“Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale” at the 2013 Performing Arts Marathon Festival


Miss Mikelah (Style & Vibes) writes about her recent attendance to “Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale” at the recent New York City’s 2013 Performing Arts Marathon Festival at the IATI’s Theater.  [See previous post, Callaloo (A Jazz Folktale): Celebrating the folklore of Trinidad and Tobago on stage.]  Make sure to watch the video about the making of “Callaloo” in the original article (see link below):

The play explores traditional folklore characters from Trinidad & Tobago (many other islands have similar versions of the same folklore characters) from the experience of a young boy name Winston from New York City visiting his grandmother in Trinidad & Tobago. He encounters each mythical character and their powers — the Soucouyant, Dwen, La Diablesse, Papa Bois, Lagahoo and Mama D’lo and must fight his way out of this haunting paradise to make it home alive.

Created by Trinidadian-American playwright and actress, Marjuan Canady, she was inspired by Etienne Charles‘ critically acclaimed album, Folklore, which serves as a musical backdrop, re-establishing Caribbean oral storytelling through jazz music. In a true callaloo form, the creative cast is a mix of various cultures that brought this play to life, co-starring Jamaican-American actress, Vanessa Evans, directed by New York City director, Natalie Carter, choreography by Honduran-American dancer and New York City choreographer, Maresa D’Amore-Morrison, cinematography by Jamaican-American filmmaker, Shadae Lamar Smith, sound design by Los Angeles based, producer, Darien Dorsey and costuming by Trinidadian Mas costumer Winston Black.

In a Q&A after the show the cast held an insightful Q&A. Marjuan emphasized how Etienne’s music inspired the idea for the play, “I saw him perform, and coming from a theater background, I immediately envisioned a play to his music. After months of researching Trinidadian folklores, interviewing family members I gather enough information to write it.” She’s worked on the play for over 3 years and has made changes to the stage play even after her recent performance in Washington DC. Both Marjuan and Etienne emphasized the need for the next generation of Caribbean-Americans to understand and share these oral traditions. Director Natalie Carter, who is also a theater teacher in Brooklyn echoed their sentiments describing how she used the characters from the play as a lesson for her students, “Brooklyn is filled with children of Caribbean descent, so it was a sense of pride that some of them had heard the stories from their own parents and could speak to it in lengths and get into the lesson.”

[. . .] The play is filled with classic life lessons children learn as they are growing up, as with many folklores, but with slightly darker undertones, the question arose as to whether this was truly a “children’s play”. Director Natalie describes, “Marjuan and I went back and forth on the idea of it being a children’s play, but as I did my research not all fairy tales have a happy ending. It’s more about the lessons learned, and this play does that.” Without giving too much away let’s just say that Winston’s curiosity gets the best of him, does he learn his lesson? You’ll just have to wait for the next show or the book to see!

The play was a phenomenal cultural experience, especially as a Caribbean-American. It gave true understanding to the reasoning behind folklore and how adults use it to subliminally teach lessons (as children we listen because the stories are intriguing, unbeknownst of their teachings.) As an adult, and a mom of toddler, this play has resonated some of the life lessons I learned at an early age. Inspiring me to preserve some of these traditions with my little one, beyond the food and music that she’s surrounded with. I’ve gotten a greater appreciation for cultural traditions and this play preserves a piece of that history.

For more about Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale, visit their website and keep up on Facebook and Twitter.

For full review, see http://www.styleandvibes.com/2013/07/callaloo-a-jazz-folktale/

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