‘Women Places Pieces’ premiers to standing ovation by Linda Rutherford
Guyana Chronicle
May 5, 2002

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‘WOMEN Places Pieces’, reputedly the first of its kind of theatre to have ever been staged locally, premiered last Thursday night at the Cara Inn to a standing ovation from a packed to capacity audience said to have exceeded its seating arrangements by at least 20.

According to well-placed sources, among those in attendance, which numbered around 170, were Prime Minister Mr. Samuel Hinds, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Ms Gail Teixeira, Chancellor of the Judiciary, Ms Desiree Bernard, new Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Dr Steve Surujbally, and members of the diplomatic community.

The applause no doubt was for the sterling performance put on by the lone actress, Jamaican Sheryn Hylton-Parker, who, in a previous interview with the Sunday Chronicle had declared: “I am the vehicle that’s being used to tell the story”; a story that is as complex and many-sided as the number of characters, and wealth of Caribbean and other talent, it took to tell it in its entirety.

According to the story-line, ‘Women Places Pieces’ is about women’s journeys over time into self-consciousness as told by Caribbean writers the likes of Derek Walcott; the legendary Jean Rhys, whose ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ is slated to be among literature texts to be studied for CXC next year; Erna Brodber; Lorna Goodison; E.R. Braithwaithe; Hylton-Parker herself; and the lone American, Ntozake Shange.

Director, Al Creighton couldn’t have explained it better when he said during rehearsals one evening: “The nexus here is a journey; a journey into self discovery, where there is a woman who is working towards discovering herself; going through journeys; experiences towards discovering herself; towards finding a place in which she’ll be comfortable.”

Reiterating that this discovery of self was the main theme running through all the pieces used in the play, he said they were painstakingly selected by both he and Parker, who not only had a fair idea of what direction she wanted the story to take but also gave it it’s unusual title.

Pieces, most of which were rather high-brow, comprised excerpts from Goodison’s novel, ‘Heartease’; Shange’s ‘For coloured girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is Enuf’, which in literary circles is usually referred to as a choreo-poem; Parker’s ‘Bring Me Tomorrow’, one of which she did in collaboration with Brodber; Braithwaithe’s ‘Rites of Passage’; Walcott’s ‘Branch of the Blue Nile’; and Rhys’ ‘Tale of the Wide Caribbean’.

Following their selection, he said, the pieces were then carefully moulded “into something that had a common thread linking them together,” which, for him, was a challenge in itself, since he had done one-woman shows before, but as he confessed, “never on this scale!”

By this he meant having one actress assuming all the roles portrayed in the play. The good thing about it, he had said at the time, was that Parker was the accomplished actress she is, which, though it did present him with another challenge, had its advantages.

As he explained, had it been an untrained actress, directing such a play would have entailed working out various strategies to get the person in question to handle the various parts and the range involved.

“I would want to feel that both would have been a challenge, working with an untrained actress, as well as working with a trained one; it’s just that what you have to do is a little different,” Creighton said.

The play, the proceeds of which is to go towards realising the $6M needed to repair the elevator at the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, ran for three nights, culminating last night.

There was, however, a sneak preview, to which the media was invited, on Wednesday night, and which was also well received.

Asked Friday how she felt after setting foot on stage for the first time in close to nine years, Parker, who also holds the position of Community Liaison Officer at the US Embassy here, summed it up it in one word: “Relieved.”

As she tried explaining later: “With all this angst that builds up before a performance…” Though she let the sentence trail, it was enough to convey how she felt.

She jocularly said, however, that “having tested the water, I now know where to jump in.”