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New play tackles foreign investment in Barbados

Diversity in stories: In a previous production Penn showcases a mystery story, titled “Sanco: A Guyanese Murder Mystery.”
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Caribbean theater is tackling foreign investment in the region.

A new Barbados-set play will approach the subject of international investors purchasing land in the Caribbean, through the story of a Barbadian family. The story details investment as an ongoing problem in the Caribbean and shows the downsides of investment tears the family apart.

“It’s a big issue in Barbados — land developers are buying up land and building resorts,” said Harlan D. Penn, a Caribbean-American playwright and founder of the American-Caribbean Theatre Alliance, Inc.

“A lot of people are now selling homes that have been in their families for years.”

“My Barbados, Your Barbados” premieres at Springfield Gardens Church of Christ in Springfield Gardens, Queens, for a three-day weekend showing, Aug. 5 and 6 at 8 pm, and Aug. 7 at 5 pm. The play’s runtime is 90 minutes, and will have a 10-minute intermission after the first 45-minute act.

A former theater teacher at Hillcrest high school, Penn wrote the story in three months hoping to shed light on a topic often ignored in the Caribbean narrative.

“A lot of people don’t know what’s going on if they’re not there. That’s one of the reasons I have been writing so much,” said Penn. “Caribbean theater can be over the top with men dressing as women – it’s outlandish but very funny and entertaining. But I just wanted to see more socio-political stories being told.”

The story follows Neville Ifill, an elderly Barbadian fisherman and his two children, who are fighting a losing battle against a land development corporation attempting to buy out their sought after beach-front home to build a resort. But before the battle ends, an unfortunate discovery strikes the family, and the audience learns the wasteful result of greed. Penn says despite the story being set in Barbados, the subject can find appeal from non-Barbadian audiences.

“Caribbean people in general can relate,” said Penn. “China has a big presence in the Caribbean — and Caribbean people can identify with that.”

The play’s Saint Lucian director Kentillia Louis, making her directorial debut in the United States, was delighted to be commissioned by Penn to add more Caribbean insight, such as cultural sayings and terms, into the play.

“I think exchanges like this are important,” said Louis. “I’m happy to put out writing about the region. We don’t have enough written and we really have to have that dialogue to understand.”

Louis sees the play changing narratives and hopes it encourages discussion among the Diaspora about what is going on in the Caribbean.

“It’s something that we need to look at it as it’s ongoing,” said Louis. “We need that kind of dialogue — we need to see it from all sides. There are some who see it as progress, and some who see as it being detriment and losing yourself — like the play’s title — is it mine or is it theirs.”

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com.
Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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