Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 3rd 2016 Contents B2
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt July 3, 2016
Drama educator, director and
actress Belinda Barnes-Durity---
known professionally as Belinda
Barnes---said several significant
events in her life led to her involve-
ment in theatre. She told an audi-
ence at the Monday Night Theatre
Forum on May 16 at the Trinidad
Theatre Workshop (TTW) that the
first such event was failing Com-
mon Entrance. She was sent to a
Catholic boarding school in Michi-
gan at age 12 and after auditioning
for a school play, a nun told her
she could be good at theatre.
Upon graduation, her parents sent
her to university in Canada, but she
dropped out and found herself in
She looked up theatre schools---
"because that's what I'd been told
I was good at"---and was very sur-
prised to be accepted to the Amer-
ican Academy of Dramatic Arts, a
celebrated conservatory in New York.
After graduation, she worked with
different theatre companies, includ-
ing the Negro Ensemble Co and Bed-
ford-Stuyvesant Theatre in Brooklyn.
She remembered being told to do
plastic surgery and work on her
accent in order to get ahead, but she
never did. She returned to Trinidad
eventually, where no one could
understand, and she couldn't explain,
why she had chosen to do drama.
Barnes joined the TTW, and went
on tour with Derek Walcott. She
created the character of the Bolom
in Ti-Jean and his Brothers and
"danced and sang and thought it
was great, because I thought that
was what [local] theatre was going
to be but when we came back there
was nothing happening."
Barnes next moved to Jamaica,
which had a long history of theatre
in schools, and immediately got a
job at Excelsior High School in
Kingston. Barnes also worked with
a group in the US Virgin Islands
where she performed in Genet's The
Despite these early accomplish-
ments, with her upbringing it was
hard for her to call herself an actress.
Barnes said she felt she didn't
know enough, and studied in the
UK with Dorothy Heathcote, who
pioneered the field of drama in edu-
"Heathcote really understood how
to use elements of theatre and drama
to get people to learn. She said, The
only thing you have to do in this
course is work two months in a men-
tal hospital with me. If you can teach
mental people anything, you could
be a teacher.'"
Barnes said Heathcote was an
amazing mentor and the experience
was enriching and the craziest one
of her life.
Barnes moved back to T&T and
worked with Rawle Gibbons at the
Tapia House on various plays,
including Dennis Scott's An Echo in
She did her PhD in drama in edu-
cation between 1995 and 1998 in
Nebraska, but when she came home
to write her thesis, she didn't feel
motivated. "I don't think I'm an aca-
demic, I'm a teacher."
With fellow actresses Eunice
Alleyne and Anne-Louise Tam, she
wrote and acted in Three Women,
directed by Mervyn de Goeas in
2008. The play was a critical success
and won four Cacique Awards,
including one for outstanding
achievement in writing for an original
script and most outstanding dramatic
production. The last play she acted
in was David Lindsay-Abaire's Rabbit
Hole, in 2011, again directed by
Mervyn de Goeas.
Barnes turned her attention to
teaching in high schools, taking jobs
at Providence Girls' Catholic School,
Trinity College and Bishop Anstey
High School (East). "It's very difficult
to teach drama in Trinidad, because
when I started nobody had any
respect for you in any schools.
"A lot of parochial schools had a
tradition of performance. Drama
came into government schools much
later, just recently, so the journey
was very difficult."
She credited the Secondary
Schools Drama Festival with giving
schools an outlet to raise the stan-
dards of theatre, which encouraged
some respect for the discipline and
those working in it.
Barnes lectured in theatre at the
Department of Creative and Festival
Arts at UWI, St Augustine, from
2004- 2010. She was also the main
stage director for The Tempest.
In 2010, she collaborated with
actor Michael Cherrie to begin the
acting program at UTT, where she
is an assistant professor teaching
acting, directing, theatre history and
educative theatre. She also directed
The Ass and the Philosophers (2010);
My Most Memorable Christmas
(2010); Three Sisters, After Chekhov
(2012); Freedom Road (2014); Rose
Slip (2014); Amen Corner (2015);
and Two Choices (2016).
Barnes said what she enjoys most
about teaching is seeing young actors
experience a sense of achievement
in their work.
"Their passion can't grow if they
don't have that experience. I've really
enjoyed working with young people
on the stage and seeing them really
Barnes said there are many plays
from the 50s that need to be brought
back because they are precious and
part of T&T's heritage.
"They really give young people
today a taste of Trinidad they know
nothing about and could really
She said new work could be cre-
ated from these plays and from
events in T&T's history.
Barnes also said the acting com-
munity needs to find new ways to
get people to support theatre and
advocated for the use of non-tradi-
tional spaces, as the bigger venues
are too costly for most companies.
"Our young people don't know
about doing anything and everything
because you love theatre, and not
thinking that because you're in a
production you're an actress. A lot
of students graduate and want to go
abroad. We continue to educate peo-
ple to send them away.
"We really need to create some-
thing to keep our people here."
The Monday Night Theatre Forum
continues monthly at the TTW, cor-
ner of Jerningham Avenue and Nor-
folk Street, Belmont.
Ronaldo Spencer in his winning performance at the inaugural Republic
Bank National Primary School Spoken Word Showcase, Central Bank
Auditorium, June 27. Ronaldo won from a field of 12 competitors who
had all been trained by performers from the 2 Cents Movement. The
competition was the first T&T spoken word competition for primary
school pupils. PHOTO COURTESY: CURTIS HENRY/ 2 CENTS MOVEMENT
Drama educator, director and
actress Belinda Barnes-Durity at
the Monday Night Theatre Forum,
May 16, at the Trinidad Theatre
PHOTO COURTESY: SHARI PETTI
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