What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore-- And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over-- like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
--Langston Hughes “Harlem”
Gloria McGlone and Ivy Elden are on a mission to make sure there that are no raisins made in the Grand Bahama sun.
Among Grand Bahama theatre lovers, the phrase “An Elden-McGlone Production” is the clarion call to hightail it to the nearest box office and snag the tickets for what will be a guaranteed night of high quality entertainment. From their first collaboration in 1992 with “An Evening With Andrew Lloyd Webber” to their latest production, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” staged under the stars at the Rand Nature Centre, this dynamic duo has shared so much of their passion and talent with this community and is actively involved in nurturing and raising up the next generation of home-grown performing artists.
The fuel that drives this powerhouse production team is sparked by their burning desire to see that talented young Bahamians get the training and exposure they need and deserve. Gloria – or “Mrs. G.” as she is affectionately called by her protégés– says there is a fundamental reason that she is passionate about working with young people who are interested in the performing arts. “If a child doesn’t have a sense of self esteem, can’t walk in a room and say ‘Hi’ and be comfortable, then they aren’t living up to their full potential!” says Mrs. G. with her typical enthusiasm and trademark director’s voice.
The theatre is such a part of Gloria’s life that it’s hard for her to pinpoint the defining moment when she first became ‘stage-struck’. “I’ve been singing and dancing since I was 5 when I was in Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour in Philadelphia. In the states when you looked like you could sing and dance your parents made sure you could do it. So my mom wanted me to do opera and that’s what I studied in college but found out fairly early that unless you’re a real diva diva you won’t make it in that arena,” she says with a laugh.
So with that realization, coupled with the knowledge that the performing arts was indeed her calling, Gloria embarked on a stage career that included performing in “Raisin” the Tony Award winning Best Musical of 1973 (based on “A Raisin In The Sun”) and touring the world with the legendary performer and humanitarian, Harry Belafonte.
In fact, she cites her time spent on the road touring as some of the most exciting in her career. “When I toured with Harry Belafonte - who I worked with for over 13 years - I got to travel all over the world on somebody else’s dime!” She also toured with British pop star, Engelbert Humperdinck, and sang for Queen Elizabeth at her 25th Jubilee. “That was fun! Our group performed and then we got to go back to the palace and meet the Queen and learn all the protocol.” Gloria says even though she had the privilege of singing for Presidents and other heads of state, seeing the world was the best perk of doing a job that she loved with a passion. “The touring part was what I enjoyed most! I’ve been through all of Canada; been in every state in the US; toured South America, Africa, and Western Europe.” As she touches down on each location in her memory, Gloria immediately follows up with the fact that those experiences are exactly the types of opportunities she wants to give as many young Grand Bahamians as she possibly can. Even for those kids who just enjoy being in one or two productions and don’t have an ambition to pursue a career, a walk among the footlights can be a life-changing experience. “One father called me one time and said: ‘Mrs. McGlone, I want to thank you because I have a PERSON in my house now. Before that, I felt like I was living with a ghost! He would just mumble and be in the background and he just came out of his shell after the theatre!’ THAT’S the reason I do what I do.”
What advice would this veteran of Broadway give to parents who want to help nurture the creativity of their children? “Do with them what they seem to enjoy! Make sure they play some kind of instrument – what a sense of self-esteem those kids have! And when your child is doing WHATEVER they’re doing, support them and ATTEND. Be involved! Come and bring your family and friends to cheer your child on – in ANY endeavor… sports or whatever, just BE THERE to support and encourage them.” Gloria goes on to remind us that sporting activities are wonderful, but not every person is destined or called for athletic pursuits, but everyone has a talent somewhere, and parents should be on the lookout for signs of those areas of interest. “Don’t just think it’s a hobby. If that’s their passion, see that they can do it. Give them the opportunity they deserve. Performing is a REAL JOB. Like I tell the kids now, you probably won’t be famous famous, but if it’s what you want to do, you can earn a living and get to work in it all your life. There are very few BIG stars but many great workers.”
Through the Grand Bahama Performing Arts Society (GBPAS), great things are happening for talented youngsters from Grand Bahama. “We’re trying to give the kids a sense of the possibilities life has to offer them,” says Gloria, “We need people in Freeport to support us because we get no help from government and very little help from corporations – well nothing on the level of sports.”
As a result of the dedicated work of the members of the GBPAS, four Grand Bahama teens have attended the prestigious French Woods performing arts camp, which the New York Times has said is ‘among the Gold Standard of theatre camps.’ Additionally, five young performers will be going off to college to study the performing arts this year.
“My thing this year was ‘I’ve got to find some way to get these kids off the island to get them to experience what like-minded kids their age are doing all over the world. One of the kids says he’s going to backpack across Europe with some of the kids he’s met at camp!”
Gloria says she gives all of her young charges the same advice no matter what their ambitions are: “You only have to do three things in Life: Be on time; Honour your commitments; and, Pay attention! Observe and listen to what people say. If you can do those three things in life, your life will be so much better… and easier!!”
In Part II, we’ll have a chat with the other half of this creative dynamo: Ivy Elden.
To find out how you can support the Grand Bahama Performing Arts Society, please contact them through their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/gbperform.