Ivy Elden and Gloria McGlone have been working together tirelessly for many years consistently bringing such high quality productions to the Grand Bahama stage that theatre lovers know to expect an on time, on point performance whenever they attend “An Elden-McGlone Production”.
This week, I had the pleasure of speaking to Ivy Elden, fresh off the successful production of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” held under the stars at The Rand Nature Centre, in Freeport. As one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, it was typical Elden-McGlone to serve up this magical comedy in a manner to delight their audience. Much the same as we are told theatre-goers in Shakespeare’s day enjoyed performances at The Globe, the Grand Bahama audience felt close enough to the action to reach out and touch the actors who were nimbly darting in and out of trees and along pathways in the garden. The close-knit bond between audience and actors was delightfully punctuated several times during the night by outbursts of laughter and commentary from the totally rapt audience who was no longer sitting in a national park in The Bahamas, but had instead been transported into an enchanted forest populated by fairies and star-crossed lovers.
For the two nights of the play’s run, you would have indeed assumed there was some enchantement underway as both evenings’ performances deftly sidestepped thunderstorms that either hovered in threat all day or stopped just long enough for audiences to feel confident attending. Certainly this is an indication that the efforts of Ivy Elden and Gloria McGlone are sanctioned by some Higher Authority. And why not? Through the tireless efforts of these two theatre legends, entire generations of young people continue to be exposed to the theatre arts. And this is precisely why Ivy says she is motivated to do what she does.
Born out of a truly selfless and visionary realization that there would be a vacuum of experience once they bowed out of the theatre scene, Gloria and Ivy decided what they needed to do was spearhead a movement that would work to ensure that when the day did come that they were no longer active in the theatre, there would be a generation ready to raise the curtain on new productions. “We realized, if we’re not there, who will be?” says Ivy. “The young people. And they need to be nurtured and taught theatre and encouraged to pursue the performing arts. Otherwise in 10-20 years there’ll be no theatre in Grand Bahama simply because nobody encouraged the young people. We couldn’t just watch that happen.”
Ivy got involved in the Regency theatre back in 1988. She says that was a convenient time for her to pursue her interests because by then, her children were away at school and she was blessed with more free time to be able to try something that she had been interested in for many years.
“My interest in theatre and acting had been a part of me since grade school,” she says, attributing her interest in theatre to the efforts of a single dedicated teacher who she remembers to this day: Mr. Owen Williamson. “He taught English literature, religion and history and he made things come to life that caught my attention so I guess that’s where I first started developing a love for performing – and particularly stage performing. Mr. Williamson instilled this love of literature and the arts in me. It’s not something that my family were ever interested in. Just through his passion and how he brought the information to the class. He had a way of teaching that made the historical facts come alive. He explained everything and made it clear. It was never dry.”
Arguably, it is this same dedication and drive that Ivy has also brought to so many young people in Grand Bahama. Through her efforts to pass on her love of the theatre and share the skills that will stand them in good stead, she and Gloria McGlone have inspired countless youngsters to blossom and come out of their shells of shyness. Some have even realized that they have a passion for the theatre as well and have gone off to school to pursue studies in the performing arts as a result.
Ivy points to two roles that she says were her favourite. “I think was 1998 when I played one of the lead roles in ‘The Women’. Then my other favorite role was when I played the Sally Fields role in ‘Steel Magnolias’. Both of these roles were challenging in many ways and I just felt those roles made me grow as a performer.”
And this, says Ivy, is the secret tonic of gaining experience as a stage performer. There are few other arenas where one can step outside of oneself, ‘become’ someone else completely outside of your experience, and in so doing, learn more about yourself and about the human experience we all share.
“I have found that through being on stage, young people gain self confidence, self assurance and a sense of self,” says Ivy. “Whether or not they do anything with that in the future, it helps them in whatever they do in life. I’ve seen kids who start out hiding in the back of the stage but they wanted to come up front and they were so scared but when you coax them out they blossom and become really confident young people and it’s all because of their stage work!”
Ivy takes this time to remind parents of the importance to show that they support their children’s efforts 100%. She reminds us that it’s all well and good to make sure kids get to rehearsal on time, but that we should NEVER forget to SHOW UP at performances.
“Well, I think – talking about my personal experience with young people on the stage. A lot of parents seem to look at it as some type of babysitting and they’re not really interested in what the kids are doing. If their children show any sort of interest in the performing arts of ANY type – music, dancing, singing, stage, whatever – they should nurture that, encourage them, and BE THERE. Go to see their performances. One thing that stuck with me was a young man in a 2002 production and we were giving them tickets for their parents to come and see the show and he said ‘That’s okay, my parents won’t come.’ And that broke my heart! That’s so sad because all of the hard work and hours they’ve put in and the people they want to impress the most don’t care enough to come and say ‘honey that’s great, you’ve done a wonderful job!’ Just be there for them and nurture their desire to be a part of the performing arts. Whether or not they grow up to do anything with it, it’s going to make them a better person.”
I asked Ivy the same question I asked her production partner, Gloria McGlone: “If you had one wish for the performing arts in Grand Bahama (and/or the nation) would would it be?”
“That our government would give the same credence and support for the performing arts as they give to sports. That’s it. The performing arts is so important in the development of our young people. The self confidence they acquire carries forth into ALL stages of their lives. I know they don’t give the same type of support they give to sports, but what better ambassador could you have for The Bahamas than Sir Sidney Poitier? Yes sports are important, but we should make more of an effort to encourage our youth who are talented artistically as well.”
So my question to you is: can you imagine the day a Bahamian accepts a Palme d’Or at Cannes or a Tony, or an Oscar? I can. Maybe they’ll hold up that statue and say, “Thank you Ivy Elden and Gloria McGlone and my beautiful Bahamas! I wouldn’t have been here if you hadn’t supported my dream!”