Chance Thompson is trying to make Antonio Dennis laugh, and doing a pretty good job of it.
Performing a comic monologue she wrote about a clueless woman who does not understand the concept of stalking, even after being served with a restraining order, Ms. Thompson is more than a little agitated as she pleads with the person rejecting her at the other end of her cellphone call.
“How am I supposed to be in a relationship when every time I get close to you, you put me behind bars?” she cries.
“I love it,” says Mr. Dennis as Ms. Thompson finishes her short performance, but he has a suggestion. “Where you get desperate, can you get desperate-er?”
Ms. Thompson, 17, a recent graduate of Clifton Hunter High School, laughs and says she thinks she can.
It’s one of several tips, ranging from diction to physical cues, that Mr. Dennis provides during a recent hour-long coaching session in a private home in Savannah. He is in the process of preparing a team of nine local performers for the World Championships of Performing Arts, being held July 6-15 at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center in Long Beach, California, just south of Los Angeles.
The Cayman performers will be participating in the singing, acting and modeling categories of the competition, which draws contestants from across the globe. The event’s website indicates participants from 70 different countries.
This is the first time the Cayman Islands has been represented in the event. Mr. Dennis, who is based in Jamaica, says he decided to put a team together after working as entertainment coordinator at the Wyndham Reef Resort and being impressed by the talent he was seeing on the island.
In October, he auditioned 50 performers and chose 20 to initially work with. That number was eventually winnowed down to the seven who will be traveling to California.
“I think I have a winner for sure,” he said. “There are several team members who I think are capable of winning the whole thing.”
Mr. Dennis has some experience to back up such statements. In 2015, he coached Jamaican Francois Medley to a grand champion win at the event.
“I let them know the competition is going to be stiff and they have to get their head in the game and believe they can beat someone from the New York Film Academy,” Mr. Dennis says.
More than trophies are involved in the 10-day competition, Mr. Dennis says. Those that do well are awarded scholarships to colleges and arts academies. A one-day boot camp provides coaching from international experts. There is also the prospect of being spotted by a Hollywood agent.
“When you’re doing your boot camp classes, there are people looking for the next pop star or for scholarship [recipients],” says Melody Allenger, 15, a student at St. Ignatius who will be singing and acting.
Ms. Allenger says she grew up in a musical household. She has performed with her parents and on her own in various Cayman venues. The event in Long Beach, she says, is something else.
“It’s a very big deal,” she says. “This is my first time going away and competing in my main talents.”
Singer Erica Assai, 20, says she is excited at the chance to show off her talents at a large international event.
“I never thought an opportunity like this would pop up in the Cayman Islands,” says Ms. Assai, who has been performing since she was 12. “I thought, ‘This is the chance for someone to be the Rihanna of the Cayman Islands.’
“This competition means a whole lot to me,” she adds. “This will be the first time I’ve performed outside of the Caribbean.”
She will be performing several songs she composed herself, or rather, she will be singing portions of those songs. The performances are limited to 60 seconds. But there are multiple categories in each genre in which to compete. Most of the contestants will be performing in at least a half-dozen categories, with a different song or script each time.
The Cayman performers tapped a number of resources in order to finance the several thousand dollars it will cost to attend the event, including private and government donations – the Ministry of Culture provided the team with $5,000 – and hard-earned personal savings.
Ms. Thompson says even if she does not win, it will be a great experience.
“My goal is to get a scholarship and go to UCLA to study film,” she says. “I want to be a film director.”
This could be her best shot, she says.
“I feel I have the opportunity to get noticed, something I wouldn’t normally get in Cayman.”
Follow the progress of the team at https://bit.ly/2zhKydI.