I live my life like that,” she explains, dressed in black with big diva hair and big diva earrings. 

In the same vein, she subscribes to the notion that you can’t please everybody and there are some people you’ll never please. “I know I’m not for everybody, and everybody is not for me. And I’m okay with that. In England, being the only Black girl in ballet class forced me to work harder. I used my differences and my challenges to empower me.” 

That said, Jones is quick to put the global status quo in perspective. In the wake of #MeToo, she says, women are winning, women are more empowered than ever. “I think women are running the world right now,” she insists, laughing. “At Daytime Live our three bosses are women. At Edna Manley College, the heads [of department] are women. At JMMB women are in power. And because we’re working so hard, we are able to have our cake and eat it.” 

A single mom, Jones’ 14-year-old biracial daughter, Bailie-Marie, is following very closely in mommy’s footsteps. She wants to sing and dance and act, and Jones is giving her all the encouragement she needs, while juggling the many side projects (playwrighting, part-time academic studies, teaching dance classes) that continue to add colour and scope to her full life. 

She isn’t satisfied yet. And can you blame her? At the top of her wish list for 2019 and beyond is a husband, with whom she’ll have her next child. “I’d like a son. But it has to be with somebody who can teach him how to be a man,” she says, her voice full of yearning. “The reason I’m single is not that I can’t get a guy, it’s just that the men who come aren’t pushing as hard as they should.”

But she’s not giving up hope. Women can have it all. “I want to have my cake and I want to eat it, too. And I want to come back for seconds.” Neisha laughs. “You only live once.”

Friday, 9 November 2018

GIVING WITH ‘LOVE’: Stacy-Lee Myrie and her dance company expertly combine performing arts and service to society

YOUNG AT ART: Ycats dancers performing at From the Arts with Love 2018.

THERE is no greater reward than the personal growth and sense of fulfilment that comes from being of service to others. Just ask Stacy-Lee Myrie, the Artistic Director of Ycats dance company (formerly BaSiS) which, for the past decade, has been using their ‘From the Arts with Love’ dance theatre production to raise funds for outreach projects benefiting young and needy Jamaicans.

“Our main objective is to use our time and our talents to serve humanity,” Myrie tells TALLAWAH during an interview at the Little Theatre a few days after the successful staging of Decennium 10, their tenth annual show. “We use the proceeds to do our charitable work.”

By that she means the Ycats team uses the funds to purchase appliances, clothing, school supplies and other gifts that they bring to children’s homes in and around the corporate area. So far they’ve worked with 10 homes in total, a list that includes the SOS Children’s Village, Maxfield Park and the National Children’s Home, among others. 

But that’s not all. Myrie and her team have taken a deeper interest in these wards of the state, bringing them to the theatre to see the dance production. “Each year we take about 100 kids to see the show, and they really enjoy it,” she says. “They get to interact with people they don’t usually get to interact with and enjoy an experience they don’t usually get to.” 

As Myrie stated in her message introducing this year’s milestone show, “Service to humanity is not just about showing passion and empathy to each other in times of need, but also engaging our hearts and minds in exercising kindness in all walks of life, regarding love in high esteem and helping to build sustainable value in our society.” 

By day, Myrie is a human resources manager, a post that allows her to further indulge her love of service to others. The dance world, she adds, is where her love of the arts takes flight beyond the stage. “The passion I have for dance,” she tells TALLAWAH, “has allowed me to help people. I believe in stewardship.” 

These days, Ycats pride themselves on being providers of not only dance classes but also dance gear, accessories and costume rental. Taking in their show at the Little Theatre, you are wowed by the infectious exuberance of the young performers (from Junior-A to Senior-A), the rich colour palette and exquisite costuming and the diversity of material that the choreographers supplied. 

According to Myrie, the focus is now on future growth, the next 10 years of Ycats and new projects like their planned street-boys initiative. “We want to send some of those street boys to school,” Myrie explains. “The plan is to save up so we can extend this kindness to more of society’s less fortunate.”

RETIREMENT LIVING: Pat Reid-Waugh on having the time of your life as a retiree

BETWEEN THE PAGES: "Live, don't just exist!" is Reid-Waugh's message.

IN her first book, Retirement: A New Adventure, Patricia Reid-Waugh, one of our favourite wise women, shares tried-and-tested wisdom centred on how to get the most out of life as a retiree. There’s plenty to do and enjoy, the author and coach tells her readers, in the pursuit of fulfilment and a sense of adventure in this your new chapter. A venerable resource and reference guide, Reid-Waugh’s book gets candid about everything from maximizing your travel plans, connecting with the world online, getting innovative, and how to turn your hobbies into income generators. 

>> Go! 
Reid-Waugh believes in living by a list. Ticking off one accomplishment after the other. “Oh, the education and knowledge I have gained from travelling! I visited Nelson Mandela’s prison cell in South Africa. Standing in a place where history profoundly changed for the better through one man’s strength moved me to tears,” she remembers. “I went rafting on one of the wildest rivers in Africa. I visited the ‘Church of Gold’ in Italy, attended dinner parties in Sweden. Along the way I put together a bucket list of the many other travel opportunities I wanted to pursue.” For her, the pleasure has been immense. “In retirement, with time and flexibility as my best friends, I am ticking destinations off that bucket list one trip at a time, and loving every moment of it.” 

>> Surprise yourself, try something new 
“I was in New York and, on impulse, sent a request to The Wendy Williams Show to attend the following day’s taping, explaining that I was a visitor to the country and there for a limited time,” she recalls. “I was elated at receiving the invitation within a couple of hours. The following day, I experienced the excitement of this live talk show in person, and I walked away with several gifts that were given to people in attendance.” 

>> Be safe, be smart 
Vigilance is paramount, Reid-Waugh cautions. Seniors in particular, have to be on their guard in cyberspace and elsewhere in the realm of technological advancement. “Never access a bank account or put in credit card info when you are using a public Wi-Fi network. If you can help it, do not even put in the password for websites that are linked to your bank account or credit card,” she advises. Also watch out for scammers, she continues. “Never respond to an email advising that you have won money in a contest, lottery or sweepstake you have not entered. Unfortunately, these are popular scams intended to entice you to disclose your personal information and con you into releasing funds purportedly for the payment of taxes, insurance and other fees associated with ‘winnings’,” she explains. “Legitimate contests, lotteries and sweepstakes will never ask you to pay any costs at any time in order to cash in on the winnings. Such costs are always deducted from the winnings at source.” 

>> Give back and pay it forward 
For many retirees, volunteering goes hand in hand with mentorship, Reid-Waugh says, and is just as fulfilling. “The ways to volunteer are almost limitless. Nearly every hospital, charity, school, library, service club and place of worship has room for volunteers. As such, the consideration is not how to find opportunities to volunteer, but rather which opportunities fit you best,” the author shares. Pass on your wisdom, she is quick to add. “As retirees, we have a lot of experience under our belts. This is experience from which the world can benefit. Volunteering has its own rich rewards for you. [It’s] a great way to meet interesting and like-minded people, make younger friends and acquire surrogate children with whom you may establish satisfying and lasting relationships.” 

Read Part 1 of our interview with Reid-Waugh 

Order your copy of Retirement: A New Adventure!