Meet the brains behind Charlie panto
Rashida Harding has always had a love of theatre arts and being on the stage and she is passing on this infectious love and passion to her young students at the St Ursuline Convent School.
In 2005 a young Rashida furthered her education in theatre arts at Barbados Community College, and two years later went straight onto the University of the West Indies, (UWI) Cave Hill campus to continue her studies in the art form.
She spoke of the student exchange programme she did at the UWI, where she studied in Trinidad for a year and made sure she immersed herself in their culture.
“I went to Trinidad to do some of their theatre art courses and to really get a sense of their culture because they are so diverse with the amount of ethnic groups that they have around them, that I just wanted that kind of experience, especially when you are dealing with culture and identity and all of those different things,” she said.
“That experience was mind-blowing, especially as a theatre arts person.”
She said she made sure she was at all the different festivals, which she described as fascinating to her, and when she came back to Barbados to finish her degree, she made sure she remained in contact with her teachers and friends from Trinidad.
One year later, this feisty and passionate lady was imparting her love and knowledge of the art form to the students of the St Ursuline Convent and the Mustardseed youths, whom she had been working with since 2008.
When asked how she would describe theatre arts, she said simply, “Life”.
“It’s life. It’s everything. It’s waking up and breathing and walking on the street. As Shakespeare once said, ‘All the world is a stage’, but it’s everything you do,” she said with a smile.
“Drama means to do, so when you go into the supermarket and you see a customer interacting with that teller doing their check out, that is drama. When you have little bickering at home and things start to fuel up, that is drama, and taking it and putting it on the stage is taking elements of life that you see every day around you and enhancing it.
“So that when you put it on to the stage it’s so much more powerful and magnificent on stage, but honestly it’s everything that is
you because then you literally have to see it from every angle to understand it and because of how you have to view things for theatre, it prepares you for when you have to step outside and appreciate what other things are happening out there. So to me, it is me . . . it’s who I am,” she said.
The 26-year-old teacher of theatre arts and English literature was the director and producer of last year’s Ursuline’s Convent Pantomime Charlie And The Chocolate Factory which ran from November 27 to December 20. A role, she said, taught her a lot about herself and the value of teamwork.
The pantomime, she told EASY, was a big deal especially since it was her first major production and she described the experience as her taking on the challenge of mounting the production with her Convent family.
“It was a lot of hard work. We went through workshops for the kids, so that they got an idea of what this pantomime was about, what is dancing, what they expect for the movement, what do they expect for the acting. So we had like two weeks of workshops before we went into the audition process, which was between myself, as the director for the actors, and Olivia Hall, as the choreographer, and through that sequence we brought it down to 81 students,” she said.
A proud Rashida explained that the cast was comprised of students from the St Angela’s school, the St Frances School, the St Ursula’s School and even past students. Saying she was moved by the level of participation, she revealed that it was an entire school production and she was grateful for the support.
She revealed the support also encompassed her fiance Jeremy Brereton, who assisted her as best he could backstage and her former teacher Mark Maynard, who also helped to paint the eight intricate backdrops, along with other talented students.
“Everybody hears about the Ursuline Convent School, you hear the St Angela’s school or St Ursula’s or St Frances, but we are still one. So it brought us together; it brought all three departments together under one umbrella and it was lovely to see that development, that family being built,” she said.
Rashida explained while response to the pantomime started slowly, there were some sold-out shows. This, she said, she was happy about because the level of hard work and sacrifices everyone made for the show would not have deserved empty seats.
“Respect us and know that it is time, energy consuming sacrifice and appreciate that we are willing to give you our blood, sweat and tears, so that when you see it, you don’t think, ‘Well that was ok’. Appreciate the work that went into it,” she demanded.
She said the way everyone came together for the pantomime, the way they worked towards one goal was a wonderful blueprint for how Barbados could be and was a good reason for more respect, support and awareness to be placed in theatre arts.
“Everybody put aside their issues and differences with each other to make it successful and if that can happen for a pantomime with three different schools, imagine what could happen for Barbados if we decide this thing needs to happen and we all get on board and put aside our issues and challenges and beefs that we might have with each other and make it one thing. It can unify us. Theatre is that thing that can bring us together,” she said.