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New Play Festival premieres next weekend

Published: 
Sunday, October 23, 2016
The director, cast, crew and playwright of Hell discuss the play in a rehearsal for the New Play Festival. The festival runs October 28-31, at the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, Belmont. Photo courtesy Kevon Joseph

The New Play Festival 2016, which will run October 28- 31, is the brainchild of legendary T&T thespian Tony Hall. Hall said the festival is one of the projects he conceived years ago when he resolved to stop complaining about what was not happening in theatre in T&T and do something instead.

The festival features three plays that have never seen the light of a stage before, directed by young directors and featuring a mix of new, up-and-coming and established actors. 

The plays are Miracle, written by Ronald John and directed by Brendon O’Brien; Angels Live in Tunapuna, written by Sonja Dumas and directed by Johnathon Thatcher; and Hell, written by Safa Niamat-Ali and directed by Cydelle Crosby. 

Each of the young directors was assisted by an experienced dramaturge—Wendell Manwarren, Mervyn de Goeas and Rawle Gibbons, respectively—with the further assistance of Michael Cherrie. The actors selected included Kearn Samuel, Kala Neehal, Nicholas Subero and Jarrod Butts, among others. 

O’Brien said, “It’s been exciting working on something that's never been put on stage before, to work out all the kinks and make some magic. It's been challenging in more ways than one, but it's been fun working together with a cast of new, interested actors.”

The plays were workshopped and developed as part of the Playwrights Workshop Trinbago, an initiative Hall started in 2003 in memory of renowned Trinidad theatre historian Errol Hill and Tobago playwright Eric Roach. 

Hall said, “It is a collective to help each other make their own plays. Our focus has manly been the making and the building of stage plays, the breakdown of the process, and then presenting something to your peers which can be read with a view to re-writing, re-structuring, re-shaping until the work itself tells you that it is ready to stand up with the help of actors, a director and a dramaturge.”

The driving force behind putting the festival together is new playwright Safa Niamat-Ali. “There is no real theatre industry in T&T, even though there are theatre practitioners and educational institutions providing theatre programmes,” she said. “I have a passion to do everything I can to help theatre (in T&T) reach its full potential.”

She heard Hall talk about an annual New Play Festival which would bring together theatre practitioners of varying generations and was inspired to bring it to life. 

“What seemed to me a simple idea has turned out to be a brilliant exercise. I've seen the experienced thespians rise to the occasion and lead, teach and guide everyone around them. Through this festival exercise, upcoming directors and actors have been enhancing their talents, and I as a playwright am understanding more about the stage, movement and words.”

Hall said he hoped people would come out to support the event and the work of all those involved. “The New Play Festival is the presentation of a group of plays that we hope are ready to stand up for the first time. The plays suggest themselves. The playwrights are ready because the plays are ready. 

“They are not perfect. More than likely, they will be rewritten, some in their entirety, after this exercise. Such is the birthing process of play making, of play building, to which the young playwrights, the young directors and the young actors are introduced.”

The New Play Festival 2016 will run from October 28- 31 at the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, corner Norfolk Street and Jerningham Avenue, Belmont. Tickets cost $40 for one show and $60 for two different shows.

More info
Call 351-6293, email [email protected], or find Trinidad & Tobago New Play Festival on Facebook.