Voices, an “invaluable” resource for the performing arts of the Caribbean

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Author and educator, Dr. Yvonne Weekes has fused her years as a cultural practitioner and her invaluable knowledge of the arts to produce a revolutionary resource for theater arts students.

Realizing that there was a lack of academic materials that reflected the Barbadian and Caribbean way of life for students studying the arts, the University of the West Indies Cave Hill campus professor stepped forward and chose to produce the book: Voice: Monologues and plays for Caribbean actors.

The book, which was officially launched on Friday, September 23, via Zoom, offers students of the Caribbean and the world an insight into the history of the region and what sets it apart from the rest of the world. The monologues have been skillfully written to highlight Caribbean life with many
of the related islands.

The post is interactive with links to videos of live performances on stage. It also contains over 70 questions to help teachers analyze texts.

Dr Weekes said the book was a long time coming because there was a lack of authentic educational resources in the Caribbean.

“A theater graduate came into my office and told me he had to prepare a three-minute audition piece for a local NCF folk concert, a production that commemorates the 1937 riots in Barbados.

“I gave him a text from monologues that I had bought several years before. A week later, he returned the book and, with great dejection, said none of the monologues spoke to him as a young Caribbean artist.

Dr Weekes added: “This same week David Edgecombe, professor of theater at the University of the Virgin Islands, and I were discussing the state of theater in the Caribbean. Ironically, he lamented the paucity of new scholarly and creative works produced by Caribbean playwrights and academics.

“These incidents prompted me to take on the challenge of producing an acting resource to provide historical, rich and dramatic monologues for the research and exploration of their Caribbean identity.”

She thanked the House of Nehesi Foundation Publishing editors, writers, editors and all who helped make this book a reality.

The author especially thanked the UWI and the National Cultural Foundation for the much needed financial assistance.

Dr Weekes is currently in talks with the Caribbean Examination Council to get the book into their program. CXC Pro-Registrar and Deputy Managing Director Dr Eduardo R. Ali attended the launch and virtually accepted a copy of the book.

Meanwhile, Jamaica’s Department of Education head teacher Shaurna Miller endorsed the book and hailed it as a truly invaluable Caribbean effort and publication.

UWI Performing and Creative Arts Department Head Andrew Millington said UWI was delighted to witness the completion of the book which he described as “critical.”

“This work in my opinion is not just a simple example of creative expression, good writing, excellent research and vision, but I want to convey to you that it is truly a monument of Caribbean civilization. Regarding our nation-building process, students now have a publication that they can consult, that they can experience even for themselves. The work is critical.

NCF Marketing Officer Ashley Dyall said the Foundation had no hesitation in joining us when Dr Weekes first approached. Dyall said it’s important to make sure students have the tools to help them reflect a true Caribbean aesthetic.

“The organic relationship between cultural identity and artistic creation has long been known to be an important phenomenon in the formation of our Caribbean society. It is a fact that the arts, as products not only of the creative imagination but also of documented Caribbean histories, are fundamental to understanding our society today and as we continue to function.

Both UWI and NCF commended Dr Weekes for identifying the void and working tirelessly to fill it.

The book is available for theater arts teachers and for sale at Amazon in E-book format while physical copies will be available for purchase and The UWI Book Source will arrive in mid-October. (RP)

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