From Paradise to Prague

Jovanna Hepburn and Patrice Francis are getting the experience of a lifetime. The duo are in a one-night production set for March 21 – a few days after The Ides of March), and will take to the stage in Prague, Czech Republic in a new production of Julius Caesar at the esteemed Estates Theatre where Mozart premiered is opera, Don Giovanni, in 1787. Hepburn will play Mark Antony. Francis will play one of the conspirators, Metellus Cimber.

“We are tickled pink to be here [Prague], literally and figuratively, and enormously grateful for this moment in time,” said Hepburn and Francis, who are both Shakespeare in Paradise (SiP) actors.

“The exposure is invaluable and will be another indispensable addition to our resumes.”

The show will be in English with sub-titles provided in Czech on a screen at the theater. PSC is an English-speaking Shakespeare Company.

Hepburn and Francis’ “audition” for their turn on the Prague stage was their participation in the Prague Shakespeare Company (PSC) Shakespeare Summer Intensive for six weeks in 2019. They each performed in two Shakespeare productions while attending daily classes and receiving training. As a result, the artistic director, Guy Roberts, became familiar with their work.

Hepburn and Francis arrived in Prague at the end of February to begin rehearsals for the production. They return to The Bahamas, the first week of April.

Speaking to the similarities and differences they have encountered with the theater culture in Prague and at home, they noted that theater is subsidized in The Czech Republic, and a career in the arts is a respected, viable full-time pursuit. The country has a national theater, ballet, and orchestra.

They noted that the process of taking a play from “page to stage” in Prague is similar to what they have experienced at the Dundas. But noted that rehearsals in Prague are longer since the rehearsal period for most plays is closer to three weeks.

“At home, our periods are closer to six weeks, but mostly because our actors have less flexibility because of full-time jobs. One notable difference is the role of a costume designer for each show and the rental of period costumes as appropriate.

“The PSC has their own dedicated performance space. Presently, at home, The Dundas’ Winston V. Saunders main stage is out of commission for an extended period of time due to the lack of air-conditioning. It’s significant because we would love to be able to accommodate larger audiences, particularly during this year of Bahamian theater in celebration of our nation’s 50th anniversary. The Philip A. Burrows Blackbox at the rear of the main stage is being used by Shakespeare in Paradise to ensure that the show still goes on.”

Hepburn and Francis said their Julius Caesar production will have a minimalist set, which is something they are accustomed to at home.

“One of our directors believes that ‘the play is the thing’ which is often a favorable outlook as sets cost money to create,” they said.

Robert’s PSC is a member of the Shakespeare Theatre Association (STA) which held its conference in The Bahamas in January. Scores of partnerships are being pursued between Shakespeare Theatre Association (STA) Members and SiP.

Dr. Nicolette Bethel, director of Shakespeare in Paradise and chairman of The Dundas Centre for The Performing Arts was recently appointed president of the Shakespeare Theatre Association (STA) at their annual conference when it was hosted in The Bahamas in January. Roberts and his partner in life and work, Jessica Boone, were in New Providence this past January and were impressed with the work that SIP is doing in the country.

Hepburn and Francis are both involved in SiP in various capacities and say sharing what they have learned will continue to be an organic process that began after they returned from Prague in 2019.

“As we build bridges between Prague and The Bahamas, we encourage Bahamian creatives to take advantage of PSC’s training intensives – held annually for those interested in all aspects of theater, including but not limited to directing, stage managing, dramaturging and acting. They are held in the summer and the winter, and it’s not too late to apply for this summer’s intensive. We’re also exploring the possibilities of bringing Bahamian plays to Prague and/or working on productions that will include Bahamian actors and actors working with the PSC in the Czech Republic. This moment while it greatly impacts our individual careers, is a win for our theater community and our country.”

Francis teaches drama at Genesis Academy.

Hepburn was previously an adjudicator for the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival, a position she relinquished this year, to be able to take advantage of the Prague role, and hopes to hold again.

Hepburn and Francis both say Prague is an amazing city.

“The architecture is a thing to behold, and at night the city looks like something from a fairytale. The public transportation system is outstanding; it’s so easy to get around. We’ve been to see a production of Shakespeare’s King Lear, and hope to catch a ballet or a contemporary play as well as tour Prague Castle [which was built in the ninth century, and is the official office of the president of the Czech Republic] before leaving, funds permitting.”

They have taken time to explore the Old Town District, seen the famous astronomical clock which was installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest clock still in operation. Hepburn and Francis have taken in The Dancing House, also known by the nickname Ginger and Fred, and traversed the historic Charles Bridge – a medieval stone arch bridge on which construction started in 1357 under King Charles IV and finished in the early 15th century.

“The food scene is quite cosmopolitan, but we’ve enjoyed one of the Czech staples, beef goulash with potato dumplings – quite hearty and delicious, particularly as it’s wintertime, and the temperature hovers in the 30s.”

The duo are also seeking assistance to help defray their costs while in Prague. Anyone wishing to financially assist the duo while they are in Prague, can do so by reaching out to Francis at

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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