For almost five years, the National School of Theatre Arts and Drama has been churning out professionals who are qualified in almost every aspect of the creative arts industry. But the school, which was established in January 2013, goes far beyond drama and theatre. It includes all those things people do with creative production to earn money. This is according to Al Creighton, Director of Studies at the Ministry of Social Cohesion. He functions in the Department of Culture.
According to Mr. Creighton, the Drama School has courses in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship which teach the business elements of surviving in the creative arts industry. Among others, the school offers Diplomas in Drama and Creative Writing. The school also offers courses in Film making, including Animation.
“A few more people now have training in film and animation, not as experts, but it’s a start. Graduates are able to function in those areas and contribute to the industry,” Mr. Creighton said.
He added that many of the Drama School’s graduates have even gone on to become successful actors in films.
“Some graduates are also members of the National Drama Company. Many work as Stage Managers in several professional productions, having had training in this area at the National School of Theatre Arts and Drama.”
Similarly, many graduates also work as designers for stage and costuming.
“A number of them have also produced plays in the National Drama Festival,” Mr. Creighton informed.
He explained that the number of plays and particularly the number of new plays have vastly increased because of the contributions the school has made in the lives of many artistes.
“Persons with training in stage management and technical areas are now available. Even in the writing of scripts, more people have been trained. A few of those who have been trained in Creative Writing are already practicing in the industry.”
Apart from the National Drama Festival’s role in exposing and awarding talented locals, it plays a critical role in fostering local creative talent. According to Mr. Creighton, the National Drama Company is a professional unit and has performed in several areas.
“It is a company of trained people who continue to be trained and to practice. The Summer Workshops in Teaching of Drama started in 2017. Summer Workshops in Technical Theatre started in 2015.”
Additionally, workshops are held in Linden and New Amsterdam. Workshops in play writing and play making were held in 2016 in Essequibo, Anna Regina and in New Amsterdam. A number of mentors in theatre have been trained and sent out to assist artistes in many regions. These include the North West District; Bartica; Parika; Kuru Kuru and St. Cuthbert’s Mission.
Nonetheless, it was via the National Drama Festival that plays were performed in Leguan and Parika; on the Essequibo Coast; in Kuru Kuru, Buxton, Sophia and Den Amstel.
Apart from Drama, the school has been able to aid the National Poetry Slam and the Golden Jubilee Creative Writing Competitions.
When it comes to challenges being faced by the local creative arts industry, Mr. Creighton cited there being “too few opportunities and too small an audience.”
He added, “Plays cannot guarantee the sale of tickets and it is a risk for producers who stand the very real chance of losing money. Even where it is not a commercial production, the audience is limited.”
Also a worrying factor is the fact that higher training, for instance at a degree level, is not yet available for those within the creative arts industry. “The thing is, there are not enough qualified trained persons in Guyana to be lecturers and tutors in the field; there are just too few opportunities for earning money.”
“There are other professional groups who have added to the industry, but real progress depends on more money available, a more organized industry where artists can earn, and certainly there is a need for more opportunities, which are too limited in Guyana,” Mr. Creighton expounded.
As far as copyright infringements go, this has not really affected local production, according to the Studies Director.
“There have not really been any serious copyright issues, because artists have been able to register and protect their work,” Creighton said. He explained that this is the case because Guyana has a small creative arts society; therefore, copyright breaches are easily detected if they happen.
Creighton also shunned the perception that there is a lack of copyright legislation.
“This is really not true. Anyone can go to court in Guyana for copyright infringements. Go to a lawyer. What is true though is that Guyana’s Copyright Act 1956 is way outdated and is still being amended after a very long time.”
Over the years, Guyana has been able to produce a number of captivating plays and movies. Although these have not been as widely popularized, they are being enjoyed by many in various parts of the world.
It is the hope of many that Guyanese would gravitate more towards local productions. Many crave the appreciation of their country people. So when you are relaxing at home this holiday season, pick up a copy of a local film and/ or play.