Sun | Sep 27, 2020

Theatre arts: More than just for acting Theatre arts:

Published:Tuesday | February 25, 2020 | 12:00 AMMarcia Rowe/Gleaner Writer
Abigail Whittingham
Zanya Maxwell
Marlon Williams, Senior Education Officer, Media Unit.

Despite many school administrators either shunning or pigeonholing theatre arts as a subject, in 2003, the first cohort, from 18 Jamaican high schools, joined their Caribbean counterparts in sitting the first Theatre Arts Examination in the Caribbean Council of Examinations (CXC).

Now, however, attitudes towards the subject are changing, Marlon Williams, senior education officer, Curriculum Unit, Ministry of Education and Youth (MOEY) reports.

“Today, we can boast that we have 88 high schools in Jamaica that are doing the subject,” he told The Gleaner.

“In the past, some persons might have felt that students who are not so good at math and English are the ones sent to do drama. That, I am happy to say, is changing. Principals, and parents, to a lesser extent, are seeing the value of the arts.”

Among the noticeable values are that students developed intra-personal and inter-personal skills.

Abigail Whittingham and Zanya Maxwell are two theatre arts students who saw the benefits of sitting the subject as life changing.

Maxwell, a final-year student in arts management at Edna Manley College said that initially she wanted to do law. She remembered that she had to choose between theatre arts and agricultural science.

“I was somewhat forced to do theatre arts and grew to love the subject,” she said.

She also remembered that in her first class, after sharing with her classmates why she had chosen the subject, her teacher said, “I am going to make you enjoy this subject. And indeed, he did”.

Not being able to act or dance, which are two of the three options of the subject, she chose the third, stage management. “Then, I did not know that I would be a student at EMC.”

It was a different scenario for Whittingham, first year major in integrated marketing communication at The University of the West Indies, Mona. She chose option one, drama, because she was a “drama girl”.

Number-one Choice

“In selecting my subjects, theatre arts was the number one choice, even before math, and math was compulsory.” she said with a chuckle. “But I really thought it [theatre arts] would help me in my career, seeing that I really love media, acting, and writing.”

Studying theatre arts helped her with technical terms, such as “blocking”, used in courses like Basics of Visual Communications. Likewise, writing the critique helped her writing-skills. And directing a play, “that certainly helped with my leadership skills”.

Williams, who took up his current position 12 years ago, credited Dr Nolma Coley-Agart, who fought long and hard to get the subject as part of the curriculum.

“She set the foundation on which I have built ,” he said.

And he would love to see all schools in Jamaica offering theatre arts at the CSEC level.

“Quality stuff is being put out. The students are very creative, and so we have started discussions with Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica to do in - studio recordings of outstanding pieces, beginning November 2020,” Williams said.