Naparima Bowl, Iere Theatre mark Samuel Selvon's centenary

Actors during rehearsals for A Brighter Sun being staged at the Naparima Bowl from May 18-21. -
Actors during rehearsals for A Brighter Sun being staged at the Naparima Bowl from May 18-21. -

Caribbean novelist and short-story writer Samuel Dickson Selvon, would have celebrated his 100th birth anniversary on May 20.

Although Selvon died in 1994, artistic director or Iere Theatre Productions Victor Edwards felt it fitting to honour this West Indian icon on the anniversary of his centenary. So a series of events, including a gala and the restaging of his classic A Brighter Sun, have been planned.

Iere will pay homage to him, together with the principal of the St Augustine campus of UWI Prof Rosemarie Antoine, Prof Ken Ramchand and the NGO the Friends of Mr Biswas, the Naparima Bowl, Naparima Alumni Association and the Greater San Fernando Chamber

On May 8, a religious ceremony was held at his gravesite at UWI, and featured addresses by Antoine and Ramchand, among others.

Samuel Selvon. Photo courtesy the National Archives of TT. -

On that same day and Iere, Friends of Mr Biswas, in partnership with Nalis and First Citizen’s Bank, hosted a Zoom meeting from 6 pm. This featured the many voices of Selvon, with readings from his poems, novels and short stories by Rhoma Spencer, David Sammy, Breanne Mc Ivor, Vandana Maharaj, Andre Bagoo, Dr Roydon Salick and Ramchand.

The main event is a gala award dinner carded for May 13 at Naparima College, San Fernando, where Selvon was a student. Edwards said this literary giant will be awarded posthumously on that night.

Denise Dickerson as Rita, left, and Vandana Maharaj as Urmilla during rehearsals for A Brighter Sun. -

“We are going to award him and a host of other people who passed through Naparima College and went on to become outstanding in the arts.”

Among the other alumni who carved a niche for themselves are Ralph Maraj, David Sammy, Errol Sitahal, the late Hall brothers – Tony and Dennis, Horace James, James Lee Wah and Devindra Dookie.

Ramchand will deliver the feature address and Antoine will be among others bringing greetings.

No tribute can be complete without actual theatre, and so a theatrical version of Selvon’s timeless classic, A Brighter Sun, scripted by Dookie and Eintou Pearl Springer, along with Selvon, will run for several nights at the Naparima Bowl.

A Brighter Sun cover. A theatrical version of Selvon’s timeless classic will run for several nights at the Naparima Bowl. -

Although Iere is reusing the script, some new elements have been added, including calypso and videos throughout the play. There will be a live band under the musical directorship of Kyle Noel.

The cast includes Kurtis Gross, Denise Dickson-Cunningham, Harmony Farrell, David Sammy, Hurbert Ramlal, Chandraban Ramarace, and Naparima Girls’ High School alumna Vandana
Maharaj, who topped the island in Caribbean theatre arts, and who is now an arts student at the University of Toronto, among others.

The Ministry of Education has granted permission for school shows, on May 18 and 19.

There will also be shows for adult audiences on May 19 and 30, both starting at 8 pm, plus a 6 pm matinee on May 21.

On Selvon’s birth night on May 20, Edwards explained, “The Naparima Bowl will name a chair in his honour. They are going to give him a seat.”

The Ministry of Tourism and the Arts and Culture is partnering in this aspect of the tribute, by waiving some of the fees at the bowl.

Kurtis Cross, left and Denise Dickerson during rehearsals for the staging of A Brighter Sun. -

The economic value of promoting the arts and culture drove president of the San Fernando Greater Chamber Kiran Singh to partner with this event.

“A lot of talent has come from San Fernando and the southern region, talent which has put us on the international landscape. We believe this unique talent could be further monetised, especially if we can get our youths into the production aspect of doing plays, promoting our culture, while adding to the tourism-sector basket, what we have to offer.

“We have the talent, in San Fernando we have the infrastructure, the creative spaces, the audiences, and if students and people in the arts chose this sector as a career, it can be monetised.”

Around the globe, he observed, people make a living from the arts.

“We spend a lot of money to go to the theatre in London, Broadway, why can’t we do the same in San Fernando. It is a viable employment option, one which can add to the national economy.

“It is a profitable venture from which all the players involved can benefit.”


"Naparima Bowl, Iere Theatre mark Samuel Selvon’s centenary"

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