A classic American play, which was performed last year in London with the help of a Virgin Islander, will take the screen this weekend in the territory.
On Saturday, the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College’s BVI Theatre Series will screen the Royal National Theatre’s production of the Arthur Miller play “All My Sons.”
Hana Pascal Keegan, a Virgin Islander who studied theatre in Connecticut and currently works in London, assisted in the production of the show between March and June last year.
The play, which is set in 1947 after World War II, focuses on a son whose father sold faulty airplane parts, causing the death of 21 pilots.The London production that will screen here features renowned actors Sally Field and Bill Pullman.
Born in 1995 and raised in the Virgin Islands, Ms. Keegan attended Century House Montessori School and then Cedar International School, where she got involved in a theatre group run by students’ mothers.
“They did quite a few productions like ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Narnia,’” she said. “I always got the small parts, like a reindeer or munchkin. My sister always got the big parts.”
Ms. Keegan said it was during that time that she began developing her love for theatre as a social activity. She went to the United Kingdom and began pursuing a liberal arts degree in environmental studies while taking theatre classes.
Eventually, she found that theatre “was a great way of shar- ing messages and stories” that “could be political.”
“It gave me a lot more joy than reading articles about environmental issues,” she said.
Her experience growing up in the VI contributed to her decision to change her degree and study theatre.
“Growing up in a small community, in a mixed-culture island, I like the feeling of being able to work with people in a small group instead of being part of a big political system,”she explained.
Ms. Keegan directed a play in Colorado with 14 actors for her undergraduate thesis before studying at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Connecticut.
She eventually began pursuing theatre professionally while in London, where she would go to shows and introduce herself to anyone she recognised.
“I kept saying to people, ‘Can I have coffee with you?’” she said. “I kept doing that and I got one job that was quite small at the Bush Theatre. I didn’t get work for about five or six months after that.”
Landing a role as an assistant for “All My Sons” was a “big deal” for her, she said.
In part because the production included Ms. Fields and Mr. Pullman, who are well-known in the theatre industry, people often waited outside the doors to see rehearsals, she recalled.
“I was qualified, but I’d never done anything on that scale before,” Ms. Keegan said. “It was a huge learning curve. … It’s given me so many skills that I can now pursue jobs at that level.”
She remains grateful for the opportunity. The screening of “All My Sons” this weekend will be the footage from a live show that took place last year in the UK.
Industry of relationships
Ms. Keegan is currently a staff director at the National Theatre in London, working on “All of Us,” a play about disability and austerity in the United Kingdom, she said.
In between the production of “All My Sons” and the play she is currently working on, Ms. Keegan also worked on two other plays last year: “Macbeth” and “Jellyfish.”
“I feel really lucky the past year looking at four productions,” she said. “One is an American classic, one is a new play and a comedy, one is a Shakespeare classic, and this one is another new play that is a bit more political.”
Ms. Keegan likes that as an assistant director, she isn’t responsible for the whole show but can remain in the room with “far more experienced actors” and can be “eyes on the wall.”
After realising how difficult it is to break into the industry, she is amazed to be working at an establishment like the National Theatre, she said.
“Theatre is an industry of relationships,” Ms. Keegan explained. “You just have to meet people in person. … A lot of people have asked me, ‘How have you gotten so far in London without going to drama school here?’ I’ve treated London like an island — like Tortola — just being friendly and introducing myself to people. The BVI community is such an inspiration for that.”
As far as the theatre culture in the VI, Ms. Keegan hopes that the territory continues to create spaces for the youth to access theatre and community shows. She encourages schools and colleges to collaborate more in this endeavour.
WANT TO GO?
The BVI Theatre Series screened three shows in October and November, and will begin this year with a screening of the Arthur Miller play “All My Sons” at 7 p.m. Saturday at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College.
Tickets are on sale at House, Island Roots Cafe, and Lady Sarah’s Farms for $15 in advance. Students and staff of the college can get their tickets for $10, and for everyone else tickets at the door cost $20.
The next shows are “All About Eve” on March 14, “The Lehman Trilogy” on April 4, and “42nd Street”on May 2.