May 10, 2002 – For the past couple of weeks, the last ferry from Red Hook to Cruz Bay has been carrying four exhausted but exhilarated young people whose commitment to show biz will find them in the spotlight on the Virgin Islands' biggest stage this weekend and next.
The show is STARfest8, the 8th annual talent revue produced by the Reichhold Center for the Arts. This year's production features 11 dancers, two of them from St. John, and 22 cast members, including two from St. John.
Demographically, that may not look so strange — St. John has about one-tenth the population of St. Thomas. But logistically, it's awesome — the Reichhold is a long land trip from Red Hook, where the last ferry leaves at midnight for Cruz Bay.
"They've been catching the midnight boat every night — and then back on the 7 a.m. the next morning to go to school," Karen Boynes, aunt of dancer Loredon Boynes III, says.
Malayisha Rabsatt, STARfest's director as well as choreographer for the second straight year, says the St. Johnians "either saw the show last year" or heard about the tryouts for this one "through a friend — and decided that they would also like the opportunity to perform on Reichhold's stage."
Rabsatt notes that the St. John performers "do have to leave rehearsals early enough to take the last ferry to St. John." That gives you some idea of how late the rest of the cast and crew have been staying.
Rehearsals began the first week of March. "The performers have been required since then to attend rehearsals for their individual acts one to two hours a week, and for group numbers on Sundays for five hours. For the two weeks prior to the show, they have been required to attend rehearsals every day."
"At this stage," Rabsatt said Thursday night, "it is very intense."
Reichhold director and STARfest founder David Edgecombe, who turned the show's directorial duties over to Rabsatt last year, said that "her creativity and imagination took the production to a new level, and we expect the show will be even better this year."
Rabsatt admits that, wearing two hats, "on several occasions I have felt overwhelmed." But she promises, "The audience will be pleased."
This year's STARfest has "Legendary Rhythms" as its theme. Performances are Saturday and Sunday and May 19 and 20.
The theme refers to musical forms "that have made their marks in history," Rabsatt says, citing jazz, gospel, African, hip hop, calypso and Latin rhythms as examples. While dance is not playing a bigger role in the current production than in STARfests of recent years, she says, "I would say that there is an equal amount of singing and dancing in the show, because many legendary rhythms have vocal accompaniment."
The cast consists of Khadija Abiff, Katie Ackley, Attallah Bertrand, Antonet Biscombe, Kimberly Boyd, Sambala Boyd, Klint Constantine, Shaylah Cruz, Kory Davis, Kiturah Doward, Shenise Edwards, Alani Gregory, Kareem Harrigan, Kerry Hendrickson, Lenea Industrious, Shanee' King, Kristen Krigger, Innocent Liburd, Sheldon Reid, Estricia Veira, Angel Ventura Jr., D'Shema Wallace, Richard Wilson and Lisa Wynne.
The STARfest8 Dancers are Sergio Adams, Loredon Boynes III, Trisha Conner, Cubie-Ayah George, Merissa Gumbs, Cliffton Lawrence, Jacqueline Parsons, Duanjae' Phillip, Jhade Pilgrim, Darryl Potter, Johanie Taylor, Shalani Vanterpool, Brandon Varlack and Patrice Webster.
Kimberly, Sambala, Sergio and Loredon are the St. John commuters. Brandon, by the way, is not; he's a St. Thomas resident — but still, how often do you get to see a Varlack and a Boynes in the same dance company?
"All of the STARfest Dancers are young people," Rabsatt notes. "In fact, many of the performers this year are teen-agers." Their day jobs consist of being students at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School, All Saints Cathedral School, Charlotte Amalie High School, Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, Sts. Peter and Paul High School and the University of the Virgin Islands.
To Rabsatt's delight, more males than usual auditioned as dancers last year, and this year the same thing occurred. "I am not sure what the reason is," she says, "but I hope that the numbers continue to grow."
She notes that two of this year's performers — Cubie-Ayah and Kory — had their assignments in the show before they won their crowns as the 2002 V.I. Carnival Queen and King. "Cubie-Ayah will be dancing as usual as a member of the STARfest dancers," she says. "Kory will be doing several dance pieces with the group and a solo performance."
In addition to Rabsatt, the behind-the-scenes talent includes veteran Reichhold collaborator Joseph Thomas-Lewis as musical director, Reichhold assistant technical director Denise Humphrey as setting designer, Rose Maduro as costume mistress and Malissa Neille-Eustache as production manager.
Edgecombe has described STARfest as a vehicle to "cultivate, invest in and showcase the Virgin Islands talent pool. The format provides an invaluable service to the community in the form of a professional showcase with unrivaled production values. Its aim is to bring light to local talent, while providing a starting point for them to pursue their talents professionally."
Performances start at 8 p.m. all four nights. Tickets are $25 in the covered section and $18 in the open air, with 50 percent discounts for students in both sections. Ticket outlets are Krystal & Gifts Galore, both Modern Music stores, Parrot Fish Music, the UVI Bookstore (in the Sports and Fitness Center) and the Reichhold box office on St. Thomas; and Connections on St. John. For charge-card purchases, call 693-1559.
For St. John commuters, the Reichhold has arranged with Republic Barge Service / The Captain Vic for a special run on each of the four performance nights. The barge will depart the Creek in Cruz Bay at 6:15 p.m. for Red Hook, and up to four persons per vehicle are entitled to a 10 percent discount on STARfest tickets. Space must be booked along with tickets through the Reichhold box office. To make arrangements or learn more, call 693-1559.
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