(image via Callaloo’s official website)
The lights are dim. The stage is sparsely set. At center, there is cauldron adorned by skulls and bottles of mysterious liquids. IATI Theater’s intimate theater space has been transformed by Claudia McCoy (stage manager) to host “Callaloo,” a mystical jazz folklore.
A shamanic figure (portrayed by Vanessa Evans) enters the stage. Draped in robes and dangling necklaces, she wields a walking stick and paces about, muttering to herself. “Memories are fragments of past realities,” she utters and blows a puff of magic dust into the audience. Her curious introduction foreshadows a play made of fragmented experiences and dream encounters.
Using her mystical powers, this woman transports Winston, her grandson (portrayed by Marjuan Canady), from the heart of New York City to the Caribbean. This distant place is different from Winston’s home. Here there are powers bigger than him. Now, he is in the supernatural’s domain.
Winston’s grandmother feeds him Callaloo, a potion that induces a series of encounters with various Caribbean folkloric beings. Are these dreams? Are they reality? In a whirlwind created by voiceovers and projections, Winston meets Soucouyant, Dwen, La Diablesse, Papa Bois, Lagahoo and Mama D’lo, each of whom have vital learning experiences in store for him.
This confusing turmoil engulfs Winston and the viewers alike. Before we have a moment to fully realize what’s happening, we’re thrown from one overwhelming encounter to the next. Etienne Charles’ jazz score for the play tugs on our heartstrings as Winston dances his way through each mystical blunder (choreographed by Maresa D’Amore Morrison).
Every creature that Winston meets in his unusual journey teaches him a new moral lesson. La Diablesse, for example, teaches him to not talk to strangers. Papa Bois teaches him to protect the earth. These folkloric beings represent pillars of morality and take root in Caribbean oral culture.
Marjuan Canady wrote and produced “Callaloo” in 2012 as a way to promote the oral culture and folklore of Trinidad and Tobago. In a simpler time, morals and wisdom were shared in communities through storytelling. Now, such messages can be spread through art. “Callaloo” preserves an essential Caribbean tradition for future generations.
“Callaloo” is part of Iati Theater’s annual Performing Arts Marathon (PAM) which features cutting-edge musical acts, theater pieces and dance performances.
Written by Marketing Intern, Yuliya Skurska.