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Great year for us

FREDDIE KISSON Saturday, December 29 2007

click on pic to zoom in
She's royal: Jeneal Joefield, five, is as confident as a princess as she poses with her toys for a photograph after a service for Holy Innocents Day a...
She's royal: Jeneal Joefield, five, is as confident as a princess as she poses with her toys for a photograph after a service for Holy Innocents Day a...

As I look back on the year 2007, probably the highlight for my theatre company The Strolling Players, was on Monday March 12 when we launched our 50th Anniversary Commemorative magazine at the National Library, Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain at 6.30 pm.

The former Minister of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs Joan Yuille Williams who has helped my company considerably was unable to attend because of a previous engagement but her representative, Mr Eric Butler, read her message.

The editor of the magazine Kenneth Boodhu and his assistant Azard Daniel worked assiduously to produce a glossy first class magazine. But I got a shock when I opened it and saw a picture of myself.

“Hey, that’s not my head for this picture?” I asked Azard. His reply was, “We took a better looking head from another picture of you and put it on this body. What’s the fuss about, it’s you. I bet you are the only person who would observe that.” The graphic artist who performed the decapitation and transplant, was Patterson Lewis. “At first, I was not too happy being guillotined but I have to admit the new head is really better”. No one else noticed the changing of the heads.

At the launching, was the famous Trinidadian actress, Corinne Skinner-Carter, based in England, who acted with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Cleopatra, Bob Hope in Call Me Bwana, and was in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die. So also were Mrs Zalayhar Hassanali, Rev Cyril Paul, Jan Sue Wing, Austin Nolte and the PRO for NALIS Ms Debbie Goodman, just to name a few.

Mrs Joan Osbourne, director of the Heritage Library, welcomed the audience while the feature address was delivered by Grace Maharaj who joined the Strolling Players on October 4 1971. Other speakers were Kenneth Boodhu, John Victor, Reubena Guy and yours truly who enjoyed himself talking a lot of stupidness.

On the invitation of Mr George Montique, our first performance for the year was at the Rio Claro College on Friday February 2. We did two plays Inside-Out – The Madhouse and Beulah’s Dream. By the way, since September, he has booked us for Friday, January 25, 2008. The journey took this old man driving non-stop, just a little over three hours from my home in Diego Martin.

It was an enjoyable trip both ways. Accompanying me were Corinne, Gemma Wiltshire and Duff Mitchell of Trinidad and Tobago Folk Arts Institute in New York. I spent four days in the Big Apple in 2004 when the Institute honoured me as a playwright together with Leroi Clarke – poet and Earl Lovelace – novelist.

At the end of the Lenten season, we reached 288 stage performances of my passion play We Crucify Him. We acted in Barataria, Tacarigua, Arouca, Centeno, Cunupia, Kelly Village, Sangre Grande, Valencia plus Plymouth and Scarborough in Tobago. At the Valencia Pentecostal Assembly, Pastor Regis brought the house down with, “Were you there when they Crucified My Lord?” He gave the congregation goose pimples with his soul-stirring rendition.

Since it was a year of celebrations for the Strolling Players, I decided to stage Calabash Alley again. We performed at the NALIS Amphitheatre in March and at the City Hall in July and a one-night stand at the Civic Centre in Sangre Grande to a total of 1,581 theatre goers. Big surprise when we consider the play had already been staged 126 times.

Large audiences in Sangre Chiquito, Diamond Vale, La Brea, St Augustine, Cumuto, St Joseph and at the Divali Nagar in Chaguanas, also enjoyed our plays. For the second time, we acted at the Scherzando Steelband Theatre in Curepe but it was our first at the Southern Marine’s Steelband Foundation in Marabella. Harvard’s Sports and Cultural Club presented us for the second year straight and at the City Hall, we staged three plays, written and directed by Azard Daniel.

Over the 50 years, we have staged 121 plays, 2,390 times. Starting with only one man, we now have a membership of 116 and take in not more than 12 persons, 18 plus, at the beginning of each term. The preacher told his congregation on Old Year’s night, “Be careful how you behave because your life is your sermon.”

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