Ya gotta be some kinda glutton for punishment to leave a cushy teaching assignment at City University of New York in the height of a sizzling summer season and come to St. Lucia to produce some play that most people here ain’t never heard of and many others couldn’t be bothered to come see and find out. But hey, there’s crazier ways to spend August in the islands. Can’t think of anything better just off the top of my head, but, there you have it, what can I say. Regardless the logic, here comes Mr. Hotstuff Director, with his cool locks and bittersweet memories of being Director of Culture (St. Lucia, 1980-83) and, of all things he’s looking to do a play!
Currently a lecturer in Theatre, and latterly an actor-director-producer with the post-Walcott Arts Guild, Alvin Hippolyte has taken it into his mind to produce himself a classic choreopoem/play written by the Black American, Ntozake Shange. (Like he don’t know the horrors Feeater ketching dong here!!???) Any way, God is good and black people strong, so he will likely survive the horrors of no facilities, little sponsorship and reluctant support from the “Authorities”.
Be that as it might, rehearsals are underway at the Grotto where Alvin-H is blissfully submerged in the process of preparation. (We hear the space has that effect on people) Now, something about the play: It has been around since 1974 and has thrilled audiences from the West Coast all the way to Broadway. As the New York Times said way back then “…it contains every feeling and experience a woman has ever had”. Toni Bambara of Ms. Magazine put it equally well… This play “celebrates the capacity to master pain and betrayals with wit, sister-sharing and reckless daring”.
Well, we would have to agree. There’s some serious stuff in there including a whole heap-a-pain being expunged in sista-to-sista therapy, with all the wit, sarcasm and female sensuality that women of color can generate. But then again, what would you expect from a script designed for 7 urban girls from multifarious backgrounds converged in a single space…? And to besides, the thang is written by a young female playwright of the 70’s who was bold and inventive enough to give her provocative masterpiece a 12-word title: “For Coloured Girls who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf”. What kinda name is that anyways!?!
Say what you will, three and a half decades and several major awards later, most people familiar with the seminal work just call it “For Colored Girls…” and they have called it many times in a multitude of reviews and endorsements… “Overwhelming… rich… bitter… funny… ironic… savage”. With a rep like that Alvin-H has got a challenge on his hands. But then again, easy theatre is hardly worth the doing and seldom worth the trip. So let’s go see how he makes this caged bird sing… and soar …and sink …and shout …all at the same time.
If the casting is any indication, it’s all in there waiting to come out. The closetful of cathartic characters will be played by quite a crew: Claudia Edward (of diva persuasion) is looking to get all deconstructed and detached from her usual perfectly put-together self. Then again, she has toured Europe with Walcott in the personage of Helen of Troy, no less! So why not try this on for size, eh Sista? Keisha St. Helene previously appeared in “Mary Could Dance”, the painfully funny story of three whores, an abusive pimp and an altruistic boyfriend. This could be the next logical step on the road to nirvana!
Also starring is Tassia Channel Clement an energetic but untamed talent who must now settle and find steady feet in her rather demanding role. She is better known (and it shows) as a performance poet (2nd place, Word Alive 2004) and also played in the forgettable 2004 Jubilee Production of Banjo Man.
The aforementioned three are joined by four relative novices who are nevertheless just as passionate about theatre. Shernel Justin is a Theatre Arts teacher with enough dance and drama experience to win Best Overall Performer in the 2007 Secondary School Drama Festival. Melissa Francois is “enjoying the exploration of gender and relationship particularly the negotiables of truth, suspicion and insecurity”. Galair Michele Charlery has appeared in school productions of Ti Jean and A Christmas Carol and the 2009 Stone Production, Silent Scars. Jamie Chitolie is new to the stage and is learning to let go. Hold on to your ovaries, Baby… this could be the freefall!
This roller coaster play is full of unexpected turns of emotion - from anger to humour and back again. Sardonic, witty, and biting till you bleed, it is a must-see for anyone looking for something better than coma-inducing TV. Forget Desperate Housewives, this is the real thing. Bold, brash and poignantly honest in sentiment and language (over 18 please), the play reminds us how far the gender has had to crawl just to tell it’s own story to a world preoccupied with post-emancipation bullshit, black machismo and racism.
The production opens for 2 nights only at the National Cultural Centre on Friday August 20 and Saturday 21, 2010. Showtime is 8pm both nights and tickets are available at the usual ticket outlets and of course, the door. (You could as well go an’ see it ‘cause you always complaining how it don’t have noffing to do here.)