Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 19th 2015 Contents B3
SAS Book Club:
In the starting
After a big, celebratory birthday bash
put on by his staff and friends of the
Trinidad Theatre Workshop (TTW) on July
4, actor, theatre veteran and TTW artistic
director Albert Laveau sat talking with a
guest at his picturesque and art-filled home
in the hills of Santa Margarita.
"This is surprising to me. I didn t expect
to be 80 years old," he confessed with mild
"I never used to think about it. But I
almost got killed a couple of times, you
know," he confided, his eyes alight with
mystery and a twinkle of mischief.
"They not ready for me yet, I still have
work to do," he said knowingly.
Doing good work is probably one of the
things for which Albert Laveau would like
always been infused with purpose and one
who understands the value of having work
In recounting his life s work, Laveau took
the long and adventurous storytelling road,
over the hills and valleys of his career and
through the winding paths of his personal
life from his youth growing up in Plaisance
He started performing in his father s living
room as a young boy, surrounded by his
siblings. Storytelling, singing and inter-
family entertainment by lamplight were the
norm in a 1940s rural community, where
the only electricity people knew were the
search lights of the World War II planes that
flew over the village from time to time.
"Every year there was a new baby until
we ended up with about nine or ten---a
whole theatre company," he said, joking.
"But it broke up when I was about nine.
They sent me to live with my grandfather
who was getting old. He had always liked
me, they said."
A self-confessed optimist, he included
anecdotes of the creative punishments meted
out by his grandfather s caretaker "Aunty
Angie," whom he called "a wicked woman."
Surviving the house of his grandfather
was particularly challenging.
"They used to say things to make me feel
less confident in myself, so eventually I
became a silent child, except for when I
went to school," he said, the twinkle return-
ing to his spectacled gaze. "In school I was
At Carapichaima RC School, Laveau was
encouraged by one particular teacher who
would write skits and host school concerts.
Laveau found the spotlight again and was
once more able to have his talent on the
He was also a church-going Catholic and
eventually became an acolyte. At the altar,
like the stage, Laveau revelled in the ritual
and ceremony and likened the experience
to performance art for the Lord.
As an adult he travelled the world both
for his day job at Lever Brothers as well as
an actor, most notably with poet, playwright
and Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott and the
TTW, which he joined in 1962.
Laveau secured a starring role as the devil
in Walcott s Ti Jean and his Brothers. The
part launched his very lucrative and beneficial
career as a professional actor in the United
States of America in the early 70s.
From the initial export of the Ti Jean play
to the New York Shakespeare Festival, Laveau
rode the momentum of rave reviews and
positive attention to hire an agent and create
bookings for himself in the US.
He eventually travelled across the US on
tour with Joseph A Walker s hit Broadway
musical The River Niger, an African Amer-
ican play which won the 1974 Antoinette
Perry Award at the Tonys among several
In 1977, after four years of a US acting
career, Laveau returned to T&T and to the
Laveau believes nurturing the artistic abil-
ities of young people adds positively to their
overall development as individuals. He brings
this belief and his faith in that process to
his work with the TTW.
"I wanted to have more Trinidadians who
keep talking about professional acting and
going abroad to be successful, know about
[the experience I had]. But when I came
back, the TTW was going through a kind
of crossroads, Derek and his personal life
was infringing on the workshop.
"He pulled out and then I offered to help
run it. They wanted to run it their way. A
fracture was taking place, but if we wanted
it to continue, it had to change and be some-
thing else. I told them this was the time to
focus on training---to establish a school of
For 12 years Laveau worked on his vision
for building and expanding the training ele-
ment of the TTW. He was met with con-
Laveau reflected on this period.
"I realised that I was being treated with
hostility, not only for going away to be a
professional actor, but for coming back!
What did you come back for? , their resist-
ance seemed to say. These were people who
I thought were my friends. Eventually," he
added, wryly, "They did truly become my
still batting for the TTW at 80
CONTINUES ON PAGE B4
Trinidad Theatre Workshop artistic director Albert Laveau.
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