Shades of I-She: Every Woman’s Story, the award-winning production by poet Eintou Pearl Springer and the Indigenous Creative Arts Network (ICAN) will return to the stage from May 27 to May 29 at the Big Black Box in Port of Spain. Springer said the production aims to get women to confront the problems and challenges in their lives as a prelude to overcoming them.
The play is comprised of Springer’s poems linked by music, song, movement and dance. The first half looks at challenges women face, and features poems on rape, incest, child prostitution, abortion and domestic violence, among others. The second half looks at the survivability of women and their triumphs over the challenges.
The production features an all-star cast, including Springer, songstress Mavis John, actress Eunice Alleyne, musician Ewart Serrant, drummer Xavier Phillip, guitarist Marva Newton, choreographer Dara Healy and introduces new actresses Khaliah Bernard, Kiah Mulrain, Shanya Springer and musicians 13-year-old Kayode and nine-year-old Ireminde Charles. Healy paid special tribute to dancers Molly Ahyee, Patricia Roe and Astor Johnson, who have contributed to the show.
Healy said there is a generational aspect to the cast. The younger people have all passed through the ICAN theatre arts program run by Springer and her family. “We’ve made it a point to involve young people because our work is very different from any other organization. It is very community oriented and focused and we are very conscious of the fact that young people must learn everything we do, so they can take on the responsibility of the community interventions that form what we do.” Springer made special mention of Kayode Charles, who is largely self-taught on the cuatro, guitar and pan. She also commended John and Serrant for nurturing his talent, as passing the baton has been a large part of the production. “There’s a very important subtext of sharing, of responsibility, of community, and passing on the legacy to young people. They’re learning this discipline and this focus to give to the Arts and the understanding that inside the Arts is the power and the possibility of transformation.” Springer said the production was originally done in the 1990’s, and the main change is the addition of the younger actresses and musicians. Cast members agreed that the issues addressed are as relevant now as they were then. John said the poems are still current. “It’s almost as if it’s new, because there’s always another generation to hear the words. I’m taken aback when I see another generation of women accepting abuse as though it’s a way of life. When are we ever going to stop, when will everything stop?” Alleyne said “when I looked at the work, I felt it’s something I could be involved in. As a woman, it affects you deeply, so you want to say something and we hope the audience would get the messages.”
The younger actresses said being chosen for the production is an exhilarating experience, and the topics being explored are very important. Bernard said “the plight of a woman is relevant no matter how old you are, mainly because the plight of a woman really hasn’t changed all that much.” Mulrain said “the more I become involved in it, the more important the work has become to give a voice to the people that have not or were not able to speak out for themselves.” Shanya Springer said “because now there is a lot of debate going on with what women and people in society have to go through, I think it’s good that we touch on the hidden subjects within society that people don’t like to bring to light, and I feel good being part of the cast that is striving to affect society in a positive manner.”
While the voices that are heard are those of women, Eintou Springer said the men are deliberately involved as musicians. “It’s about recognizing that men and women must work together to solve the problems. The men provide the music, which in many ways symbolizes the sweetness that a good relationship could add to the life of a woman.” Healy said “statistically, women are the ones who suffer the most from domestic violence, etc., but we acknowledge the fact that men also suffer in silence because of the machismo in our societies. So it’s not to deny that they also face problems, but also the women have to be empowered enough to be able to stop that cycle of abuse.”
Springer said the time was right to bring back the show because women need to hear these messages, “especially now with the upsurge in all the pornography, the child sex videos, the incest, we can no longer bury our heads in the sand, we have to recognize what is going on around us.”
For more information, call the Big Black Box at 622-1001 or ICAN at 461-8637, or find them on Facebook at Indigenous Creative Arts Network, ICAN.