Author and educator Dr. Yvonne Weekes has amalgamated her years as a cultural practitioner and invaluable knowledge of the Arts to produce a groundbreaking resource for Theatre Arts students.
On realising there was a void of academic material which reflects the Barbadian and Caribbean way of life for students who study Arts, the lecturer at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus stepped forward and opted to produce the book: Voices: Monologues and Plays for Caribbean Actors.
The book, which was officially launched on Friday, September 23, via Zoom, offers students across the Caribbean and the world insight into the history of the region and what sets it apart from the rest of the world. The monologues were skillfully written to highlight life in the Caribbean with many
of the islands chronicled.
The publication is interactive with links to videos of live on-stage performances. It also contains over 70 questions to assist teachers with analysing the texts.
Dr. Weekes said the book was long in coming since there was a lack of current authentic Caribbean teaching resources.
“A theatre graduate came into my office and told me that he had to prepare a three-minute audition piece for an NCF local folk concert, a production that commemorates the 1937 riots in Barbados.
“I gave him a text of monologues which I had purchased several years earlier. A week later he returned the book and with great dejection stated that none of the monologues spoke to him as a young Caribbean performer.”
Dr Weekes added: “That same week David Edgecombe, a lecturer in Theatre at the University of the Virgin Islands, and I were discussing the state of Caribbean theatre. Ironically, he was lamenting the scarcity of scholarly and creative new works being produced by Caribbean playwrights and academics.
“These incidents prompted me to take up the challenge of producing an actor’s resource in order to provide historical, rich, dramatic monologues for research and exploration of their Caribbean identity.”
She thanked publishers House of Nehesi Foundation Publishing, writers, editors and all who helped to make the book a reality.
The author offered special thanks to The UWI and the National Cultural Foundation for affording her much-needed financial aid.
Dr Weekes is currently in talks with the Caribbean Examination Council in order to get the book on their syllabus. CXC Pro-Registrar and Deputy Chief Executive Officer Dr. Eduardo R. Ali was present at the launch and accepted a copy of the book virtually.
Meanwhile, senior teacher in Jamaica’s Ministry of Education, Shaurna Miller, endorsed the book and praised it as a truly invaluable Caribbean effort and publication.
Head of the Performing and Creative Arts Department at The UWI, Andrew Millington, said the UWI was pleased to witness the completion of the book which he described as “critical”.
“This piece of work to my mind is not just a simple example of creative expression, good writing, excellent research and vision, but I want to press upon you the thought and the idea that this really is a monument to Caribbean civilisation. In terms of our nation-building process students now have a publication that they can peruse, that they can experiment with even on their own. The work is critical.”
NCF Marketing Officer Ashley Dyall said the Foundation did not hesitate to get on board when Dr. Weekes first approached. Dyall said it was important to ensure that students were given the tools that aid them in reflecting a true Caribbean aesthetic.
“The organic relationship between cultural identity and artistic creation has long been known to be a significant phenomenon in the shaping of our Caribbean society. It is a fact that the Arts, as products of not only creative imagination but that of documented Caribbean stories are fundamental to the understanding of our society today and as we continue to operate.”
Both The UWI and NCF lauded Dr Weekes for her identifying the void and then working tirelessly to fill it.
The book is available to teachers of Theatre Arts and for sale on Amazon in the E-book format while physical copies will be available for purchase and The UWI Book Source come mid-October. (PR)