Cayman performers retake the spotlight

Actress Rita Estevanovich says the success of a small team of Cayman Islands performers at the recent World Championships of Performing Arts should give entertainers here more confidence.

“I think it’s inspiring,” said Ms. Estevanovich, 38, who won the Senior Grand Champion of the World award at the event last month in Long Beach, California.

She and other members of the Cayman team recreated the performances they gave during the competition at the Harquail Studio Theatre on Saturday evening before an audience of about 75 people. It was a thank you to their supporters and a way to bring a piece of the competition home.

Ms. Estevanovich said the fact that five Cayman performers made it to the semifinals, with two going on to the finals, points to the quality of the islands’ pool of talent.

“It definitely encourages anyone at any age who might be thinking about doing something like this for a living,” she said.

It even has Ms. Estevanovich thinking about doing it for a living.

She has been acting part time over the years, and lived in Los Angeles for a year hoping to get a break in Hollywood. The attention she has received since winning the award has her hoping that that break might finally come.

Winning the top trophy in the world championships was not really on her mind when she went into the recent competition, she said.

Jaedyn Hanna sings an excerpt of a Whitney Houston song at the Harquail Studio Theatre Saturday evening.

“I thought, ‘I’m getting a lot older and I still have an interest. Let’s see where I measure up,’” she said.

Her biggest hope was just to do some networking and attract the attention of an agent. Taking the top prize and having received some still tentative opportunities in the wake of that, she said, has shifted her thinking.

“It has pretty much woken me up,” Ms. Estevanovich said. “I didn’t have the faith that I have now. It’s given me permission to dream again.”

This was Cayman’s first appearance at the world championships. Shepherded by Antonio Dennis, who had taken Jamaican teams in the past and had produced a grand champion, the nine-member team faced a field of hundreds of performers from 63 countries. The team came away from the weeklong competition with six bronze, seven silver and seven gold medals. Ms. Estevanovich’s award came with a $1,000 scholarship for the New York Conservatory of Dramatic Arts and a $1,000 appearance fee for next year’s world championships.

Singer Jaedyn Hanna, 16, who also made the finals, said the competition helped cement her plans for a career in music. The Cayman Prep student hopes to attend the Juilliard School in New York and eventually perform on Broadway.

Rita Estevanovich performs an excerpt from the play ‘The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,’ one of the monologues that helped her win the grand prize at the World Championships of Performing Arts.

Preparing for, and going through, the event, Ms. Hanna said, “developed my skills and allowed me to see the stage is literally my home.”

She said she had been offered a recording contract as a result of the world championships, but has not taken it. She’s hoping something even better will come out of an upcoming event where she will perform, the New York Cabaret Convention, on Oct. 9 at the Lincoln Center in New York.

“There’s supposed to be a lot of talent scouts in the audience,” she said. “I’m hoping that’s when my real career will begin.”

Other successes in competitions may bring more young artists to share such dreams. Ms. Estevanovich said it is clear Cayman has the talent, citing the success of people such as actress Grace Byers, director Frank E. Flowers, and model/actress Selita Ebanks.

“We already know what’s possible,” she said. “The more we see it, the more we will believe it.”

Melody Allenger performs one of three different numbers during an event at the Harquail Studio Theatre Saturday evening. – Photos: Alvaro Serey