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Friday, May 24, 2024


Aug. 1, 2001- Just as parents and pupils and educators and politicians are starting to think about school resuming in a few weeks, the Caribbean Repertory Company of the Reichhold Center for the Arts is staging a play called "School's Out."
It opens this weekend, to run for three Friday-Monday dates, and there's nothing wrong with the timing.
The comedy, by Jamaican playwright Trevor Rhone, the award-winning author of "Smile Orange" and "The Harder They Come," was written in 1974.
There's nothing out of date about it.
The plot centers on an idealistic new teacher in a fictional Caribbean island who sets out to bring about change in a parochial school that's functionally falling apart. His immediate obstacles are fellow faculty members: teachers who, in turn, are sexy and sexually harassed, underqualified and intimidated, all talk and no action, non-native and going strictly by the book, and senior in status and uninterested in reform. And then there's the chaplain, who beneath his clerical collar is lecherous and lazy.
Emotions run high from start to finish, according to publicity, as the actors display "anger, frustration, sexual tension and resignation."
"The issues that were addressed in 'School's Out' almost 30 years ago still exist today," Reichhold director David Edgecombe says. "The play is loosely based on education in Jamaica, but since it draws so many modern parallels, it could literally be anywhere in the Caribbean."
Even in the Virgin Islands, even in 2001.
Through the medium of humor, the play "addresses the educational system, which is very much a topic of discussion in the Virgin Islands," Alvin Hippolyte, who's directing the production, says. "The overall message of the play is that in order for education to be successful, there needs to be good government and diligent parents. It can't be left up to the teachers."
Hippolyte, a St. Lucian who holds graduate degrees in theater and in Latin American and Caribbean history from Howard University, starred in last summer's Repertory Theater production, "Smile, Natives, Smile." Written by Edgecombe, the two-character play was a tour de force for the actors, as Edgecombe twice revised the dialogue — first to remove scatological language after a media preview, and then, for the final performance, to put it back in again.
Several actors in "School's Out" will be familiar to University of the Virgin Islands and community theater-goers: longtime Thatch Farm Theater director Felix Fleming, who's on island from his Anguilla home this summer participating in a UVI summer workshop with young people; Wayne Chinnery, who starred in the UVI Little Theater production of "Fences" a few years ago; George Silcott Jr., who's been in Youth Repertory Theater and Little Theater plays; and Yasir Rashid, who has had lead roles in Pistarckle Theater productions.
Assisting Hippolyte as stage manager is another Little Theater veteran, Gerda Hughes Morales.
The actors and their roles: Rashid is Russ Dacres, the new teacher, who is idealistic, energetic and compassionate but also self-righteous and all too willing to move into the void left by the ever-absent headmaster. Tasida Kelch, UVI student and former V.I. Carnival queen, is Micah McAdam, an attractive, emotionally fickle teacher who tries to help amid the come-ons of the predominantly male staff. Tavis DeWindt, a UVI speech and theater major who appeared locally in "Play Mas," is Hopal Hendry, an ill-spoken, underqualified teacher threatened by Dacres' ideals and activism.
Silcott, a college student majoring in theater, is the Rev. Steele, the predatory clergyman. Chinnery is Rosco Callendar, a philosophical liberal given to playing games instead of putting his attitudes into action. Fleming is Mr. Josephs, a sardonic failure of a senior faculty member, conservative and bemoaning the creeping egalitarianism of modern times. Michael Faass is Patrick Campbell, the outsider whose determination is to do what he is paid to do and no more.
The play was first performed at the Barn Theatre in Kingston, Jamaica, on April 3, 1975. The original cast included Rhone himself as Russ Dacres and popular comedian Oliver Samuels as Rosco Callendar.
Edgecombe said he decided to produce "School's Out" "because so many people asked us to do a comedy this summer." Owing to language and sexual themes, it's recommended for mature audiences only.
Hippolyte teaches speech in the creative and performing arts program at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, N.Y. His directing credits include an off-Off-Broadway production of Woody Allen's "God," Federico Garcia Lorca's "The House of Bernarda Alba," Shakespeare's "As You Like It," and his own play "Limbo." In addition to having completed that play, he has several others in progress. He has appeared in numerous stage productions and in film, and recorded 19th century African-American statesman Frederick Douglass's Fourth of July speech for Voice of America.
The flyers Reichhold marketing manager Dionne Carty has put out promoting the play have carried such enticing phrases as "It's going to be hotter than July!" and "Does art truly imitate life?" Hype, hypothesis or hope? Only one way to find out.
"School's Out" is being presented in the Little Theater in the large white building west of the new Sports and Fitness Center on the airport side of the UVI campus. There are 12 performances — Friday through Monday, then Aug. 10-13 and finally Aug. 17-20. Curtain time nightly is 8 p.m.
Tickets are $15. They may be purchased in advance at the UVI bookstore, Modern Music at both Nisky Center and Havensight, Parrot Fish Music and Crystal and Gifts Galore.
For the first week's performances only, there's a 2-for-1 special. These tickets must be purchased at the Reichhold box office. For further information, call 693-1559.

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