Andre Dillon: Making a Difference with Drama

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By Sue-Ann Wayow

FOR three months, a young man stood daily by a standpipe in Carenage waiting, wondering, hoping.

For what exactly, he was not sure but then, he crosses the road and joins the men on the block who in society’s eyes are up to no good.

If that young man was afforded an opportunity to reach a higher level in life, he may not have crossed the road to the other side.

Working with young people for more than two decades, Andre Dillon also known as “Ziggy” made that observation as he believes that crime is not the major issue in Trinidad and Tobago.

He told AZP News, “For me, the problem is not crime, the problem is giving people enough opportunities. We are not giving young persons enough opportunities so that they could now choose.”

Dillon is set about to making a difference by using his artform – drama.

Everything is drama. We use drama as the catalyst, as the teaching tool.”  Through the arts, heroes can be created, he said.

Through his theatre arts company D MAD (Drama Making a Difference), Dillon, a transport provider by profession, has been assisting young people transition into an upward movement in life.

He can tell many stories of other people and he can tell stories, period.

He claims, he cannot write them, but can make them come to life on a stage.

Andre Dillon. AZP News/Sue-Ann Wayow

D MAD’s journey 

Dillon told AZP News the story of his company’s inception.

A past pupil of what is now St Augustine Secondary School, Dillon was an avid cheerer for the school’s football team.

Having been involved in drama while he was a pupil, he was asked to assist the drama club by a teacher preparing pupils for the Secondary Schools Drama Festival.

Volunteering his time and expertise, Dillon was soon left in charge as the teacher stepped back, allowing him to lead the team.

Making it to the finals in 2002 and going through other festivals with the team, Dillon said he took disappointments personally. 

In the 2006 finals with the play I am human too focusing on incest and abortion, the group started a fire.

Drama after that became part of the culture of St Augustine Secondary School.

Create spaces for young people 

Dillon said, “As a country, I think we need to start being a little bit more deliberate in the way in which we want our young people to come out. Be a little bit more calculative and deliberate.”

He used an example of an athlete.

“We love the finished product. The athletes could testify to this, when I win a gold medal, everybody loves me. But when I working hard, and I have to eat right I have to train, I not seeing anybody. I not seeing no million dollars coming to go into my training, I am not seeing no proper infrastructure… no proper field for me to train on… I might have natural skills but to strengthen on that natural skill to have that edge that the rest of the world have, that is not afforded to me.”

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Dillon said while the establishments of community centres and sporting facilities in Trinidad and Tobago have increased and been improved upon,  there needed to be focus on human infrastructure.

Due to a lack of human participation, many of those centres were underutilised.

Dillon said, “Don’t just build it. You need to outfit these places with trainers, the technical people, psychologists, the therapists, the janitors…for the building to come alive, you need to invest in the human capital. We need to start building our heroes.”

Back to his programme, he said, “A lot of young people are being disappointed because that space is not being created.”

While there were other programmes out there for youths to be involved in such as police youth clubs which he commended, not everyone may want to join a police youth club as different organisations would have different types of programming.

Dillon said, “It had times when I didn’t do any drama, we just talked about life, about relationships about money, about investment and you see the child mind shape and now you are looking at the end product and you are like wow. If the majority of young people get the opportunities like what D MAD have to offer, it will be awesome.”

“The problem with D MAD now, we don’t have a space,” he admitted.

With proper infrastructure, both physical and human, young people can become molded into iconic personalities and one of greatest pains is not seeing some-one become all they can be because of that lack.

“It squeezes the blood out of your heart,” Dillon said.

As it relates to crime, he said, “A lot of our solutions is the result of the problem. We are waiting until the problem come and then find the solution.”

If that occurs, a lot of unemployment will also disappear, Dillon said.

He mentioned the Arts in Action programme, designed by the Creative and Festival Arts Department of the University of the West Indies (UWI), a programme designed to find out causes of problems and dealing with it at that level using the creative arts, a programme that he said was very commendable but different to his.

Work over the years 

Although several people have left the company over the years, which Dillon said again he took personally, D MAD has made many strides as his company was the stepping stone for a bigger stage for those individuals.

“They are now making a difference in so many different ways,” he said.

With small jobs funded out of his own pocket, D MAD received its first grant funding, some six years ago to do a project called Family Matters by Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) to bring awareness to adoption and foster care in Trinidad and Tobago.

She Is was another project with focus on domestic violence.

The Inside Out Dad was a project encouraging prisoners to have better conversations with their children funded by the US Embassy.

Additionally, Digicel provided funding to outfit a proper room where the prisoners can speak to their children, with D MAD training prison officers to train prisoners, “using drama to highlight why this is so important.” 

Clients over the years included several government ministries including National Security, Education and Community Development as well as the US Embassy.

A recent project funded by the US Embassy was just completed.

It was called Comida y Familia translated to Food and Family focusing on creating sustainable food as well as sub project where men were encouraged to be24-hourr fathers.

“We are doing projects that we will like to see the change,” Dillon said.

The way forward 

Currently, D MAD is working on a new project Yes Sis.

Dillon said, “It is geared towards 30 young ladies. Many a times, we would see something and we would tend to think, that is none of my business, or somebody come and tell you something and you don’t have the tools to deal with it. So we are targeting 30 young ladies and we are giving them the tools that they can now identify as red flags in a relationship.

“We are educating not necessarily the victim but the person who the victim might go and talk to. The victim might not go to a counselor, pick up a phone call somebody but you always have a friend,” he said.

Two shows are being planned for this year, D MAD’s signature #Laugh usually held in November and another geared towards violence and teenagers using young people to share a positive message.

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This year will be the 11th year of #Laugh – a fund raising comedy show and a food drive.

Whatever project or drama production D MAD is involved in, it should be on awareness.

Dillon said, “When you hire us, we shed light on issues. We might not be the one to do the thing, but we will push the conversation, a little further down the road. D MAD is known shining light on issues that affect nationals of Trinidad and Tobago. Issues that affect us, as a community, as a country, as human beings.”

For more information on D MAD and its works, persons can contact or call Dillon at 761-1734.

D MAD also has social media pages on Instagram and Facebook.


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