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Still a kid at heart
Cathi Levy’s road from beauty queen to mentor
BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter [email protected]
Sunday, March 17, 2013

THIS is a year of anniversaries for theatre practitioner and former beauty queen Cathi Levy.
It was 30 years ago that she beat 19 other beauties to take the Miss Jamaica World title. She would go on to the Miss World contest later that year and finished fourth.
LEVY… I wanted to offer youngsters an opportunity to express themselves on stage like had never been done before in Jamaica
This year also marks 25 years since Levy launched her ground-breaking performing arts troupe, the Cathi Levy Little People and Teen Players Club.
Adding to the special year is an honour from the Actor Boy Awards (ABA).
Come March 25, Levy will be the special honoree at the awards ceremony organised by the International Theatre Institute (Jamaica Centre) which recognises excellence in local theatre.
“I am truly humbled… I consider it a huge compliment and I am so appreciative,” Levy says of the award, which will see her joining the likes of actors Leonie Forbes and Oliver Samuels, the School’s Drama Festival and the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts as special ABA honorees.
Levy, who prefers to stay out of the spotlight, is reflective when asked about her proudest moments in theatre.
“I would have to say I am proud of training a whole generation… my ‘children’ are all grown and staking their claim in the world of entertainment.”
Levy stays clear of calling the names of her ‘children’ — former members of her Little People and Teen Players — noting that it is like naming a favourite child. She adds that the list is long and diverse.
Among the former members of her troupe are music lecturer and performer Michael Sean Harris, singers Duane Stephenson and Tami Chynn, the members of To Isis, past and present members of the National Dance Theatre Company as well as individuals who have performed in Broadway productions.
Levy said she created the troupe in order to fill a void which had existed in her own life as a child.
“I have always focused on children as there was nothing like Little People when I was growing up and I wanted to offer youngsters an opportunity to express themselves on stage like had never been done before in Jamaica… and I saw these kids grow.”
Although it was based on her initial concept, Levy credits the support of a group of associates including Julie Harris, Paulette Bellamy, Peter Ashbourne, Nancy McLean, Jon Williams, Greg Thames, Vincent Chin Penn and Paul Hamilton for guiding the troupe.
After nearly a decade, the Little People and Teen Players Club hit a snag. Many of the experienced members left to become part of the Ashe Performing Arts Ensemble.
Levy refers to this period as “painful but necessary”.
“It is said when the Lord closes a door he opens a window, well he opened another door. As having lost some of the more experienced performers we were able to transform the members from good to great. We diversified our training to include music appreciation, established a band, introduced other forms of dance including jazz, folk, and tap, and embraced other forms of entertainment including magic.”
But that period is fully behind Levy now. She has embraced some of those ‘breakaway’ members who have come full circle and are working with her on her new production set to open in April.
“It’s called Imagine — Not magic, but magical,” she gushes as her voice raises a few octaves. “It’s a kaleidoscopic, theatrical experience in black light, and we are working with Jeremy Thorpe who works on Disney productions in Florida.”
The ambitious production will run from April 19-28, two weekends and 11 shows featuring 14 works in mime, puppetry, dance, sign language, mosaic puppetry and clowning.
Her cast of 30, ranging in ages from 13-15 includes 11 deaf children.
“It is all about highlighting the excellence of these individuals who are often overlooked,” she notes. “The show grants full access to the deaf and hearing impaired but does not mitigate the impact it will have for the hearing. It’s purely for fun and will transport audiences from the mundane for two hours leaving them happy.”

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