Contemporary Haitian Playwrights: Looking Forward

I was asked by the Segal Theatre Center to write some thoughts about the upcoming event Contemporary Haitian Playwrights: An Evening of Solidarity & Support, and it is with great joy that I do so.

Having this opportunity to write about this exciting event, brought me back to a time when I was first discovering the world of the performing arts as a teenager in Manchester, New Hampshire.  I grew up in a Francophone world (my parents and grandparents are French-Canadians with ancestry in the Cajun Gulf Coast of Louisiana) where I was effectively raised during my teenage years (13-18) by a Haitian family (who had expatriated to the U.S. in the early 1970s) whose eldest son I had befriended in order to escape my own family strife.  The Victorian family introduced me to the performing arts in the form of music (Sunday afternoon and evening jam sessions were common, where every member of the family participated in playing/singing as a continuation of the celebration that had begun in the Haitian church earlier in the day and on Saturday mornings as well).  I was also encouraged by them to be part of the theatre program beginning in junior high school, which has continued to be my passion (not to mention livelihood) for the past twenty years.  I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Victorian family and their passion for the performing arts which was so much a part of their lives.  The collective expression of a community and its vision of life as a reflection and celebration in three dimensions through song, dance, and storytelling, where all are encouraged to participate and contribute in the creation of art, not as a rarefied “specialty,” but as an inclusive connection between family members and community, is  what I am most profoundly affected by, and cherish as a legacy from my teenage years.

My own vision of performance is profoundly interconnected with the music, rhythms, and poetry of Haiti.  It is with profound joy and excitement that I look forward to this celebration of playwrights and poets from a country whose history and culture has been such an influential part of my own.

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