Oliver Samuels and Volier “Maffi” Johnson were interviewed recently and Oliver believes the Ward Theatre should never be left in the state it is in now, he said it represents so much and we allowed it to deteriorate to that level and he believes regentrification is needed.
Volier believes downtown is coming back but Oliver believes the Ward Theatre needs to be a big part of the restructuring process. He said we are modern now with modern development and downtown needs to show that.
He remembered the days when foreigners were able to fly down for huge events at the Ward Theatre in Kingston “the Ward Theatre is a total national disgrace… the Ward Theatre should not have been in the state it is in” Oliver said.
Volier ‘Maffi’ Johnson said we have no theater space and there are a bunch of writers who believe they should write, direct and produce everything themselves and leave no space for anyone else, when they discussed the problems that now exist in theater productions these days.
Oliver said there were persons who go into acting and think there is a lot of money in theater to be made, when they watch actors in movies and on television, without realizing that there is a lot of expenses to cover, and then they get disillusioned with it after a while.
He believes when things were not as expensive as they are now things were better for the business. “When you finish paying the rent for venues you can’t pay the cast and other people you are working with”, he said.
Oliver also said his passion for acting and the persons he has worked with, the people who come out to see the production and to hear them talking about how much they love the production is very rewarding for him.
For Volier he just loved theater, it was his pass time, he would work during the days and then do rehearsals in the evenings. but he also got a lot of satisfaction from being on stage and hear the crowd enjoying the production.
They both agreed that there are bigger theaters abroad where people can go to enjoy their shows. Even if they travel to Montego Bay it is financially risky because they don’t know if people will come out after they have transported all their equipment and other actors down there. Now theaters are closing down for many reasons and this makes working in Jamaica more discouraging for them.
However, their new production “Crazy but True” is going very well, it started off slowly, but they are confident that it will be great. It is about a young lady who has the impression in her youth because of her mother, that she must get rich somehow and by any means necessary she must get lots of money, even if she will be doing illegal things. In the play, Volier is the father who has a daughter who is very spoiled and has a boyfriend who is from the country who is helping her.
They had a show the night before and they didn’t get much rest before they did the interview.
When they were asked why they are still acting together after so many years, Oliver said they have been friends for a long time “alomost 50 years yo nuh” and they would walk, talk and dream together and they would stop at bars and drink together when they were very skinny. Now that both of their dreams came through, they stick together as friends like the good old days.
They ended by talking about old Jamaican sayings, such as these, “if you open an umbrella over your, head in a house as a woman you won’t get married and if a lizard jump, on you as a woman, you are pregnant.