Saba youth performed historic skits with such passion, talent and confidence that they not only commanded the praise of the King and Queen but evoked pride in the community during last week’s royal visit. The concept for King Willem-Alexander’s inaugural visit was to mark the start of his new reign with the energy and spirit of a budding generation, yet infuse it with lessons in resilience of generations past. Teenager Kiana Hassell was the narrator for all performances. Upon the arrival of the royals at the airport, Jaylen Robinson played the role of Freddy Johnson, the determined man who faced scepticism, threats and pressure, yet pursued his vision to establish the airport. With this performance Saba celebrated the 50th anniversary of Juancho Yrausquin Airport. Elderly in the audience vouched that Jaylen held a better performance than what Johnson might have done were he alive. At Juliana Sports field, Kloe Hassell surprised everyone when she spoke like an elderly woman during the Saba Lace skit. She played her ancestor, Mary Gertrude Hassell, who was sent to Caracas, Venezuela, as a child for schooling and brought back the art form. Speaking with the voice of the celebrated matron, Kloe finished by thanking and calling the names of the five ladies who still keep this folk tradition alive. High-school student Jody Morgan masterfully played the granddaughter of the late Teena Johnson. She shared her grandmother’s secret Saba Spice recipe with the promise that the audience would not tell anyone its secret ingredients. Jordan Every and classmates performed ship signalling. Jordan played Marion Every of St. Johns, who was responsible for signalling passing ships. Bianca Johnson had hand-painted the display boards used in the show, highlighting local resourcefulness. The performance of Julyness Woods and schoolmates in the “Ladder Bay” skit depicting the hardships and seclusion of the island received much applause and laughter. Woods’ use of dialect and inflections took everyone by surprise as she masterfully impersonated Rebecca Levenstone, talking about climbing up over 800 steps at Ladder Bay with a piano on her back and being the first woman in Saba’s history to help the men offload the ships at Ladder Bay. Laughter abounded when she raised her skirt to show the audience the pants she used to do what was considered a man’s hard labour. In the skit “Road that could not be built” Jose Luis Arena played Josephus Lambert Hassell, the determined man who took a correspondence engineering course. His perseverance proved wrong all Dutch engineers who claimed the task of building a road on the island’s steep slopes was an impossible feat to accomplish. Several other boys depicted the stone-cutting and raw determination that made road construction possible. Saba Danza cultural group led by Cuban dance instructor Bertha also put on a great performance as did teacher Jarmila Wilson and Camille Blackman with a primary school drums and singing group. Under the guidance of teacher Olga Simmons, primary school children performed the Maypole Dance to Harry Belafonte’s “Island in the Sun.”
Preparations for the show started in August, when Saba’s Teen Times writers were tasked by the royal visit coordinating committee to research topics to be highlighted during the visit. Communications advisor Alida Francis developed the monologues, giving a voice to the most important characters in Saba history. Senior citizens Carmen Simmons and Will Johnson provided her with colourful recollections and librarian Johanna Simmons ensured the authenticity of costumes. Francis, Wilson, Tara Every and La-Toya Charles coached the children in their stage performance. The youth performances were supported by a small group of persons from Public Works. Every was the stage manager; Derrek Spence, Josephine Spence and Errick Spence oversaw props and Brian Hassell took care of the sound. The painting of the stage décor was a 32-hour project accomplished at the last minute by Saba Comprehensive School’s art class. Russell Thielman and Lisa Hassell oversaw logistics and drivers Thaddeus Durand and Kevin Johnson worked overtime to make sure the show was a success.