By Alexandra Spence - Antigua & Jamaica
Unlike so many of the actors in Hollywood and even in the Caribbean, I never grew up around The Arts. Performing Arts was never apart of my childhood. I spent the first eight years of my life in Jamaica, where I was born and, as is common with majority of Jamaican and Caribbean households, my rearing was centered around my grandmother, school, church and uniquely for me, my own company to serve as close friend, you see I was prohibited from playing with my older cousins. I believe that could be where my ability developed, as I would have all sorts of sketches with my pink eyed dolly, which I still have (my grandmother has given it an honorary position at her bedside). My parents weren't actors. So, where did my talent come from? I’m still searching for the answer. Acting is something I discovered in myself when I first performed in a skit at church. I found it was easy to become the character and for just the couple minutes I played another person, I considered it an adventure. Ever since, I looked at human experience and human reactions to experiences differently, I started taking a keener interest in movies; rather than enjoying the acting I would study how actors brought out their character's emotions and characteristics. Of the many talents I have acting is the only one I feel completely comfortable with, so it is no wonder acting is my passion.
In the Caribbean, the art of drama is one of the pillars of the culture experience and it is no different in Antigua. Antigua do have organizations that encourage this Art form, however it has limited access for budding actresses and actors. Years ago, approximately 2010, the movie "Sweetest Mango" was popularized in Antigua during the annual film festival. It was purely Antiguan, and generally speaking reflected Antiguan culture through a love story between a man and a woman. I find the auditions for this movie were very high profile and that is common among the Caribbean. The movie was aired on the local television stations and that's as far as publicity I could remember the movie receiving form the Media. It's challenging starting and maintaining an Acting career in Antigua, in my opinion. The Media only focuses on the arts on special occasions such as Teen Splash, which is a segment in the national Carnival celebrations, and in the re-enactment of certain historical events within the Countries’ history during its Independence Celebration. Otherwise, acting is for those who are in an organization or in church. It's very difficult determining the deciding facts for such a situation. However, I believe one is the Government's low interest level in the arts, even considering the fact that we have a culture ministry, which aims to retain the arts and culture of Antigua. Additionally, finance and human resources are things to be considered, there's just not enough money and if there is, it's mismanaged and if there are skilled people either they are not willing or not as committed to it as they should, for the arts to be successful. It's important to note, that despite this, there are some efforts to try and encourage this Art Form and we see it in the morning cartoons- which the Antigua Broadcasting Station host, which deals with youth and their challenges and includes two other Art form; singing and Dancing.
The media in general goes after news that are dramatic, usually negative, and something that everyone is guaranteed to read. It's the make-up of the News business. So it's no surprise that the media's main focus would be on political affairs and crimes and topics of that nature. Particularly in Antigua many of the newspaper articles and top stories are about the country's politics. It's very common in other Caribbean islands too. You can consider it your daily dose of political information. There are times when there are mentions of persons who are doing well to represent the country, for example Antiguan students abroad who are doing excellent, academically. Journalists are rarely trained to look for these kind of news as it is not considered 'news worthy'. However, they are exceptions to this as you'll find alot of news stations producers open to programmes that will highlight more Antiguan culture and local arts, performing arts being the main thing, it is a good starting point as the media is the determining factor in what we watch, read and hear.
Performing Arts, I believe is something anyone can relate to. We watch movies, we love movies, and we will continue to watch and love them because of their ability to reflect to us either an escape from reality (Romance stories, Fantasy, comedies) or reflect to us experiences we can identify with and let us experience other cultures and experiences we never have before. It allows for that dramatic nature that we all possess to find a correct outlet. What's better than that? Every country should invest in its Arts, whether it be dancing, painting and drawing, singing, writing, music, or acting. It's an effective way of passing on the culture and values we hold dare to us.