Trinidad’s theatre community pays tribute to Freddie Kissoon

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A report from Trinidad and Tobago’s Guardian.

The local theatre community reacted with grief after news broke of the death of celebrated playwright Freddie Kissoon.

Kissoon, 86, was found dead at his home at Diamond Vale, Diego Martin, on Sunday.

The holder of the Humming Bird (Silver) Medal, and involved in theatre for the past 65 years, Kissoon founded the iconic Strolling Players Theatre Group in 1957 and produced over 140 plays.

A devout Roman Catholic, Kissoon wore many hats, including being a teacher, author and newspaper columnist. Initially a teacher at Laventille RC School, Kissoon taught for 25 years at St James Government Secondary School.

Born at 63 Mucurapo Road, St James, he also resided in Petit Valley, East Dry River and Maraval, and fathered two sons. Having spent a lifetime in theatre, Kissoon once said his greatest roles have been that of a husband and father.

Yesterday, National Drama Association of T&T (NDATT) president, Trevor Jadunath, said: “Freddie was one of the icons on the landscape of local theatre and up the Caribbean. He was always willing to share his ideas and his experiences with all. You can say he was ‘user friendly.’

“After listening to his whole philosophy on theatre and his writing, and how he casted actors, he was exceptional. He recently participated in the forums hosted by the Trinidad Theatre Workshop and I understand Tony Hall captured what he said, so at least we have that on record for posterity.

“He did some of his plays at The Little Carib Theatre at which I am the manager. On behalf of Little Carib and NDATT I wish to extend our deepest condolences.”

Popular thespian Michael Cherrie said: “I am in shock. There are a whole bunch of artistes who were born in 1930 who influenced theatre and the arts and Freddie was one of them. Artistes like Clint Eastwood, Dereck Walcott, Harold Pinter, Sir Peter Hall and Freddie Kissoon.

“Freddie really captured the voice of Trinidad and Tobago in his plays and writing. He really committed his role as a playwright and actor to Trinidad and Tobago; all of his entire professional life.

“The Strolling Players, which he founded, is one of the longest running repertory theatre companies in the Caribbean so he was truly committed. We have lost one of our greatest voices in theatre who really captured our stories.”

Veteran actor/director Raymond Choo Kong said: “I am in total shock as I didn’t know that Fredie had died. This is sad and tragic.

“The man is an icon of the theatre fraternity. He has been on the boards, long before a lot of us started. Freddie carried the theatre banner for many many years while we were still in training.

“I have never had the opportunity to work with him but I am aware of the large body of work he has done in theatre and in film.

“One of the unique qualities about Freddie is that he managed to utilise the regular person, the untrained person, and molded them into actors. He also did all of his writing, directing and coaching. When you think of it in today’s theatre is quite a feat and acknowledgment. Freddie Kissoon will be missed.”

Ha Ha Ha Theatre Company and Necessary Arts director and multiple Cacique Award recipient Penelope Spencer described Kissoon’s passing as “a loss.”

She said: “I feel so lost because this is a piece of our theatre history that has gone. Condolences to his family.”

Reports indicate that Kissoon might have died as far back as last Tuesday. It was also reported on social media that the police do not suspect foul play.

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