Tag Archives: Gisele Isaac

Playwrights and Screenwriters (the Antigua-Barbuda connection)

I wanted to create a separate page for playwrights and screenwriters. You won’t find these in the listing of Antiguan and Barbudan writers or any of the genre listings, unless they’ve written books. This list refers specifically to contributions as writers for screen and stage, and specifically to productions which have had a public viewing. It is a work in progress, so please inform me of any errors/omissions/oversights. T’anks.

Antiguan & Barbudan Theatre – a brief background (source: The Cambridge Guide to Theatre edited by Martin Banham) – “A party of amateurs opened Antigua’s first theatre in 1788…visiting companies came for a week’s run, their performances reinforced by local actors. The West India Sketchbook (1835) mentions a theatre in Antigua with amateurs performing Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer along with a PANTOMIME called Harlequin Planter, or The Land of Promise. This latter – containing ‘aboriginal savages’, their evil spirit Maboya, white settlers, black slaves [edit: enslaved Black people], Astraea, the goddess of justice, members of the Anti-Slavery Society, HARLEQUIN and Columbine – might count as one of the earliest pieces of native Caribbean theatre, dealing as it does with the local scene…Antiguans recall, from the 1930s, the OPERETTAS and MUSICALS presented by one Nellie Robinson of the TOR Memorial High School. In 1952 the Community Players were formed, causing a stir in local circles when, led by the drama tutor of the University of the West Indies, they created the village play Priscilla’s Wedding using local dialect…in 1967 the Antigua University Centre was established, with a 400-seat open-air theatre. Several short lived theatre groups sprung up at this time.” (p. 319) – bold and italics mine.

This list has several sources (cited as much as possible), including: Windies_drama_bibliography_master_Aug_2013

PLAYWRIGHTS

(Playwright?)           – Rising from the Ashes (toured to Dominica, 1988). Performed by Popular Theatre Movement (“…started in village communities, where role-playing, discussion and creative play-making help to identify issues and suggest solutions” – The Cambridge Guide to African and Caribbean Theatre).

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Eleston Nambalumbu Nambalala Adams b. 1954. Founder, in 1979, of the Rio Revealers, which according to the World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre, Volume 2, the Americas Volume 2, his plays, referred to as “slapstick drama, have been taken to the islands of Montserrat, St. Martin, and St. Thomas.” The bibliography of drama in English by Caribbean writers, to 2010
compiled by George Parfitt and Jessica Parfitt indicates that he is believed to have authored 14 plays but could not confirm. Adams has been a teacher, reporter (Daily Observer newspaper), and minister of government, including a stint as culture minister. (listing lacks itemization of individual plays and year of first production – help fill the gaps if you can)

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Zahra Airall – Airall has founded, written, and directed several theatre companies. Her  Zee’s Youth Theatre produced the well-received School Bag (2009). In 2015, her adult company, Sugar Apple Theatre, teamed up with Dorbrene O’Marde for a revival of Harambee’s Tangled Web (read my reaction post). Sugar Apple Theatre returned with Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues (previously staged in Antigua by Women of Antigua of which she was a founding member and co-director) in 2019 (my review here). It’s worth noting that Airall, a teacher, also took the winning local team (Antigua Girls High School) to the 2015 Caribbean Secondary Schools Drama Festival where she served as writer and director for their performance of her play The Forgotten. Read review/coverage of that outing here. She followed up this production with Whispers in Wallings which netted her and her Antigua Girls High School students best production, best direction, and a number of other prizes (8 overall) at the 2015 National Secondary Schools Drama Festival. She’s also taken youth theatre to other Caribbean countries e.g. in 2018, AGHS’ Honey Bee Theatre went on a UN sponsored tour to Turks and Caicos with her play Light in the Dark which was also performed domestically.34866707_10216231041392992_5275010203664777216_n51570598_2280465188855414_7601810432784859136_n In 2019, Honey Bee Theatre presented The Long Walk (reviewed here) in Antigua and again, that summer, at the Caribbean Secondary Schools Drama Festival, winning a plethora of prizes including best production, direction, and screenplay. Also in 2019, Honey Bee Theatre took on Derek Walcott, while Sugar Apple Theatre, after a triumphant 2019 outing with the revival of the Vagina Monologues, announced plans for an original production and its take on Shakespeare in 2020. Zahra Airall, a multi-National Youth Award winner, and Woman of Wadadli awardee for fine arts, was born in the theatre, figuratively speaking, as her parents were performers with Dorbrene O’Marde’s Harambee; and she won her first prize in 1992 at age 9 as the youngest person to submit to the Rick James Ensemble One Act Play Competition.

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Antigua Community Players – This group was inaugurated in 1952. Musical dramas written and performed by the players include Priscilla’s Wedding (groundbreaking for its time as a benchmark in local theatre), Night Must Fall, Guest in The House, Outward Bound, See How They Run, Charley’s Aunt, A Christmas Carol, and Celebration in the Market Place – all collaborative pieces written by the Players. The group eventually morphed into a choral group well known for its folk music presentations and musical productions. Dame Yvonne Maginley (deceased as of 2019) was instrumental in this aspect, taking on the role of musical director in 1957. The Antigua Community Players’ first operetta was Betty Lou; annual concerts followed, and, in 1972, the Players produced Ballad Antigua, written by well known composer of Caribbean songs Irvine Burgie,  and presented it in  Antigua, Montserrat and in Guyana.  Following the success of Ballad the Community Players produced Gilbert & Sullivan’s Mikado (in 1973), HMS Pinafore (in 1975 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the commissioning of Nelson’s Dockyard and in 1995 to mark the Players’ 43rd Anniversary), and Pirates of Penzance (in 1986). The Antigua Community Players performed at the 1982 World’s Fair in Tennessee, and, in 1984, during the 150th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the city in Rochester, New York and also in the Annual Lilac Festival. The Players have performed in New York; Miami; Washington; Toronto; London Ontario, Canada; Birmingham and Leicester; the News Day Parade in London, England; Syracuse; St Croix; and St Thomas. As musical director, Dame Yvonne Maginley composed many songs over the years that have added to the Antiguan and Barbudan catalogue of folk music.

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Antigua Dance Academy – Antigua and Barbuda’s premier Afro-Caribbean folk dance group since 1991, ADA has put on several productions that have included drama scripted by members of the troupe. This includes, as part of ADA’s Out of the Drum folk rhythm festival, a 2008 street theatre presentation on national hero King Court/Prince Klaas/Tackey’s rebellion with guest performances by Nevis’s Rhythmz Dance Theatre and Trinidad’s Shashamane recreating, respectively, plantation fieldwork and African stick fighting. Francine Carbey, as the ADA’s resident drama tutor and artistic director, is, with founder Veronica Yearwood, the force behind these dramatic turns. Other members have contributed plays to ADA productions – e.g. Samantha Zachariah who wrote her first play for the group in 2010. Read more on ADA.

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Barbara Arrindell – Call Me Klass (1998) – based on and inspired by the life of National Hero and leader of an aborted 1736 uprising of enslaved Africans in Antigua and Barbuda Prince Klaas/King Court/Tackey. Initially staged as a Black History Month fundraiser.

Dreams…Faces…Reality (2001). The play tells the story of a healthy young man whose life is turned upside down following a routine physical which showed that he was HIV positive. Arrindell was author and director. Stagings included an initial 2001 World AIDS Day performance by the Optimist Club of St. John’s Youth Drama Group, a 2002 Black History Month performance, several 2003 stagings, including one in Anguilla, by the Optimist Club at the Pares Secondary School. Between 2005-2006, it was staged over 15 times by the Friends Hotline for Youth to stir conversation among secondary school students in Antigua and Barbuda. Another drama group performed select scenes in 2007 at churches across the island to reduce the stigmatization of HIV/AIDS. It has been adapted for radio broadcast, running for several years on Observer Radio in the build-up to World AIDS Day.

Barbara Arrindell speaks with the audience after a performance of the AIDS themed ‘Dreams…Faces…Reality’ performed by the Optimist Club of St. John’s Youth Drama Group

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Edson Buntin – Anu Bantu: Treasure Island and Haunted Park (published). Dramatist, instructor in French at the Antigua State College; his contributions to theatre have been both onstage and off, as an actor including serving as a cast member in the 1979 production of Dorbrene O’Marde’s Tangled Web and as founder of the Scaramouche Theatre and overseeing several productions at the College, such as Conjugal Bliss. Plays written by Buntin include Con Man Sun Sun, Mr. Valentine, and Wedlock. He has also acted in local films such as Once in an Island. (Dates unknown – help fill the blanks if you can)

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David Edgecombe – Edgecombe, a theatre and public speaking lecturer at the University of the Virgin Islands, is not Antiguan and Barbudan but his play Lady of Parham (shortlisted as of 2015 for the Guyana Prize for Literature), published by Caribbean Reads (2014), is set in Antigua and based on the mystery surrounding the ghost of Parham. Per the Caribbean Reads description, it “introduces the audience to five revellers who have come together to form a Carnival troupe but settle for dramatizing the tale of the Parham ghost. In the telling of the ghost legend, Justin, Tulip, Sauna, Kyle, and Mabel must confront the demons that threaten to derail their lives.” Lady of Parham premiered in St. Thomas and has since played in other Caribbean countries like Dominica and Montserrat, where Edgecombe was a founder of the Montserrat Theatre Group. His other works (unrelated to Antiguan and Barbudan theatre – to the best of my knowledge) include For Better For Worse, Making It, Coming Home to Roost, and Heaven.

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Gus Edwards – b. 1939 in Antigua and raised in St. Thomas, he moved to New York in 1959 – his plays have been showcased by the Negro Ensemble of NY among other companies across the US. Initially, a protégé of Stella Adler, he worked as an actor in films and on stage. But limited by his accent, he began writing his own material. These included The Offering (1977), Black Body Blues (1978), Old Phantoms (1979), These Fallen Angels (1980), Weep Not for Me (1981), Tenement (1983), Manhattan Made Me (1983), Ramona (1986), Louie and Ophelia (1986), Moody’s Mood Cafe (1989), Lifetimes on the Streets (1990), Restaurant People (1990), Tropicana (1992), Frederick Douglass (1992), Testimony (1993), Confessional (1994), Dear Martin, Dear Coretta (1995), Slices one-acts (1996), Drought Country (1997), Night Cries (1998), and Black Woman’s Blues (1999). Most of his plays are reportedly set in “the slums and ghettoes of New York…his characters often exist outside of the boundaries of what is thought to be appropriate behavior in society.” (Notable Caribbeans and Caribbean Americans: a Biographical Dictionary, p. 157). His works for television include Aftermath (1979) and a TV adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel Go Tell It on the Mountain. He also wrote narration on the Negro Ensemble Company for PBS. Though self-taught, the critically acclaimed playwright has taught theatrical writing at several US colleges and became associate professor of theatre at Arizona State University, directing  where the multi-ethnic theatre and teaching in the film studies programme. In 2000, he was appointed artistic director to the Scottsdale Ensemble Theatre in Scottsdale, Arizona. “He has published Classic Plays of the Negro Ensemble (1995), Monologues on Black Life (1997), and More Monologues on Black Life (2000). Several of his plays have also been published… Gus Edwards is one of the first Caribbean writers  to contribute to American theatre.” (Notable Caribbean and Caribbean Americans: a Biographical Dictionary, p. 158)

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Lonne ElderCeremonies in Dark Old Men (1971) – performed by the Open Air Theatre.

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Oliver Flax – A Better Way (1976) – directed by Edgar Davis – and The Legend of Prince Klaas (1972) – the latter of which was sent to be performed at Carifesta in Guyana in 1972. Performed by Bobby Margetson’s Little Theatre.

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Linisa George – one of the writer/directors and producers (as part of Women of Antigua) behind the production When a Woman Moans (below). Brown Girl in the Ring, a poem from that production has become a significant part of her brand (as a publication aesthetic) and has been performed at different fora including the CARA Festival in Antigua in 2009 , the 2012 Poetry Parnassus in London, and, after publication in a special Antigua and Barbuda edition of online journal Tongues of the  Ocean, Shakespeare in Paradise, 2015, in the Bahamas.

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Tom Green – Tom Green is British, not Antiguan, though he did lead a masterclass on playwriting here in Antigua and is listed here because of a play of his that is based in Antigua. The play is entitled Antigua and it is the story of bestselling writer Katherine Sampson, whose second book is overdue by two years when her agent sends her to the Caribbean with instructions not to return without a finished manuscript. In Antigua, she meets an enigmatic American be-devilled by his own problems. This play was first produced at the Tabard Theatre in London in 2006. Green’s other plays (unrelated to Antigua and Barbuda – to the best of my knowledge) include The Death of Margaret Thatcher, A Place in the Sun, and Talking in Bed.

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Joanne C. Hillhouse – known, primarily, as a fiction writer/published author, but some of her first public writings were plays: e.g. Barman’s Blues, not staged but joint second placed winner  (her first creative writing prize) in the Rick James Theatre Ensemble One Act Play Competition in 1992; Changes (Sisters and Daughters), Hillhouse’s first full length play, staged in 1990, by the State College Drama Society one of two done while she was a student at the Antigua State College; and Trials of Life, showcased as a Taylor Hall entry in dramatic competition at the University of the West Indies while she was a student there (sometime between 1992 and 1995). The actress in that play received honourable mention. Several of her poems were incorporated into scripts for stagings of Women of Antigua’s When a Woman Moans in the early aughts. Hillhouse who has scripted documentaries, ads, and public service announcements for clients or as part of public education programmes, on the creative tip had her (short) screenplay, Is Like a Like It, excerpted in The Caribbean Writer Volume 27 in 2013.

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Cleopatra Isaac, Paula Henry, and Darleen Beazer -co-scripted Journey to Heaven which was performed by participants in The Young Leaders programme at Sir McChesney George Secondary School and members of the Barbudan community. April 10 2006 Daily Observer(article published April 10th 2006 in the Daily Observer)

The play, performed in 2006 in Barbuda and Antigua, focused on a young man’s gradual understanding of repentance and forgiveness ‘after death’, and explored the concept that no more than 6 degrees of separation exists between people, meaning an individual’s actions always affects the lives of others. The actors were Devon Warner, Tenesha Beazer, Salim Cephas, Adonia Henry, and Leona Desouza. “Shaping the Future” was the theme of the 2006 Young Leaders’ project, and it encompassed cherishing life, embracing family values, and respecting one another. In the play, the value of respect is addressed in drama, dance, and song, using all aspects of the arts to embrace a vision.

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Owen Jackson – As writer/director with the National Youth Theatre, Jackson produced several plays including After 9/11 (2007) and My Birthright (2007). (entry incomplete – help fill in dates and other productions if you can)

Owen Jackson taking high school students through a drama warm up exercise.

Youth drama club – tableau in downtown store window … and attracting a small crowd doing it

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George ‘Rick’ Jamesdeceased September 2018. Various plays including the one man play Oulaudah Equiano (1990) about “the engrossing story in living detail of an Igbo prince, his enslavement, and freedom” (book summary), Gallows Humour in 2005, and 2007’s Our Country, timed to coincide with the bicentenary of the abolition British Empire Atlantic Slave Trade, and unique for telling, on a stage constructed in the open air of the King George V grounds, drawing a vast cast from a mixed pool of local professionals who were amateur thespians, and tracking the life of Antigua and Barbuda from pre-Columbian times to present.

Our Country: an arawak chief Our Country: Slave ship scene

slaves at market

His Rick James Ensemble encouraged young and future Antiguan and Barbudan writers like Zahra Airall and Joanne C. Hillhouse through its One Act Play Writing Competition. James was also an actor in US and especially British theatre and television

James performing in Sit Quietly on the Baulk

for many years, and an award winning costume designer in local mas.

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Colin Jno Finn – playwright and director with the Nazarene Drama Team – On the Block (2008) of a young man’s struggles with the church; Nine to Five (2009) about challenges in the work place; It’s Too Late (2010) of a strained relationship between a father and son; and Power Struggle (2011) of one person’s attempts to boost another from office. Read my review of Power Struggle here.

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Jamaica Kincaid – Her 1998 book A Small Place was staged at the Gate Theatre in London in 2018 in what was described as so faithful an adaptation that the text is performed entirely in its original form.

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Edgar O. LakeSome Quiet Mornin’; Matters of Antiguan Conspiracy: 1736; The Stone Circle; The Killing of Arthur Sixteen; more… (incomplete + unsure of publication production status + dates unknown – help fill in dates and other productions if you can)

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Iyaba Ibo Mandingo – ‘He is a Poet, Painter, Writer, Sculptor, Actor, Teacher, Mentor, Author and “continued work in progress”, as he puts it…His Self-Portrait, a one-man play performed in his studio, speaks of his life through poetry and prose, concurrent to him painting his self-portrait during the show.’ – from this interview with the artiste which also references his chap books (41 Times and Amerikkkan Exile), his company (Iyabarts), his art series (War, Spirit Drawings), in addition to his plays (Self-Portrait which has grown into unFRAMED, his first full length play), and forthcoming work (novel Sins of My Fathers, chap book 30 Days of Ink, ad the off Broadway run of unFRAMED). As his biography shows, he is a native Antiguan who migrated to the U.S. as a boy.  These roots as well as his experiences in America infuse unFRAMED as seen in this excerpt.

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Motion (Wendy Brathwaite) – Canadian of Antiguan descent, Motion’s stage productions (as writer, director, performer, or any mix of the three) include  Aneemah’s Spot/The Base, 4our Woman, ORALTORIO: A Theatrical Mixtape, and Dancing to a White Boy Song   featured at several renowned venues such as the International Black Playwrights Festival, Cross Currents Festival,  the Rock.Paper.Sistaz Festival, and the Summerworks Theatre Festival.

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Andrew O’MardeO Lord, Why Lord? and Tell It Like It Is with Harambee Open Air Theatre.

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Dorbrene O’Marde –  – synonymous with quality theatre in Antigua and Barbuda in theatre’s heyday (i.e. the 1970s to early 1980s), his Harambee Open Air Theatre (a 1972 merger of the Grammarians and the University Centre’s Open Air Theatre) is “considered the most important group of recent times” (from The Cambridge Guide to Theatre by Martin Banham). O’Marde is a graduate of the Antigua Grammar School, UWI Cave Hill, University of Toronto, and Tulane University where he obtained a Masters of Public Health. He has been credited as a playwright, director and producer of theatre and music, newspaper/magazine columnist, public speaker, and calypso writer, judge and analyst. His involvement in calypso has included crafting hits for artistes like Scorpion, Stumpy, Singing Althea, and others; though his biggest contribution to the art form is arguably the seminal Calypso Talk magazine, an annual chronicle of the art and the issues surrounding the art. He also wrote Nobody Go Run Me, the biography of  Antigua and Barbuda’s Monarch King Short Short, which was longlisted for the 2015 Bocas prize, in addition to the novel Send Out You Hand.

O’Marde’s career in theatre began with the Antigua Students Association in 1965 (You the Jury, Devil’s Advocate, Androcles and the Lion – English classics). Jezebel (1955) and Star Bomber (1962) are credited as two of his earliest works. His involvement in theatre continued, between 1968 and 1971, with the Cave Hill Drama Group (UWI, Barbados) when other theatre notables like Dominica’s Alwin Bully, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Clement Bouncing Williams, and St. Lucia’s Robert Lee were all students.

O’Marde was a member of the Theatre Information Exchange (TIE) and the Eastern Caribbean Popular Theatre Organization (ECPTO) and was involved in cultural research with both these organizations. He formed Harambee in 1972.

In addition to directing plays by other notables from the Caribbean theatre scene and beyond, O’Marde wrote and directed Homecoming, For Real: A Caribbean Play in Three Acts (1976), Fly on the Wall (1977), Fire Go BunFor Real, We Nativity, The Minister’s Daughter – which was adapted from the novel of the same name by Nigerian writer Obi Egbuna, We Nativity – which included songs by Antiguan and Barbudan lyricist Shelly Tobitt, Tangled Web (1979), Badplay (1991 for the Family Planning Unit), and This World Spin One Way (1998); and directed several others. Read more about his work in calypso and on the stage, plus his other cultural work in BIOGRAPHY deo 2010 . Tangled Web, according to the World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre, Volume 2, the Americas, Volume 2, prompted the government to legislate against civil servants participating in  plays critical of the government.

       

Before going dormant in the late-eighties, Harambee took productions to Montserrat, St. Kitts, Dominica, Barbados, St. Thomas, and Saba.

O’Marde has returned with a couple of productions since then, notably 1998’s This World Spin One Way – which has also had stagings by directors Jean Small, Director UWI Creative Arts Centre, and David Edgecombe, Director Reichhold Centre, and a revival of Tangled Web with Zahra Airall’s Sugar Apple Theatre in 2015. He also lent technical support to Women of Antigua’s first staging of the Vagina Monologues in 2008.
Read my review of This World Spin One Way.
Read my ‘review’ of Tangled Web. (some dates still missing + full listing – help fill in dates and other productions if you can)

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Sislyn Peters – One of her plays, Trust, was adapted by the City College of New York’s English Department, Division of Humanities & Arts, and performed at the Aaron Davis Hall, in 2001. Peters was born in Antigua and graduated Princess Margaret High School. As a child, she wrote verses, and short stories. As a teenager, she sang with local bands, including Pat Edwards’ Playboys, and Vere Anthony’s Teen Stars. See poetry for her other accomplishments.

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Eustace Simon – several plays including Crossroads, The Awakening, Betty’s Hope, and Illusive Dreams. 1990s. Modern Theatre. 2000s. National Theatre Group. Announced launch of a National Theatre channel on CTV in 2012. (dates missing + full listing – help fill in dates and other productions if you can)

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Lester SimonObeah Slave (taken in 1969 by the Grammarians to Montserrat and Barbados).

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Monique S. Simon – The Antigua-born, US-based writer adapted Adynah from a novel-in-progress, which has been illustrated, excerpted and published in Carib Beat, and which won a NY Council on the Arts Award for (First Chapter of a Novel in Progress) and a Cropper Foundation grant.  The play was based on one of the book’s character’s Adynah Williams, described as the kind of local cook whose delicacies are sold from her house on weekends and who is first to be called for catering a local event. The story was produced as a three vignette play for Know Theatre in New York in the Fall of 2003. Simon scripted and directed voices of Caribbean people living and working in the area, pre-recorded and editing those voices so that they could provide off stage interaction during the one-woman show. Simon not only wrote, directed, and starred in the play, she designed the set  – all while working as a full time professor at Broome Community College in Binghampton, NY.

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Elaine Spires – Elaine is from Essex in the UK and in the 2000s, after years of bringing tours to Antigua, also established a seasonal home here. She’s run workshops in Antigua and participated (as writer and actress) in Women of Antigua’s When a Woman Moans. She’s also created content for the stage and screen, some inspired by and set in Antigua. Her Adventures of Maisie and Em (later adapted to film with Spires playing Em and Heather Doram playing Maisie, characters debuted on stage in When a Woman Moans). Her Antigua plays include Singles Holiday, about a group of vacationing Brits, which was adapted in to a novel and then had a third life as a play on the English stage (2014), and Sweet Lady, about a mother and daughter and an island tryst, which was staged in Antigua before also becoming a novel. (missing dates – fill in if you can)

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Stage One – This youth drama collective led by Kanika Simpson-Davis favours adaptations (which involves some re-scripting) of popular tales like Cinderella , Snow White, and Anansi and Snake. 2004 – present (?)

Stage One: Anansi and Snake

Stage One: Cinderella Reloaded 2007 Stage One: scene from Cinderella

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Leon Chaku SymisterVoices of Protest (1976); and Time Bomb (1977); Tilting Scales (1980). Third World Theatre. According to the World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre, Volume 2, the Americas, Volume 2, it was thought to be too libelous for public airing but played to crowded houses at the University Centre.

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Various writers – Women of Antigua – playwrights/actresses/directors Linisa George and Zahra Airall shepherd this femalecentric brand of theatrical activism. The original production When A Woman Moans  was staged in 2010 and 2012, and mostly scripted by Airall and George with inputs from Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau, Joanne C. Hillhouse, Floree Williams, Greschen Edwards (another WOA founding partner), Melissa Elliott, Marcella Andre, Carel Hodge, Mickel Brann, Brenda Lee Browne, Craig Edward, Nekisha Lewis, Kimolisa Mings, Elaine Spires, and Jihan Lewis. Women of Antigua debuted with Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues in 2008 and this locally conceived, similarly themed production, was its successor. Both productions over two nights brought the curtain down on WOA’s theatrical activities in 2012.

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Vaughn Walterdeceased as of 2019. Culture Director and head of Antigua and Barbuda’s CARIFESTA planning committee. Active in theatre and film, and in staged productions for pageants and festivals through the years. (entry incomplete – if you can help fill it out email wadadlipen@gmail.com)

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Amber Williams-King – In 2010, Amber Williams-King participated in the AMY (or Artists Mentoring Youth) project, helping to create Step Right Up which received 3/4 stars from Toronto’s NOW magazine. In 2011, she wrote a play: Love and its Dialects which ran in the Paprika Festival at Tarragon Theatre in Canada where she resides. In 2010, she received first-honourable mention in the Scarborough Arts Council’s inaugural Writer’s Month literary competition. Her poetry has been published in the anthology Holla! A Collection of Womenz Wordz and in So the Nailhead Bend, So the Story End.

SCREENWRITERS

Zahra Airall – When No One Is Looking (2012, short film, an ABS TV Production in collaboration with the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS) – also co-director.

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Howard Allen (also producer/director) – (w/Jermilla Kirwan) Diablesse (2005, HAMAfilms); and The Skin (2011, HAMAfilms) – reviewed here.

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Alexis AndrewsVanishing Sail – here’s the trailer. Winner of the Caribbean Spirit Award for Best Overall Feature at the Caribbean Tales awards and People’s Choice for Best Documentary at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival.

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Oteh Thomas Anyandjuh (African born, resident in Antigua) – Love that Bites (2010,  OTA Entertainment and Third Eye Studios) – also director.

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Shashi Balooja (also an actor, director, casting director, and producer on stage and screen; from Antigua but resident in the US) – w/Cecile George and Michael Sandoval, film short Ariana (2004, ABC Film & Video/Andrisk Inc/Media at Large, USA); w/Roger Sewhcomar, documentary The Altruist (2009, Media at Large/ABC Film & Video, USA); w/Caytha Jentis Exposed (2012, Media at Large, USA) – winner feature film award and genre award at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival; w/Stephen Kelleher, film short Promises of Home (2012, Media at Large/Reverse Momentum Films, USA). Balooja had plans to extend Ariana into a feature film.

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Francoise Bowen conceived and wrote Back to Africa (directed by Anderson Edghill) which she described as a “short documentary (depicting) a little piece of Antigua and Barbuda’s history (specifically that enslaved people thought Africa was nearby). Bowen went on to found the Francoise Acting Studio which, among other things, has run workshops and produced The Story of Four (a video series promoting safe sex).

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Centelia BrowneIdle Hands – (A Wadadli Plus production, a short film).  Credits say ‘A Film By’ which is usually the director credit and there is no separate screenwriter credit. 2019.

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Courtney BoydThe Grove – (A Wadadli Plus production with C-BEN Pictures, a Nut Grove Production – web series pilot written and directed by Boyd who also directed other Wadadli Plus productions such as The Diagnosis) – 2019.

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Cinque Productions (Chris Hodge and Melissa Gomez, also producer, director) Deaf Not Dumb (2000, short fiction film), 2 Dolla Picture

Melissa assessing a shot as her camera man looks on.

(2001, animated short), Share and Share Alike (2008, documentary – 2010 winner of Best Documentary Production at the Berlin Black International Cinema Festival), Changing Course (2009, film short), and Silent Music (2012, documentary) silent-music-poster[1] co-writer/producer/editor Jay Prychidny. Silent Music, a portrait of Gomez’s deaf family won Best Documentary at the 2014 Maine Deaf Film Festival and the 2012 Caribbean Tales Film Festival, as well as the Audience Choice Awards at the 2013 Toronto Deaf Film & Arts Festival. Gomez, resident in the US, also has a project known as the Baby Mini Doc Project which creates day in the life documentaries which capture “every day moments and milestones with your littlest ones”. Melissa has worked on a number of other projects in the US, including co-producing Makers (PBS) and Nine for IX (ESPN), producing behind the scenes content for Hell on Wheels and Low Winter Sun (AMC), and serving as supervising producer on Me on My TV (FLOW). She has worked as a freelance production manager on advertising campaigns for H & M and Malibu Rum. Melissa has a Masters of Arts degree in Screen Documentary from Goldsmiths College, University of London, and a Bachelor of Arts in New Media from Ryerson University in Toronto.

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Alvin Glen EdwardsOnce in an Island

on the set of ‘Once in an Island’  Jermilla Kirwan in a scene from Once in an Island

(2009, Wadadli Pictures) – also producer. The feature film has since been adapted into a book (released 2012).

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Bridgette HannifordMy Time Now (A Wadadli Plus production, a film short directed by Melissa McLeish, 2020)

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Roland ‘Mayfield’ Hosier – He didn’t work from a written script but he’s the pioneer behind Antigua and Barbuda’s earliest forays into (largely improvised) film production producing The Fugitive, 1972, and Midtown Robbers, 1978.

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Noel Howell – He was the co-writer (with Courtney Boyd), director and producer of Redemption of Paradise (2009, Color Bars Production) – best actress and best Caribbean film at the 2010 Jamaica Reggae Film Festival; as well as a video producer and independent publisher on projects like Once in an Island (co-producer/co-director). In 2017, he also directed (per IMDB) a film adaptation of The Little Rude Boys/Girls, a child-written book he published in 2010.

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D. Gisele Isaac

  MANGO-Poster-800x400 The Sweetest Mango (2001, HAMAfilms); and No Seed (2002, HAMAfilms). Antigua and Barbuda’s first and second feature-length films. Isaac also wrote regularly for the stage in the form of the skits included in the annual (in the 2000s) ‘Programme’ put on by the Professional Organization of Women in Antigua and Barbuda; usually a political satire.

POWA’s Programme

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Tameka Jarvis-George –

Ugly – short film (2011, Wadadli Film Studios) for which she provided character monologue – 2011

Dinner

On the set of Dinner, Tameka with her co-star and husband.

(2010, Cinque Productions w/Chris Hodge directing and Jarvis-George also acting and serving as co-executive producer) – film short versed on her poem of the same name from the collection Thoughts from the Pharcyde. UPDATE Here’s her report on the screening of the film at the Jamaica Film Festival and of her involvement (as a writing contributor) to Shabier Kirchner’s film short, Ugly. ANOTHER UPDATE! The film! courtesy BGR Mag TV:

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Jamaica Kincaid Life and Debt (a documentary film by Stephanie Mack; written by Jamaica Kincaid). 2001. New Yorker Films. USA.

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Shabier Kirchner – a cinematographer cum filmmaker with his short, Dadli (2018).

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Jermilla Kirwan – (w/Howard Allen) Diablesse (2005, Hamafilms) – also actress in this and The Sweetest Mango.

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Dr. James KnightThe Making of the Monarch – independently produced documentary on the Monarch King Short Shirt. 2013.

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Motion (Wendy Brathwaite) –

Rebirth

Rebirth of the Afronauts: a Black Space Odyssey (episode 7 of season 2 of Obsidian Theatre’s 21 Black Futures series) – New Year’s Eve 2059, the night before the long-awaited Reparations Day. Chariott receives a mysterious call that leads her on a curious ride through the world outside her bubble – where cities are sky high, curfew is in the streets, and it’s harder to tell hue-mans from the holograms. On this surreal road trip, she tunes into BlackSpaceX, along with a cadre of cryptic guides, finding herself on the astronomical journey of her life. Directed by Jerome Kruin, Performed by Chelsea Russell, with Music by NON. 2021.

Screen Shot 2020-09-15 at 2.08.17 PM Akilla’s Escape – the Antiguan-Canadian poet/writer co-wrote this feature with writer-director Charles Officer stars Saul Williams and explores what happens when a simple, routine drug handoff goes sideway, landing 40-year-old drug trader Akilla Brown in the middle of a violent robbery. Akilla must set things right and retrieve the stolen goods over the course of one arduous night. Akilla’s Escape debuted at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival.

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Nadya RaymondThe Diagnosis – (A Wadadli Plus production in association with Wadadli Creatives and C-BEN Pictures, a short film directed by Courtney Boyd). 2019.

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Elaine Spires – Elaine is from Essex in the UK and in the 2000s, after years of bringing tours to Antigua, also established a seasonal home here. Her writing credits (Spires is also an actress) include the TV series Paradise View, the Lawson Lewis edited promotional film shorts The Adventures of Maisie and Em – episodes Fix a Flat and Best Friend (Spires playing Em and Heather Doram playing Maisie, characters debuted on stage in When a Woman Moans) –

the vid clips were posted to youtube in 2013. Her novel Singles Holiday was reportedly also made in to a TV pilot.

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Chavel Thomas (credited as director; no writer credit is given) – Silence, Screams – short film (2016, Dotkidchavy x Jamzpari)

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Nigel Trellis (born Guyana, resident in Antigua) Hooked (2009, Tropical Films) Working Girl (2011, Tropical Films)

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Unknown/UncreditedThe Guest (2020, short film by Wadadli Plus)

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Keron ‘K-Wiz’ Wilson (credited as director; no writer credit is given) – The Date – short film (2013, Black Roots Records); Mechanic – short film (2013, Black Roots Records); Stationary – short film (2013, Black Roots Records)

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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An impossible question

A visiting grad student interviewing me for her thesis (which is focussed on Antiguan and Barbudan writing) put me on the spot yesterday, asking me to name my favourite Antiguan author (not the only impossible question she asked). Althea Prince (with books like How the East Pond Got Its Flowers which did such a good job of sharing aspects of our history and imprinting certain values in a child friendly way by just telling a good story, Loving this Man, Being Black and the Politics of Black Women’s Hair) was in there; Gisele Isaac (with her taboo breaking Considering Venus was in there)…she asked me what about Joy Lawrence and I noted that her work documenting especially Antiguan expression in The Way We Talk and Other Antiguan Folkways had served me as a teaching aid in my Communications classes when exploring, well, the ways we talk…and that got me thinking about her research into island folk history which led me to the book that laid the foundation within that post slavery folk memory genre in terms of the Antiguan and Barbudan literary canon and isrequired reading because of it in my view if you want to understand the Antiguan, and especially the African-Antiguan, Smith and Smith’s To Shoot Hard Labour…I may have mentioned that the first writers I was exposed to, enjoyed and learned from were the calypso writers, which would put Shelly Tobitt (the pen behind so many of my favourite calypsos) easily at the top of my list of favourite Antiguan writers…but in the end I went with the writings of our most renowned international literary celebrity Jamaica Kincaid because of the boldness of her writing, the way her stories though rooted in the particular are universal and timeless as a result, the poetry and layers of meaning in each of her lines, and because of memorable works like Annie John, Lucy, and for lifting the lid off of a taboo much like Isaac’s book My Brother  (yes, we discussed A Small Place too…everyone who wants to discuss Kincaid wants to discuss A Small Place, right?). But perhaps most significantly because I think when I discovered Annie John (a first since I would not have known there was such a thing as an Antiguan novelist before much less one breaking through at her level), I would have been able to begin to admit, if only to myself (it would be a while more before I could say it out loud), that this was what I wanted to do and maybe with hard work, persistence, and talent, it could be so. Maybe. Even for a then teenage girl from the working class community of Ottos, Antigua who’d been writing for a while and knew she wanted to keep writing but didn’t know what to make of this wish that didn’t fit the reality of her world, much less how to make it her reality.

And so I come to Kincaid’s latest book. It’s See Now Then. No, I haven’t read it yet (yet!). But here’s what Publishers’ Weekly had to say:

“In her first novel in a decade, Kincaid (Autobiography of My Mother) brings her singular lyricism and beautifully recursive tendencies to the inner life of Mrs. Sweet, who is facing the end of her marriage, and who, over the course of the book, considers the distinctions between her nows and her thens, particularly when recounting what was while the memories bleed with a pain that still is. Particularly touching is Kincaid’s rendering of motherhood. The immediacy of Mrs. Sweet’s small son’s toys—Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers—creates a significant foil to the ethereal interior echoes. Such is the reality of parenting…” Read More.

We have more on Kincaid on this site as well, if you want to check some of that out:

One of a Handful Still Alive: Strains of Resistance in the Fiction of Jamaica Kincaid by Dr. Carolyn Cooper

Reading Jamaica Kincaid’s My Brother as Testimonium by Victoria Bridges Moussaron

Spotlight – Jamaica Kincaid

Reflections on Jamaica by me

She has written a lot and remains at the forefront of a growing list of fiction and non fiction writers from Antigua and Barbuda.

Still, hate having to pick a single favourite of almost anything, though. So don’t ask me what happened when she asked about my favourite books and authors in general. I think in the end I told her to read the blog.

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, are okay, lifting content (words, images, other) wholesale from the site without asking and attributing is not cool. Respect copyright.

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D. Gisele Isaac Reviews Nobody Go Run Me by Dorbrene O’Marde

On September 6th 2013, I attended the launch of Nobody Go Run Me by Dorbrene O’Marde. The book is about the life and music of my favourite calypsonian, the legendary King Short Shirt.

Short Shirt doing a little impromptu performance during the launch - backed by members of his anniversary committee. (Photo courtesy Colin Cumberbatch)

Short Shirt doing a little impromptu performance during the launch – backed by members of his anniversary committee. (Photo courtesy Colin Cumberbatch)

I bought my copy during the launch, of course.

Photo courtesy Colin Cumberbatch.

Photo courtesy Colin Cumberbatch.

I’ve started reading it and I’m finding it to be a social and musical history beyond the individual artiste. It is the first of its kind for Antigua and Barbuda…and about time.

Below, I reprint, with permission, a review of the book written and presented by Considering Venus author and Calypso aficionado D. Gisele Isaac.

Photo courtesy Colin Cumberbatch.

Photo courtesy Colin Cumberbatch.

Nobody Go Run Me by Dorbrene E. O’Marde – Review Sept. 6, 2013, Museum of Antigua & Barbuda

Salutations

A man to whom Short Shirt refers as “Two Pardners,” a wiry feller called Elton Ryan, told me how peeved he was, nearly 15 years ago, when the CDC invited me to conduct a calypso workshop. “Whah she know about calypso,” he asked derisively, “when she nah even come from Point?” Consequently, my being asked to speak here tonight, on this salutary occasion, is not only an honour and a pleasure, but a vindication. As old people would say, I have gotten my “satisfaction;” so, Elton, wherever you are, tek dat!

When, last Friday night, Dorbrene issued the invitation and when, on Saturday morning, he brought the book to my house, I cannot tell you how excited, yet anxious, I was. And when I began reading it, I knew I had been right to be both. The excitement came about from his having captured, in print, nearly all of the emotions that Short Shirt, calypso, and Antigua have inspired in me over the years, as well as most of the analyses and conclusions to which I had come. I felt that this work was a chronicle, not so much of Short Shirt’s life and times, but of the times and the lives lived within the span and sphere of his influence. And on its timeline, I could identify exactly where I came in, at around 1969, in the same way that a person lost in a shopping mall can look at the directional map and find the dot that says, “You are here.” My anxiety, however, came about from realizing that this is not a “storybook.” Even though Dorbrene’s feelings are present throughout, in a way that is surprisingly understated – to me – knowing how worked-up about issues he can get, this is not a book about “feelings,” either. It is an exhaustively researched piece of work that pulls from commentary; documented facts; personal conversations and persons’ archives; and social, political and religious review, all placed in a national, regional or international context, as applicable.

In fact, you could easily say that this is two books in one, since the end-notes and appendices are, themselves, so interesting and educational. Hence, my anxiety: Being no scholar, myself, how could I impress all of this upon the audience? I’m still not sure, but you know I am going to try, as I touch upon the highlights of my reading experience for you:

Though I am no longer young, I am yet too young to have known, firsthand, the art form known as Benna, even as I am old enough to remember its use to denote anything other than church music. Since I did not have the benefit of seeing or hearing Quarkoo in his heyday, Dorbrene educates me in the early pages of the book on those inputs and influences that made this art form Antiguan, but not necessarily unique, and paves the way, from Jamaica to Guyana for the coming of the Antiguan calypso and, eventually, the entry of Short Shirt.

Along the way I got lessons in history and sociology, as he showed what happened when first we began working for the Yankee dollar; the realities and brutalities of what it meant to be “a man” in the community of The Point; and proof of the fact that before LaTumba called for its liberation, culture and music were, indeed, free in Antigua & Barbuda. Free, yes, but hotly contested, too. For I also learned that our calypsonians, in their own country, had to fight to taste the honey in the rock called the tourism industry, having to tussle with the likes of Sparrow and Melody and Brynner, and bringing to birth the 1963 calypso Parasites, written by Marcus Christopher.

The beauty of all this research is that while I certainly knew Parasites, as well as No Place Like Home, Heart Transplant, and Carnival on the Moon – having heard them on the radio and learning the choruses, as a child – this was the first time, ever, that I was learning the genesis, the origins, of these songs. And in this regard, in the filling in of the spaces, the putting of meat on the bones, Dorbrene has done a fine job of educating his readers.

Photo courtesy Colin Cumberbatch.

Photo courtesy Colin Cumberbatch.

As I noted earlier, I entered this calypso milieu as a young girl – but not the type whose “skirt well short and she legs look plum’, plum’, plum’,” causing Short Shirt to appeal to the magistrate. No, I was a teenager listening to – and hearing – Awake the Youths. It was not so long ago that a friend and I were discussing what it meant to have grown up conscious in the 1970s; and we spoke, specifically, to this song; its message; its calling. This was a song that didn’t just speak to us in those days when everything seemed possible; it reached into us and took us out of ourselves. When Short Shirt sang “… they are the fruits of this nation and its salvation” and “that to save a dying world is their destiny,” I will tell you, Brothers and Sisters, that I got saved, there and then. For when it comes to “this land,” I feel like a fire is shut up within my bones.

I think it would be relatively easy today to distinguish those who grew up on Short Shirt’s political commentary from those who only know his dance music. As has been said before, and as is quoted, extensively, throughout the book, songs like The Pledge, Cry for a Change, Power and Authority, In Spite of All, Hands off Harmonites, and the title piece of this book, Nobody Go Run Me, speak to a universality of feeling, of experience, that transcends place and time.

I met a man recently who told me that, growing up, he always knew when his mother, a Trinidadian in Canada, was on the warpath. And when she began to sing, “Nobody go run me from whey me come from,” everybody knew to keep out of her way. And, as the examples cited in the book bear out, these songs’ timeliness and timelessness transcend even political affiliation, for here at home they have been used to lick both the wild goat and the tame, Government and Opposition, in and out of office. Same people!

Dorbrene told me last week to speak my truth, and so I must say here that there are a few places where I veer sharply away from his analysis and conclusions, apart from his interpretation of For Sale. And one of them is his treatment of Lamentation, which he calls “but a woeful surrender of the revolutionary spirit.” Short Shirt lost the competition singing this song, in 1973, and I found it ironic that Dorbrene’s comment on that loss is “that the crowds at the Antigua Recreation Ground … did not think [it] either appealing or relevant.” He adds that by the 2007 Caribbean Monarch Competition, which Short Shirt won singing Lamentation, “the crowd had already made it an anthem.” What Dorbrene’s statements say to me – although I’m sure that is not what he intended – is that is long, long time crowd reaction and not criteria determining the crown… . Anyway, on the basis that Lamentation is true to its title and theme; is rich  in imagery and use of language; and is brilliantly sung, I give it its place among Short Shirt’s and calypso’s greats.

And, just briefly, the other place where our paths diverge is in Dorbrene’s revulsion at Short Shirt’s playful dig at King Obstinate in the gender-bending/homosexual song Patricia. I can almost see Dorbrene recoil when he references the term “this little lad,” and asserts at the end of the sentence, “No!” But this is revisionism, at best. Rather than see it as debauchery, from a 2013 perspective, I think it is quite okay to acknowledge that this was simply 1960s sensibility – or lack of it – and that the singer was simply “singing what he see.”

I think that to judge yesterday’s calypso content by today’s so-called enlightened standards would mean going back to Two Women Cussing on Greenbay Hill and having Ellen-man not pelt a thump, and putting Maud’s false teeth back in her mouth… . What I think is more important to acknowledge is that the very existence of Patricia and Josephine proves that, before homophobia was inflicted upon Antigua & Barbuda, our society sought not only love and understanding, but unity.

Growing up Caribbean, I knew well – and Dorbrene documents it even better – that not in Antigua & Barbuda, not even in progressive Trinidad & Tobago, was the female agenda on anyone’s front burner, politically, socially, or otherwise. All that was expected of us, essentially, was that we be sex partner and mother. This is borne out in Me Man, You Woman, and underscored in Lamentation when Short Shirt sings, “Female liberation/Even women want their freedom,” and follows it up a couple lines later by asking, “Where will this end if it keeps on?” Hence, one of the things I grappled with over the years is how to reconcile my deeply rooted love for calypso with my stance as a feminist.

Well, in Dorbrene’s book, I met up with several of the women who’ve influenced and brought joy to my life, and they told me how to do it. I’m talking about the elusive Elaine; the feisty Miss Yvette; the party-girls like Lucinda, Angela and Jennifer; the exuberant but graceless Tourist Leggo. In them, as one- or two-dimensional as they might have been drawn in song, I discovered that there really is no dichotomy, no contradiction, in being a calypso-loving Caribbean feminist. For in these women I found identity and wholeness. In the midst of a national mindset that might have seen women and girls only in limited ways – whether as “sweet little girl” or the “little girl I love so bad” – I recognized defiance and triumph in how they managed to take those so-called weaknesses and make them strengths.

That is why I cheer for Elaine, who despite Short Shirt’s perennial lust, still “got away twice;” and why I revere the Virgin Islands girl who caused him to “walk the whole a de beach and search like a crazy man,” even as he whined, “No promises; come, gimme um right away;” and why I admire Miss Yvette, who decided that she was going after what and who she wanted, or it was bacchanal from Newgate to Nevis Street; and why I celebrate all the women who gave free reign to their sensuality as they “pushed back” their “wire-waisted” selves in the fete or “limboed down to the ground… .” After all, if life was hard for men, imagine what it was for sisters; and they deserved a break, too.

When I was an undergraduate in New York, I had a professor who once told me that he would like to meet my parents, the people who had raised me to have “such amazing confidence.” Well, if I thought he would have understood – and if I could sing even a little bit – I would have sung for him one of my favourite Short Shirt lines: “Well, I am sure if you are black like me… .”

I am grateful for Dorbrene’s treatment of race in this book: how he puts the burgeoning race pride of Antiguans and Barbudans and, indeed, Caribbean Negroes (yes, Negroes; it’s a word that I love) in the context of the dawning self-value that was taking place in this region and further afield. In that regard, Short Shirt and his writers take their place – apparently for Dorbrene and certainly for me – with James Brown, telling us to “say it loud,” and with Nina Simone asserting the divine privilege of being “young, gifted and black.” Still, it is one thing to hear it “out there,” in accents you understand but that are not your own. It is quite another thing, a marvelous and self-affirming thing, when, as a little girl in a Third World country, you learn to sing, “Black, beautiful, proud Afro-Antiguan….”

Calypso rhythms delight me, excite me, get me drunk, make me stay on a dance floor for hours without food or drink. I might be the only Caribbean person to admit this heresy, this blasphemy, but I find Jennifer to be infinitely sweeter on the dance floor than Tourist Leggo. And I laugh when I see people in the movies making love to orchestra music and Kenny G symphonies; because I know that sex demands the pounding excitement of say, Rock Me or Push, no pun intended.

But it is the language, the words, the pun, the simile and the metaphor, the personification and the symbolism, that call to me.

My attraction to calypso as a little girl; my infatuation with it as a young woman; and my everlasting love for the art form as an adult are all rooted in my definition of calypso as “literature in song.”

From the day I heard him sing the words “It’s so nice to hear them shouting bad language; come, I’m on my way; I’m going home,” I identified and empathized with Short Shirt, for I knew, and still know, that nothing says “home,” Wadadli,” “The Rock,” like our language.

In the biography, Dorbrene writes admiringly that Shelley Tobitt penned the words and Short Shirt rose to the challenge of singing lines like “this envious greedy conniving blood sucking attitude” – at tempo, no less. And I bow down to both writer and singer, again, for the lines, “Don’t compromise your revolution/For dem scandalous tiefing oppressive political scamps in de Caribbean; no way!”

In fact, I once stood up in restaurant, a dinner fork in hand in place of a microphone, and sang to the diners, word for word, back to back, Viva Grenada and Not by Might. (I wasn’t drunk; but I was coming from a funeral and was very conscious that life with calypso was a gift.)

I plan to shut up just now, but I cannot touch on language without speaking to the mastery and virtuosity of Unity – what Dorbrene dubs “Shelley’s I-rhyme-when-I-feel-like and I-structure-how-I-feel-like,” and telling you how that description delights me almost as much as the freestyle of the song itself. I feel a sense of a reverence, I must say, for their treatment of the line, “They beating Bach and Mozart just like the New York Philharmonic Orchestra,” and how they marry it with the localized “Bim-bum-bam, biddim-biddim-bim. Bass man beating de bass drum…”

Dorbrene also comments that “Black/African people expect to ‘see’ music” and adds that “Tobitt writes for blind people; for people far away;” for those who had never witnessed our Carnival. And when you’re talking about the song Fantasy, I say the blind never had it better. For me, Fantasy belongs in the Top 10 of Short Shirt’s greatest.

And lastly, I could virtually hear and see Dorbrene shaking with laughter as, on page 90, he analyzed the song Fighting, one of my favourites because of the spirit, the anger, the vengefulness Short Shirt portrays in the song. You know the story: How he accuses a pack of vengeful Swallow fans and Willikies villagers, toting cutlasses and razor-blades, of attacking him over by Intrade. The joke to Dorbrene – and, no less, to me – is the menacing picture the lyrics paint of “Chairman Reginald Knight with a half-a-plank and pacifist Dr. Ivor Heath (of all persons) with a big half-a-chain wrap round he arm….”

I am sure that neither the writer nor the singer meant it to be humorous, but the very irony of it makes the calypso hilarious. And while Dorbrene doesn’t specifically mention it, the second best part of this song is the onomatopoeia employed in the “Buddup, buddup, ping! Bottle and stone dem a fling!” No other art form can take that kind of license… .

Listen, I could stand here all night and talk about Dorbrene’s book; the life and times of Short Shirt; and the life and times that his premier writers, Shelley Tobitt, Marcus Christopher,

Marcus Christopher accepting a copy of Nobody Go Run Me from Dorbrene O'Marde (Photo courtesy Colin Cumberbatch)

Marcus Christopher accepting a copy of Nobody Go Run Me from Dorbrene O’Marde (Photo courtesy Colin Cumberbatch)

and Stanley Humphreys captured; about his predestination, evidenced by his Lamentation ethos and his epic The Fyah Coming After, for a career in gospel. But I have to stop now. We’ll continue the conversation, I am sure, later.

Meanwhile, Congratulations and thank you, Dorbrene, for a fine work.

King_Short_Shirt_-_Full_Size

I can feel the love you put in it. And, as my good friend and yours, Val Hodge, would say, “It sweet me bad.” Thank you.

This was written by D. Gisele Isaac. All rights are her own. Do not repost without permission.

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Telling Our Stories, In Canada…and other Activities to Mark the 30th Anniversary of Antigua and Barbuda’s Independence

, Pass it on to your friends in Canada.

For more info email info@antigua-barbuda-ca.com  You can also visit the official website of the Consulate General of Antigua and Barbuda in Canada.

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