Janelle Mitchell: Passionate Theatre Educator
Janelle Mitchell, Jae, was born with creativity and passion in her blood. The Bajan theater writer, director and actor is a force to reckon with. She is determined to inject new life in the arts by providing quality educational programs to young individuals. Jae holds a Masters of Arts-Creative Arts from the University of the West Indies (UWI) and she firmly believes that performing arts provide much more than techniques, and skills, they foster the development of children’s cognitive abilities.
Photos provided by Janelle Mitchell
From a very young age, she was exposed to the arts, her mother would take her to dance rehearsals and it is not surprising that she learned their routines and as a result she became one of the founding members of the ‘Dancin’ Africa Children Corp’ which is still in existence some 25 plus years later.
As a passionate ‘eduK8tor’, Jae founded among others in 2014, a youth edutainment hub that creatively enhances literacy through arts education. In 2020, Jae created Theatre Convos a platform which connects theater practitioners of varying generations via conversations and workshop series as a means of edutainment as well as to reinforce the art form.
CE: At what age or when do you remember developing an interest in the arts?
Jae: I remember developing an interest in the arts when I was around the age of six years old. Seeing my mother and others dancing to the riddims of the drums was a defining moment that inspired.
CE: Was your passion for the arts, encouraged by your parents and family?
Jae: Absolutely! My parents supported my journey in the arts and also inspired me. My dad pretended to have a radio program where I was the audience member.
CE: When did you first perform?
Jae: I first performed as early as six years old. My first major stage performance came when I was enrolled in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program at the University of the West Indies. The play focused on the trials and triumphs of those living during the sugar plantation era.
CE: Do you prefer the performing aspect or directing/writing aspect of the dramatics?
Jae: At this stage of my life as a theatre educator I prefer to direct or offer direction to aspiring students.
CE: What do you most enjoy about working with kids and sharing with them your love of the arts?
Jae: It’s where I get to see their truest growth and development while shaping their artistic expressions and visions. It’s almost magical.
CE: Besides representing Barbados at Carifesta X in Guyana as the supporting actor in Odale’s Choice and winning in 2009 the ‘Best Female Monologue Award’ for the monologue ‘Labour of Love’ at Tallawah in Jamaica, what are some interesting places your career has taken you?
Jae: Performing for the Barbados Consulate in Cuba back in 2012 was an honor. Being hired as the Cultural Officer for Theatre Arts (Ag) at the National Cultural Foundation in 2018 was also a gratifying accomplishment, along with being a Theatre Arts adjudicator at the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts for the past four years.
CE: You wrote, directed and acted in your one woman show ‘Capstone Thesis’ entitled ‘Metamorphosis: The journey of a woman as eases dis-ease. What was your source of inspiration?
Jae: The driving force of the play was my struggle and many other black women’s struggle with fibroids.
Janelle Mitchell receiving the Spirit of Imagination Award
CE: What sparks your creativity?
Jae: My students and other creatives who continue to sharpen their creative expression.
CE: What’s your favorite play and why?
Jae: Da Kink in my hair and For girls who considered suicide when the rainbow isn’t enuff are two significant plays I had the honor of being cast in as a BFA student. Both plays explore the struggles of women, sensuality, love, relationships, abuse, mental health, and other themes central to what many people in our society face. They struck many chords for me and allowed me to live through the lives of women to re-tell our pain.
CE: If you were granted one wish, which actor/actress would you like to perform with and why?
Jae: Angela Bassett, based on her authenticity.
CE: What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Jae: No work day…Reading, relaxing or watching movies
CE: We're all proud to say we're Caribbean or have Caribbean roots, but in your own words what does being Caribbean mean to you?
Jae: Rich culture, a melting pot of foods, unique swag of community.
CE: What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage / the curtain goes up?
Jae: Affirm that I will be awesome.
CE: What is your favorite local meal?
Jae: Cou-cou and flying fish is my favorite Bajan local dish.
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