Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 16th 2015 Contents B45
August 16, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
Theresa Awai, an award-winning
actor and playwright, recently pre-
sented her fifth play, Land of the
Mess-Siahs. It is a tough, intelligent
political satire that Tony Hall, one
of the most respected names in the
business, said "we need more of."
The presentation didn t involve a
set, or costumes, or a director, or
paid actors. Instead 25 casually
dressed people sat in a circle on fold-
ing chairs in the small black box the-
atre of the Trinidad Theatre Work-
shop in Belmont. Nine of them read
lines from thick sheaves of papers
stapled together at one corner.
At the end of the reading, the
gathering critiqued what they heard,
holding nothing back.
"I didn t have an emotional jour-
ney in the play," said Awai s own
daughter, Tracy. "I understood the
facts. It was funny. But where did
it take me? It has to take me some
place. It has to take me through
something, and it didn t quite."
Hall, his long, grey dreadlocks
covered by a black baseball cap, sug-
gested the play put too much
emphasis on sharing facts and a
message. "It seems to me that the
play wants to explain itself too quick-
ly, and it wants to explain its idea
before it is a play," he said.
For about half hour other listeners
gave similar and additional criti-
Asked afterward if she found the
experience hard to take, Awai looked
surprised at the question.
"That s why I brought the play
here," she said. "These are my
friends. These are peers. These are
people I work with all the time, so
I value their input and their feedback.
I m not taking any of it personal-
ly."Awai has been a member of the
Playwrights Workshop Trinbago
since it was founded by Hall in 2003.
The group s Readers Theatre, which
takes place the first Wednesday of
every month, gives writers for stage
and film an opportunity to present
their work for feedback from actors,
directors, other writers, and fans of
the art form. The ultimate goal, of
course, is to get something on stage
Coming Home, a play Awai first
presented to the Readers Theatre,
went on to be a stage production in
2012. Directed by Raymond Choo
Kong, it ran for four days at Queen s
Hall and two days at the Naparima
Bowl. Nikki Crosby and Cecilia
Salazar were among the cast of the
drama about adult sisters working
though their fractured relationship
after their mother s death.
Choo Kong was at the Readers
Theatre earlier this month when
Land of the Mess-Siahs was pre-
sented. He was eager, he said, to
hear more from Awai. The gathering
was larger than usual, Hall explained,
because others felt the same.
Choo Kong had also been there
when Awai presented Coming Home
at the Readers Theatre.
"It had the commercial qualities
that I felt could attract an audience,"
"We need to expose more Trinida-
dian writing," he said. "We do a lot
of theatre, a lot of things are hap-
pening, but we don t see enough
Professional actors helped present
Land of the Mess-Siahs.
Keino Swamber read the role of
Mr Jamdem, doing a very good vocal
imitation of Patrick Manning, after
whom the character was patterned.
Kenneth Boodhu read for a Basdeo
Panday-like character called Mr Fox.
Eric Barry was a security guard, and
Nicky Carew played The Prophetess.
Tony Hall read the stage directions.
"Trinidad and Tobago is a difficult
place to make plays," Hall, a drama
teacher and playwright of longstand-
ing, said as he introduced the play.
"Trinidad and Tobago is probably
the only place in the world where
there is no arts funding."
He explained that the State gives
money to organisations, not to indi-
viduals to help them produce work.
"Money doesn t go to a parang
group for them to write parang
music," he said. "Money doesn t go
to NDATT for NDATT to write plays.
Money doesn t go to a pan man for
him to right a pan concerto. There s
no recognition of the artist." NDATT
is the National Drama Association.
The Readers Theatre is an impor-
tant part of developing a play, Hall
"A play is not a play unless it s
performed," he said. "What you write
is the script. It s the difference
between the drawing of the building
and the building. The writer must
hear the work because ultimately
the work is a collaboration."
Hall gave some guidelines for dis-
cussion. "We are here to listen to
the play that Theresa is offering, to
assist her to write the play that she
wants to write," he said. "So when
we listen, we are listening to what
the intentions are, and when we
make suggestions we are making
suggestions in accordance with our
understanding of those intentions."
Everyone agreed that Land of the
Mess-Siahs has promise. Hall
advised Awai to work with a director
or dramaturge, an expert in devel-
"This idea that you can go off and
write by yourself---for plays [that]
doesn t work," he said. "August Wil-
son did not get his plays from Yale
to Broadway all by himself. It doesn t
work that way. Playmaking is a col-
Awai knows the success of the
play wouldn t only depend on the
"I know this in Raymond s hands
is going to be a fantastic comedy,"
Paper Based Bookshop at the
Normandie, St Ann s, will host its
next Evening of Tea and Readings
on August 22, at 4.30 pm, with two
film talks, a talk by an eco-activist
and a reading from Reginald
Dumas new autobiography.
Dumas, a former ambassador and
head of the Public Service, will read
from The First Thirty Years: A Ret-
rospection, an account of his
tremendous accomplishments both
within and without the diplomatic
corps, said the bookshop in an email
T&T Film Festival Director Bruce
Paddington will screen excerpts from
his critically lauded documentary
on the Grenada Revolution, Forward
Ever: The Killing of a Revolution.
Writer Kim Johnson will also be there
to discuss his recent hit film PAN!
Our Music Odyssey. Finally, John
Stollmeyer, artist and environmen-
talist, will speak on his work.
The $120 price of admission
includes the cost of refreshments
Trinbago on Facebook, or call:
Dumas to talk at Tea and Readings Reginald Dumas
Nikki Crosby, left, Clifford Learmond, Caroline
Taylor and Cecilia Salazar, stand behind Coming
Home playwright Theresa Awai.
develops playwrighting talent
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