Fri | Jun 5, 2020

Actors entertain themselves as lights go out on theatres

Published:Tuesday | March 31, 2020 | 12:00 AMMarcia Rowe/Gleaner Writer
Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis
Glen Campbell and Camille Davis in a scene from Patrick Brown’s ‘Duppy Whisperer’.
Michael Nicholson and Karla Tulloch in a scene from ‘Pit to Pulpit’.

It is the new norm. Lights are out and theatre doors are closed, indefinitely, as leaders across the globe spearhead the battle against COVID-19 with social distancing. The result: actors and their supporting teams are out of work.

So it was for veteran actors Glen Campbell, Michael Nicholson, and Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis, with the announcement of Jamaica’s first COVID-19 case, on March 12. For each, the loss of revenue is great, yet they find interesting ways to cope.

Campbell’s play, Windscream Posse, was scheduled to close mid-June. Now, there is no indication as to when it will reopen, so cast and crew are in wait-and-see mode.

“It will be some time before the general public become relaxed enough to enjoy entertainment such as seeing a play. It is a big ask. We are in it for the long haul,” he told The Gleaner.

The award-winning actor is concerned, too, about the 20-plus people associated with his organisation, JamBiz, who are out of jobs with the closure of the theatre. And he wants to assure benefit-show organisers and ticket-holders that the company plans to honour its obligations.

Until then, here is how he occupies his time: “Playing around with my playlist, contemplating whether to live-stream a few of my sessions.” He also monitors his 90-year-old mother while practising social distancing with her. “She hasn’t gotten hugs for a little while now,” Campbell said.

Nicholson would have been judging the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission Festival of the Performing Arts – Speech and Drama, along with doing an islandwide tour with the play The Young and Wreckless. And he had to put his “next big thing on hold until COVID goes away”.

Instead, decluttering his house, categorising and cleaning his neglected collection of model cars, getting food – only when needed - keeping in touch with friends and relatives, as well as exercising, are some of the activities he uses to occupy his new-found free time. Part of his exercise routine is to go in the yard and pick up the fallen mangoes “as because of social distancing, nobody comes and takes them up”.

Praying and soul searching are also on his list of things to do. “You have to find a way to keep yourself occupied and not go into meltdown. [And] you have to think of the other people who are out there putting their lives at risk to help people like us who are at home.”

Ellis, who had a very hectic schedule planned for March and April, said 11 of his gigs were either cancelled or postponed. He is bored and restless and spends a lot of time talking to himself in the mirror. So, he, like Nicholson, was delighted to participate in an online parody called Laugh Away.

At times, the comedian said he picks up old stuff and reworks them as well as tries to put original songs to music. But mostly, he is working on the first piece of a new project, A Trilogy of One-Man Shows, Theatre of Thankfulness.