This school term has seen many talented young Trinbagonians being accepted to study at performing arts schools all over the world. Many applied for these international programs because the training in their discipline was not available to them in T&T.
Finding money for college is hard and more so for college abroad. The obstacles are numerous and include finding tuition money, books and supplies, housing and rent money and general living expenses, including food and transportation.
So what happens when you’re accepted for college abroad but don’t have the money?
In Joseph Lewis’ case, you throw two concerts, a party and a curry-que and hope you can put together enough funding to make your dreams come true. Lewis is an enthusiastic 23 year old Cumuto resident, who can truly call himself a Trinbagonian, having lived in Penal and Tobago before his family moved to Cumuto.
His face lights up as he describes his hopes for studying theatre, dance and singing abroad. Lewis has chosen to go to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, after being offered places at four different performing arts colleges. However, even though he’s been awarded a partial scholarship of US$13,000 to the Academy, he still needs to raise US $20,000 by the end of August to satisfy visa requirements. Lewis acknowledges he is lucky in that a cousin in New York will cover room and board, a friend will cover books and supplies, his parents will cover transportation costs to and from school but he still needs to raise money for living expenses and the remaining tuition.
A ticking time bomb is how Lewis describes the deadline. It’s also the second time Lewis has applied to and been accepted to the Academy and he’s fearful that if he can’t get in now, he’ll lose his tuition deposit and a chance to take advantage of this opportunity.
The school is a conservatory, where Lewis will be participating in a two-year intensive program, earning him an Associates Degree in Occupational Studies. He will be studying acting with a focus on movement for actors, including stage fighting and dance. He then plans to go into the joint program with St. John’s University to earn a Bachelors of Arts in Directing, Writing and Producing. He chose the program because “everything that I’d want to do is not as I’d like it to be offered here in Trinidad. UWI and UTT have acting programs but they don’t offer what I want to do. My focus is dance and acting and I’d like to see that musical theatre style I’m gravitating to, and there isn’t that cohesive style being offered in T&T. The Academy is offering exactly what I’m looking for and that’s amazing to me.”
Lewis said he was frustrated when he approached the Scholarships and Advanced Training Division of T&T where he was told that since his program was conservatory style, he could not receive any assistance until he began studying for his Bachelors Degree in two years.
Lewis is an immensely talented young man, who’s represented T&T at three World Championships of the Performing Arts between 2009 and 2012, earning a total of 21 medals and various other awards. He’s also represented T&T at the 2013 World Games and at the World Dance Sport Federation (WDSF) Latin American Championships in 2011, and at the regional level in Barbados and Antigua. Currently Lewis is singing, dancing and acting in his community’s Best Village production and dancing with the Kiss Baking Company Ltd. Natraj Dance Group.
When Lewis finishes his studies, he plans to start a production company in T&T, which he has already registered and received support for from friends and other artists. “My plan is to take my international training and help to improve the Arts in T&T, because this country has so much talent that is untapped and they don’t even realize it.”
Thus far, Lewis has put on a show called Vaudeville – Where Fashion Meets the Arts on July 26. He will be throwing a fundraising party in late August in Sangre Grande at the cost of $60 a ticket, a curry-que at the cost of $40 a ticket and is planning a concert type event to showcase his talent.
Those interested in donating to Lewis’ cause can donate to First Citizen’s Bank A/C# 1519861 under the name Joseph Lewis. He can also be found on Facebook.
This article was first posted on August 9, 2015 in the Trinidad Guardian: http://digital.guardian.co.tt/?iid=125549#folio=102