Andrew’s plays help hundreds

Dartmouth Emeritus Professor Andrew Garrod with the two Olivers, AJ Kaneko, at left, and Laurence Underwood. Photo: Wilmer Joel.

KAREN EARNSHAW

The lives of many hundreds of Majuro’s youth were dramatically changed for the better over the past 20 years because a woman in New Hampshire was expanding her family.

“One of my colleagues was adopting a Marshallese child,” Professor Andrew Garrod said at Dar Café Monday morning. “To do this, she flew to Ebeye, where she ran into Helen Claire Sievers who was working at Queen of Peace High School. When she heard my friend worked at Dartmouth College she asked ‘would your chair send some students over here to teach?’

He agreed and so for two or three years the then Director of the Department of Education sent Dartmouth graduates to Queen of Peace. “Eventually, in 1998, I decided to formalize the program and made an arrangement with the Minister of Education Justin deBrum that Dartmouth would send eight under-graduates each winter to teach for 10 weeks. This was from the beginning of January to mid-March.” Later the program expanded to send 10 to 15 graduates to more remote areas of the Marshall Islands, such as Wotje, Enewetak and Kili.

“Then, in 2004, I decided to do a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Over the next 20 years, the Professor has produced eight Shakespeare plays, while Oliver! is the ninth musical. “It’s the only British musical I’ve done here.”

Andrew takes enormous pride in how well the young people have done subsequent to being in the plays. “I see many of the future leaders of this country having been one of my actors.”

Taking part in an Andrew Garrod production is a game-changer. “The actors are testimonials that indicate how much they learned from being in the plays.”

Andrew explains that the theater has been the bookends of his life, first in Canada and, many decades later, in the Marshall Islands. And so, 20 years in to producing fabulous shows in Majuro, he’s working with a new set of youth: “Oliver! has about 35 actors most of them quite young and about 50 or so people in total. It’s a very international group. There are Canadians, Americans, Marshallese, Fijians, PNG and a German.”

And which play or musical will Professor Andrew Garrod bring to the International Conference Center stage next year? With a smile he said: “I don’t know what I’ll do. I wouldn’t come without Bonny (Taggart) and I’m not even sure how available she will be next year. So, we’ll see.

“You know, there is a song in Oliver! that goes ‘So long, fare thee well. Pip! Pip! Cheerio! We’ll be back soon.’

“I’d love to think we’ll be back soon.”

Oliver! opens Monday March 4 at the ICC in Majuro at 8pm. It will be performed nightly through Saturday March 9.

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