Producer’s view from American play “The Mountaintop:” By Stephen Hall, last few days at Frank Collymore Hall

Here, writer Stephen Hall asks the play’s producer, Melissa Simmonds, about her current play and her future plans.

Photograph by Jaryd Niles Morris

Photograph by Jaryd Niles Morris

“The Mountaintop” is showing at the Frank Collymore Hall, with some tickets still available for this coming weekend – on the 18th,19th and 20th of April at 7.30pm. Interestingly, tickets can be purchased online http://www.ticketpal.com/ and printed on your own printer. The system works very well and is a great step forward for Barbados. No more long queues and then finding there are no tickets for the dates you want at the outlet!

Melissa It’s been long, it has given me something positive and creative to focus on while I was nursing my father through 3 years of cancer, but has been deeply fulfilling. I love putting all the ingredients together. I have a vision each time and so pick the right directors and then suggest the actors, but 9 times out of 10 the director likes my suggestions of casting, so this is just serendipity! I love working with company director Peter Lewis on all the technicals and the set. We collaborate. Everybody has to have a dream, so to make the vision of a play a reality, is very satisfying.

Stephen - How does it differ from previous Gale Theatre plays in Barbados?

Stephen – How does it differ from previous Gale Theatre plays in Barbados?

Melissa This time around we’ve been 50% Barbadian and English on stage. Also, this is by an American playwright and not a European classic, plus, this year we have greater outreach. We are working with Amanda Cumberbatch from Tiger Eye to provide workshops for young women in association with the American Embassy and Scotiabank and Republic Bank sponsored the playwriting workshops.

  • Stephen What would it take for you to bring 2 or 3 plays to the stage, each year?

Melissa I have been asked to do this. Not much. I love doing this. Peter Lewis, the other director of Gale Theatre, and I are ready to develop. Two way cultural exchanges start there. It will need a bit more funding, but not huge amounts. I believe there are better incentives in place now for people considering donating/sponsoring us. We would like to still unite talent, but broaden our choices of plays to include Caribbean works as well as some music ones.

  • Stephen When the Empire opens (one day!) with around 290 seats, will that be easier to fill for a longer run?

Melissa Yes, Barbados needs a few, smaller venues, to do exactly that. That’s what they have at UWI. Having said this, we also have a history and relationship with the Frank Collymore Hall (FCH) and their wonderful manager, Fran Wickham Jacobs. I don’t know. Maybe we still open in FCH and then move to another new venue…

  • Stephen Did you decide on a two hander purely to keep the actor’s salaries costs down?

Melissa Not to keep the actors salaries costs down, but the entire costs down, (laughs) but it’s not my driving motivation. I was brought up on the world’s great peace activists like Martin Luther King and Ghandi and Robert Kennedy and just naturally wanted to do a play about King that was well written and made me laugh and cry.

It's great to share anything and so to give this particular play to Barbados audiences and we hope regional too, is our driving force. Also since I have been back here this time I have met 2 young people who did not know who King was, so to produce this play keeps the black history alive, but also re-iterates love for fellow man. Katori Hall (the writer of the play) says in the play, the greatest weapon is unconditional love; we must reinforce this where ever we can. It's incredible to think it's only 45 years ago. The world is still recovering from that period of the 60's in America when segregation was still in place, so I am glad to be a small part of the movement, in the 21st century.

It’s great to share anything and so to give this particular play to Barbados audiences and we hope regional too, is our driving force. Also since I have been back here this time I have met 2 young people who did not know who King was, so to produce this play keeps the black history alive, but also re-iterates love for fellow man. Katori Hall (the writer of the play) says in the play, the greatest weapon is unconditional love; we must reinforce this where ever we can. It’s incredible to think it’s only 45 years ago. The world is still recovering from that period of the 60’s in America when segregation was still in place, so I am glad to be a small part of the movement, in the 21st century.

  • Stephen What are your next plans for theatre here in Barbados?
Melissa To continue to unite talent, on stage and off stage and to cast Keshia Pope again as well as other young talent I like, but I guess I have to complete this run, take some time out to actually deal with my grief as the loss of my best friend and my Dad will hit home when we have finished this season. It's hard to say which show (will be) next, but (I have) lots of ideas in my head which include theatre and music for sure!

Melissa – To continue to unite talent, on stage and off stage and to cast Keshia Pope (fea.) again as well as other young talent I like, but I guess I have to complete this run, take some time out to actually deal with my grief as the loss of my best friend and my Dad will hit home when we have finished this season. It’s hard to say which show (will be) next, but (I have) lots of ideas in my head which include theatre and music for sure!

  • Stephen Thank you for the opportunity of speaking with you. Everyone is clearly enjoying your play from the first weekend, so anyone else wanting to experience Broadway/West End quality theatre on the island, had better buy their tickets as soon as possible! Here’s looking forward to your next play at the FCH.
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You’re always looking for more business – right?
I am Stephen Hall and I can show you how to boost your business by writing an inexpensive eBook for you.
I am a professional writer who writes eBooks to customers’ requirements. I can ghostwrite an eBook on a topic of your choice, which means you get the credit for it and build your authority and expertise in the eyes of your customers.
Current special offer: 25% recession busting discount!
stephenhallonline.com/?page_id=1419

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