The Cayman National Cultural Foundation’s Young at Arts educational programme is guided by an artistic philosophy that recognises that Caymanian cultural forms and enactments, and their creative interpretation and expression through art, are vital in the moulding of a Caymanian aesthetic. The CNCF interviewed Jevaughnie Ebanks, one of its star alumni who was in the programme nearly two years, to get a participant’s perspective on the programme.
Age when he entered the Young at Arts programme: 14
Place of Birth: George Town, Grand Cayman
School: Cayman Prep & High School
Why did you join Young at Arts?
I joined because I loved performing arts and theatre. When I first started YAA I was looking for an after school activity that suited me – an extracurricular activity that wasn’t the norm like football or basketball or cricket. I wanted to join a club where I could have fun doing what I really enjoy, the performing arts. I was introduced to Young at Arts by Miss Rita Estevanovich of CNCF. When I first joined YAA, I was nervous about who would be in the group, what they would be like etc., but became comfortable after realising that some of the other members were performers who I already knew as well as old school friends.
Apart from training you, what has the YAA programme taught you?
The YAA programme has taught me how to work in a group as well as work with people with different beliefs than mine. Young at Arts has also given me the experience of working with people with different personalities and it taught me how to overcome difficulties that may arise because of our differences.
YAA has taught me how to do better at improvisation and that has been very useful to me as I do a lot of public speaking. Improvising helps me to keep things running smoothly when I host youth events also. At a recent event, I had to come up with material on the spot to keep the audience entertained because some performers were delayed for their performance.
What has been the most challenging aspect of performing arts for you?
The most challenging aspect has been portraying serious characters. By nature I love to be funny so taking on a serious role is challenging. I like entertaining people, putting a smile on their faces or making them laugh. Portraying a serious character is difficult because I am stepping out of my comfort zone as a comedic actor – I’m not making the audience feel the way I want them to feel. My experience with serious characters is that they tend to have a sad past or a sad event is happening in their life at the time of the play. So by portraying a character with such emotions and vibes, I’m not portraying that feeling of comfort and enjoyment that I would rather display.
What are your dreams and aspirations with regards to the arts?
In the near future, I hope to pursue filmmaking, editing, acting and/or directing. I plan by start making my own short films and entering them into the next Young Image Makers competition. I also plan on making an advertisement for my dad’s taxi service in my spare time to add to my portfolio for film school. When I finish my A Levels I hope to gain some experience in the field and get guidance on choosing a film school.
What would you like to see more of in the development of the arts in the Cayman Islands?
I would like to see more film/acting workshops or courses with professionals from film schools like The New York Film Academy or The Los Angeles Film School. This could give the youth in Cayman another possible field that they might have an interest in and not know about/have access to. Also by introducing film education, a fast growing field, it opens up opportunities related to film that are already offered in Cayman and students can apply what they learn in different fields, for example ICT.
Would you recommend YAA to other students? If so, why?
I would definitely recommend YAA to other students. By being a part of this group I was able to be myself whilst learning about different areas of the arts such as music/singing, which was one area I did not see myself in. I was exposed to different cultures and different people with similar interests. I felt a part of a family with the YAA members and I still believe that I will always be a part – even as an extension to the club. I always looked forward to my classes, especially when it was acting evenings and I still communicate with YAA members and take part in YAA activities.
What productions or plays have you’ve been a part of?
I was honoured to perform for the Department of Tourism and most recently, for the Legislative Department when they had delegates from other countries visiting our Islands. I was proud to be included in these events to showcase our local culture/talents. Various local companies, churches and others have sought to include young persons in their programmes and I believe that with me being a part of the YAA program, I was given the opportunity to perform/be included.
Some of the productions I’ve been in over the past few years include Oliver; scenes from Down Side Up and Playground by Frank McField; The Island (Film) by Jamie Stanton; Z-99 anti-bullying ad campaign; Cayman Crime Stoppers promo videos; YAA Gimistory; Talent Exposition of the Arts; several primary school performances.
Any last thought?
Being a member of the YAA program provided me with the opportunity to being a part of Gimistory, which I love very much. We got to meet the international storytellers and they shared their stories and experiences with us. YAA can be a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. Because of school commitments, I’m not able to go to the after school programme now but I am still a member and take part in a number of YAA activities.
For more information about the Young at Arts programme, contact the Cayman National Cultural Foundation at 949-5477.