Stephen Hanna presents ‘Death on the Street’

Next month, the Dundas Centre for Performing Arts will welcome an evening of two one-act plays. On March 17, Travis Cartwight-Carroll and Stephen Hanna will make their debut as playwrights.

Cartwright-Carroll’s “The Melancholy of Suzanna Turnquest” is a single-act drama about the death of a family patriarch. After her father dies, Eve Turnquest, returns to New Providence after spending 16 years abroad and struggles as she becomes reacquainted with family members. The production will be performed March 17-20 in the black box theatre at The Dundas and is being directed by Dundas veteran Dr. Nicolette Bethel. It will be followed by another one-act play written by Cable Bahamas TV Producer Hanna.

Hanna earned an associate degree in journalism and BA in English language and literature from the College of The Bahamas (COB). His introduction to formal theatre came unexpectedly. He got involved in the 2011 Shakespeare in Paradise Theatre Festival while accompanying a crush to one of the festival’s productions.

“I came to the auditions to see her, and Dr. [Keith]Wisdom was directing the production,” explained Hanna. “He wanted me to read, and it’s hard to say no to Dr. Wisdom.” Hanna became a part of the group of COB students reading Shakespearean sonnets that season.

Although he did return the next year for the first iteration of “Speak the Speech”, Hanna was careful to note that his fall for theatre was a slow, and at times reluctant, one.

He first got acquainted with performing arts through church, where some of the members would perform short plays. As he grew older, the performances lost their appeal, coming off as corny. At COB, he found many of his classmates using classroom performance as a cop-out to putting in effort and producing adequate presentations. Even when he did go to the theatre, he found performances lacking, particularly where comedy was concerned.

“With the comedies, I felt there was more that you could put into it,” he explained. “I was tired of the clichés where the person talks funny because they’re inebriated, or a foreigner, or a woman or fat. Those are just variations of a blonde joke that I don’t find funny. I felt like I could write something funnier.”

So he challenged himself with a dark comedy based on a true story. Titled “Death on the Street”, Hanna’s play tells the story of a real-life shooting at an inner city bar. At the time, a man was shot at a bar in Nassau; instead of calling the police or an ambulance, patrons and passers-by scrambled to take pictures of him as he lay dying.

“It seemed like a ridiculous situation that you only would see on stage or in an art house film, but this is something that actually happened in real life,” said Hanna. “Someone got shot outside of the bar and everybody pulled out their cell phones and were walking around the blood, trying to take pictures of him as he was dying.”

Feeling it was the stuff an absurdist comedy would be made of, Hanna wrote a script and presented it to Bethel at a scriptwriting workshop she was leading. She liked it and hoped, with some tweaking, it could be performed on the same evening as Cartwright-Carroll’s.

Along with finding a refreshing change from the same-old comedy, Hanna hopes his audience will see “Death on the Street” as an opportunity to contemplate a community’s responsibility with regard to the nation’s violent crime problem.

“It’s encouraging for someone to see your work and have so much faith in it that they’re willing to produce it,” he said. “I feel like it’s the funniest Bahamian production that you will see this entire year, and I think this is something that everyone would want to see.”

“Death on the Street” and “The Melancholy of Suzanna Turnquest” will open at the Dundas on March 17.