Theatre Festivals and Other Things

Here’s the thing. A year ago I was still beginning the vacation that marked the end of my indentureship for the Government of The Bahamas. It was all new for me. I’d forgotten what it was like to control one’s own daytimes — to not have to engage in the absurdity of rush hour traffic if one could choose, to be able to sit in a coffee shop (we shall not say the name b/c I’m mad at them) and write for as long as one liked, to be able to finish a thought without having to answer a telephone with someone panicking at the other end because they had no clue what working for government meant, and they’d encountered The Wall and wanted to know what to do about it.

Life was better, but I was afraid I was going to be bored.

Yes, I was going back to academia. Yes, I was moving into a space where I writing was important and achievement could be measured in the enlightenment of individual minds and absurdity was not the god to be served (the archangel, perhaps, speaking a year later, but not the god). But I was not going to be wasting hours in traffic moving from one place to another to be there at prescribed times, I was not going to be bogged down with meaningless files, I was not going to be at the beck and call of permanent secretaries and ministers.

So I dreamed up two things that I wanted to do, things that for the past five years I have not done because of worries of conflicting interests. I started a poetry journal for Caribbean writers and themes, and I dreamed up an international theatre festival for Nassau.

So here it is. tongues of the ocean was far easier to execute. All I needed was the domain, the server space, and the technosavvy (read that as blogging experience) to create a journal that worked. And it has worked well, for the most part, though in recent times submissions from Caribbean sources have dwindled a little (and submissions from non-Caribbean sources have increased, which is causing a small dilemma at my end). I did it pretty well alone — it’s been a one-woman band for most of its first year. Easily imagined, not so hard to put in place.

Shakespeare in Paradise, on the other hand, was considerably more difficult. You can’t pull off a theatre festival on your own. You can’t do pretty well anything in theatre on your own — even if you’re a solo performer, you need the spaces, the permissions, the technical support, the managers, the agents, pretty well the works, to get yourself booked and touring. But at least one of the great things about my former job was that it provided the opportunity for me to put things like this together. Working on CARIFESTA, both at the policy level with CARICOM (as directors of culture in the Caribbean have to do) and at the local production level with the agencies that owned me, gave me the kind of insight and experience to understand what would be needed to create a festival. The only thing I didn’t know about was the marketing and sponsorship side, and we attracted a partner (all right, I’ll be Bahamian and say it — God sent us a partner) whose expertise in that arena was second to none. The result was a success.

There were hiccups, of course, and there were definite failings (for instance, there aren’t any pictures on the blog yet, which is my own failing but which will be rectified before November, I promise), but on the whole the festival was a grand success. So much so that it’s got us talking about building the festival year-round (which is of course necessary, but not immediately affordable).

Just wanted to share.


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