Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 7th 2017 Contents B15
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PETER RAY BLOOD
John, whose play Eileen and Me
will be staged at the Big Black Box
in Woodbrook in May 2017, remi-
nisces about the influence the late,
great poet/playwright Derek Wal-
cott had on him.
"I first met Derek when I was about
20 years of age," says John. "I had been
a member of the late Freddie Kissoon's
Strolling Players and by then I had writ-
ten a one act play which I had told Fred-
die about. To my dismay, Freddie told
me that he wasn't interested in other
people's plays, so I went my merry way.
About a month later, I was talking to
someone about getting my play on
stage when that person told me, 'why
don't you check out Derek Walcott, he's
looking for one act plays'
Up to that time he had never heard
of Derek Walcott, but he contacted
Walcott via telephone, and Walcott
was interested in meeting him.
John continued: "I told him I had
written a play and wanted him to read
it, so he invited me to his home in Petit
Valley and told me to bring the script. I
remember the first thing he asked me
was if I was related to Errol John, the fa-
mous actor and playwright. (I wasn't.) I
remember him saying that he and Errol
John didn't get along."
John confessed that initially he didn't
make a good impression on Walcott be-
cause the script, Shalto's Dilemma, to
Walcott's surrprise, was handwritten.
Still, Walcott was quite tolerant with the
budding playwright and promised to read
it. But he told John that in order to impress
anyone with his work,it must be typewrit-
ten. He advised him to get a typewriter.
Says John: "Yes, he read the script.
I went back two weeks later, and I re-
member him telling me the main char-
acter in the play didn't have to die. I
can't remember now what else was said,
but he took me to his library and told
me that I should read a lot about the
theatre. He loaned me a book, the title
of which I'll never forget: The Making of
Modern Drama. That book introduced
me to European literary icons such as
Chekov, Brecht, Ibsen, Strindberg, Pi-
randello and Beckett. I read the book
and it was like, before, I was in the dark,
theatre wise. Now I was in the light."
John was also invited to attend the
weekly Trinidad Theatre Workshop
training sessions as an observer. He
said he felt like a special student. John
had never read or seen any of Walcott's
works, but he wanted to know of his
reputation, so he went to the public
library and read Walcott's published
He says: "The language in Walcott's
poems and plays blew me away from
that day. I read Dream on Monkey
Mountain and was in awe. I had never
read of black people talking with such
majesty and boldness. To my mind, it
placed our theatre on the world stage.
From that moment I became a Walcott
follower. I never missed a chance to read
his new books when they came out. I
never missed an opportunity to be at
a Walcott play, reading or gathering.
During the 1990s, while in New York
one winter, I travelled by train all the
way from Brooklyn to Queens Uni-
versity, to attend a Walcott reading.
The journey was so long that I arrived
late, just in time for the book signing
John's cherished moment with Wal-
cott was sometime in the late 1980s,
when he was among a group of 12
wannabe poets, who were selected by
Professor Ken Ramchand for a three-
day poets workshop conducted at the
Central Bank by Derek Walcott himself.
"For three days we had lunch togeth-
er, did readings of our own poems and
had Walcott all to ourselves, as he tu-
tored us about writing effective meta-
phors," remembers John. "It was really
a special time for me, personally. I felt
like finally, I had become a real poet.
That moment stayed with me. That's
a lifelong memory with the great man.
He's gone now, but his legacy is surely
intact. He's right up there with literary
gods like Shakespeare and all the great
poets of all the ages."
• John's play, Eileen and Me, will be
staged at the Big Black Box, 33 Murray
Street, Woodbrook on May 5-7 and its
actress and actor are Tamara Cozier
and Michael Stephens. For more
information call 737-8326.
Cabinet approves new Home for TTW
Cabinet recently approved
the lease of state-owned
property at 6 Newbold Street,
St Clair, for use by the Trin-
idad Theatre Workshop
This follows a request by the
Ministry of Community Devel-
opment, Culture and the Arts
through the Ministry of Public
Administration and Commu-
nications for suitable accom-
modations for TTW because its
old location at 23 Jerningham
Avenue, Belmont, is up for sale.
Cabinet approved a five year
lease at a peppercorn rent of $10
a year. TTW will use the new lo-
cation as an educational facility
for theatre arts.
Minister of Public Administra-
tion and Communications Maxie
Cuffie said: "The Government is
honoured to be of assistance to
TTW given the contribution the
space has made and continues to
make, to theatre arts in Trinidad
and Tobago and the wider Car-
ibbean. And while we mourn the
loss of Derek Walcott, there is no
greater way to honour him but to
ensure TTW is not homeless and
his vision lives on."
TTW was founded by the late
Sir Derek Alton Walcott in 1959
and he continued as the work-
shop's director until 1971.
Beryl McBurnie, Stanley Mar-
shall and Errol Jones were among
those who honed their craft at
Minister of Community De-
velopment, Culture and the Arts,
Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, added:
"Sir Derek Walcott's vision for
and contribution to the theatre
arts lives on in the TTW and the
MCDCA is pleased to have played
a role in ensuring that training in
the arts continues to be accessi-
ble as a critical pillar of cultural
Cabinet had also approved a
delegation, led by Gadsby-Dolly
and a member of TTW to attend
Walcott's state funeral service
which took place on Saturday
25 March, with a service at the
Cathedral Basilica of the Immac-
ulate Conception in Castries and
burial at Morne Fortune.
Walcott died on March 17 at
the age of 87.
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