Arts Come Downstage

Legends in the Arts

Artistic Mother Figures

In the arts we find guidance in our tutors, coaches and peers. Moving from stage to stage some women and men nurture our journey, helping to shape a truer identity of self. These women may not have intentionally set out to be such role models but because of their love, commitment, and the ability to push us past our self-inflicted limits, we see them as mother figures. 

The Daphne Joseph Hackett Theatre, Barbados

Without skipping a beat, I can identify three women along my artistic journeys who I cherish as my mother figures; Jennifer Sealy, Sonia Williams, and Icil Phillips wear this crown even if they didn’t know.

Let’s rewind the clock about three decades ago when I was inducted in the arts via dance. I met Jennifer Sealy when I was a small girl watching my mum dance with Dancin’ Africa. She was one of the Directors of the company at the time and I would spend most of  my time while waiting for my mum, dancing up a storm with her daughter Toni and Jenni. We three would copy what our mothers and the other dancers were doing at rehearsals. Little did we know that Jennifer was keeping watch. Our passion and commitment to learning the dances on our own, prompted Jennifer to give us a moment to shine when they would dance at the hotels. Big Jen was so inspired that she added children’s dance classes to the offering. This is where I became one of the founding members of the children’s core. Though I stopped dancing with the company when I became a teen these early days were the catalyst for my inner spirit to command the stage with the use of my body as an expressive medium. Whenever I hear the drum, my spirit becomes excited and smiles from within.

Everyone who knows me and my theatre journeys knows that I credit Sonia Williams for everything I am as a theatre practitioner. Sonia has impacted many lives as a master theatre educator; she is gifted with the foresight to pull out of us that which we cannot see. My first encounter with Sonia was circa 2006 watching a masterpiece production that she directed which was held at the Barbados Museum. After the show I vowed to enroll in an acting short course she was teaching at BCC. Unfortunately, the course was canceled but fate would have it that a short year or so later when I enrolled at EBCCI she was the lead Theatre Tutor. This is where Sonia allowed me through her rigorous teachings to re-introduce myself to myself and the world as I reawaken my creative voice. She guided all who enrolled in her classes or whom she directed in productions to ‘become the performer’, trusting your mind, body, and voice. She has become my mentor and continues to be my silent guide in all my theatrical ventures. Her timely messages filled with gratitude in times when I least expect them remind me of our spiritual bond and our forever friendship.

Icil Phillips (Bashment granny, inside joke) has been revered by many as our theatre critic. Before I met her many spoke of her as someone to fear but when we met, we hit it off. Shortly after, Icil asked me to join the cast for her Shoestring Theatre Productions. We would visit schools to Dramatise the CSEC Poetry for English Literature. The drives to and from, the rehearsals, the chats, the laughs, the music, the research and the sheer camaraderie fostered a bond. These moments allowed me to learn more about her and our theatre history. Her dedication to theatre and creating the online platform Theatre Eyes inspired me to ‘up de ting’ and offer Theatre Convos with stalwarts like herself, those from past generations along with my generation of theatre educators. 

Jennifer, Sonia, and Icil have all significantly contributed to the development of the arts in Bim. Raise your hand with me and salute my mother figures in the arts! Leave a heart in the chat if they have impacted your journey or that of someone in your life.

Watch full episodes or glimpses of each episode here. 

~ Jae is a passionate Theatre Practitioner and Educator with a Masters in Arts – Creative Arts and the Creativist of Theatre Convos. Find her via @theatreconvos

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