`A Nobel Celebration' of Poetry and Plays

MORE than three decades ago, Derek Walcott founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop. This Caribbean performance company has staged premiere productions of most of Mr. Walcott's plays.

This week, the Trinidad group came to Boston to perform "A Nobel Celebration," a benefit for the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, the Rat Island Foundation, and the Boston Playwrights' Theatre at Boston University.

Walcott launched the evening by reading his poetry. The Trinidad Theatre Workshop performed selections from four of his plays.

The juxtaposition of Walcott reading his poetry with the scenes from his plays clearly illustrates the link he makes between the two forms of writing. During several scenes performed for the benefit, the actors' lines sounded more like composed poetry than recited dialogue.

Walcott speaks of the "wonderful contrast between lament and elation" that characterizes Caribbean theater. "What comes out is a great deal of delight," he says. "No matter how tragic the subject, there is some kind of joy underneath the performance. And that is true of Caribbean music, too. The subject can be tragic, but you dance to a tragic event." Music by West Indian composer Andre Tanker and His One World Contraband was a highlight of the benefit performance.

The 18 members of the Trinidad Theatre Workshop each played several roles throughout the evening. "These actors have a range," Walcott explains. "They can do Shakespeare as well as they can sing calypsos. You can't say that about the average actor. Because the poverty and the necessity is there, a lot of hyphenization goes on in the Caribbean theater. People are an actor-dancer, dancer-singer. You tend to do everything."

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