The organizers of Canada Monologue Slam, one of the biggest showcases for actors in North America, have decided that after 10 years the platform is more than ready to showcase an even wider range of talent. He embarked on the Jamaica Actors Monologue Slam (JAMS) by partnering with the Jamaica Film and Television Association (JAFTA) and received entries from around 60 of the island’s diverse talent. According to Andre Newell, co-founder of Canada Monologue Slam, there is a need for platforms that engage, educate and exhibit Jamaican talent on a larger scale.
“Traditionally, we’ve seen theater-based actors in the workshops I’ve been to in Jamaica, but actors have always shown an interest in TV-type acting, it’s a different skill set. So, I thought if the actors had the opportunity to study this style and had access to a more stable platform, it could only do good, ”he said.
Newell added, “As a born Jamaican my heart is always back home and every chance I have I come back. I am very involved in the community there as I am here, and when I interact with the local theater scene, I am always blown away by the talent and passion of our Jamaican actors.
For JAMS, the actors were to submit a monologue to show off their talent, with an opportunity to advance their education and development. And with the transition of the online platform during the pandemic, more players were aware. The top 20 actor list revealed in March included Kadeem Kenzic Wilson, who played a role in Sprinter, veteran actresses Noelle Kerr and Stephanie Hazel, as well as popular dancer Tara Price and singer Aisha Davis.
“Although we are based in North America, Canada is not as competitive as the United States, and the Monologue Slam has transformed the landscape of the theater industry in Toronto; and I told my cousin and co-founder Olunike Adeliyi, if we could do it here, we could do it for Jamaica, as well as give local talent a voice. When we were doing the workshop, we saw that it really meant a lot to different talents to express themselves through art. It was impactful, emotionally and mentally, and it was encouraging for us to bring it to everyone, ”said the co-founder.
The winner’s award included mentoring and training sessions with industry experts, as well as the opportunity to sign with North American talent agencies. Every creator has worked so hard and participated in online workshops and for their sole determination, Canada Monologue Slam is “100% interested” in having more editions featuring Jamaican talent, Newell said.
“The winner, Noelle Kerr, certainly deserved to win and regardless of the judgment, there are a lot of people who may not have made it to the final which I thought was amazing, and our platform can only benefit from seeing them again, so many of them were brilliant. The Monologue Slam that we do in Toronto takes place every month, because I’m not the type who thinks you have to do things infrequently, [so] I want to find a way to have JAMS on a monthly or consistent basis. “
Canada Monologue Slam has come a long way, first as a religious program that encouraged youth participation and exposure to the performing arts. A year later, it was launched in the city of Toronto, then in Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa, and welcomed actors as well as industry professionals. Now it’s gone live, going from featuring 12 actors in a live show to 500 creatives at a time in the digital space. Newell, who was born in Kingston but raised in Brown’s Town, St Ann, said the film, theater and television industry is constantly changing and the energy contrasts across cultures, but that one thing that remains important is “that talent has to stay ready because if you stay ready you never have to prepare”.
“It just means working on your craft, studying and practicing to always be ready, because you never know when an opportunity will present itself. The theatrical landscape content comes from all over the world, and the key for Jamaican actors is to be prepared, because we are already wonderful storytellers. But it’s about bringing acting up to international standards, and by being involved in the community and supporting each other, we can get there because it’s not an individual sport ”, Newell said.