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Lukewarm welcome for Williams' 'America'

Observer senior writer

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Welcome To America , Jamaican playwright Karl O'Brian Williams' musical tackling American p resident Donald Trump's anti-immigrant policies opened October 28 in Washington, DC, at Howard University's Cramton Auditorium.

Karl Haughton, who promoted the play, was satisfied with the production but disappointed with another aspect.

“The response was great. The audience enjoyed the sparkling performance of the cast, the clarity and significance of the music, and the ease of set and scene changes,” he said. “The turnout was not as satisfying as I envisioned; however, it was enough to further encourage our team to continue presenting this musical.”

Haughton said the audience was a diverse one, from their early 30s to mid-60s. He spotted a few teenagers at the venue.

Welcome To America is produced by Braata Productions, a New York company that Kingston-born Williams operates along with Haughton. Directed by Yudelka Heyer of the Dominican Republic, it stars Jamaicans Andrew Clarke and Joel Edwards.

While there are plans to show the play in major cities in the United States, Haughton stated that a dearth of funds makes that an immediate challenge.

“There is the high cost of effectively marketing to a wide cross section of the population who are of Caribbean heritage and others who love our Caribbean heritage. Many people of Caribbean heritage may be unwilling to support plays of this nature and quality because they immediately compare them to many plays that they have seen over the years,” he explained.

Williams began writing Welcome To America late last year while Trump, then a Republican candidate, was campaigning for the presidency against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump has maintained his attacks against immigrants, particularly from Mexico and Muslim countries, since becoming president in January.

His travel ban against people from some Muslim countries has been ruled unconstitutional by courts in the US. His vow to build a wall along the US/Mexico border, to stem illegal entry from Mexico into states like Arizona, California and Nevada, is on track.