TPAC ‘Excitement’ For Heritage Return

In just three days, on Friday (July 22nd) from 8 p.m., the stage lights will illuminate to signal the start of opening night of the Tobago Heritage Festival.

There’s added significance to this event—it’s the first in-person staging since 2019, thanks to the pandemic. For the Tobago Performing Arts Company (TPAC), it’s also an opportunity to build on its recent success.

Opening night is titled “Treasures of the Tree: A Legacy Affair”. TPAC is drawing confidence from its national “Bitter Cassava” stage production tour, which was well received in Tobago and Trinidad.

Asked how the two productions compare, TPAC artistic director Rayshawn Pierre-Kerr said the biggest similarity is the excitement they bring. However, opening night presents a bigger challenge. Bitter Cassava was an existing script, written by Dr. Lester Efebo Wilkinson way back in 1979. “Treasures of the Tree” was written from scratch, with the added pressure of less than half the turnaround time a production typically requires.

There’s another major difference.

“One of the things that we’re going for this time around as well is the significant use of technology,” Pierre-Kerr said. “So, we’re filming, and the filming is happening, in some instances, you see what is happening is mirrored… it’s just very exciting… [they’re] two different experiences because it is two different stories, but the excitement, that’s the thing that is synonymous in both.”

The opening night story was inspired by the falling of Tobago’s famed Silk Cotton Tree at Culloden in 2020. Elvis Radgman, the TPAC CEO, said the research took his team to that very site to gather first-hand insight.

We are not just bringing fairy tales, we are going to the knowledge bearers who have a certain kind of experience and knowledge, and we’re now bringing that to [the] stage,” Radgman said.

“Because the educational aspect of it is very important. How do we have the next generation understand what has been passed on? So, we have found a very interesting way of putting it on stage, and [there’s] no better team to do it than TPAC.”

The Tobago Heritage Festival runs from July 22nd to August 1st. All events are free of charge, except the Opening Night Gala and the Miss Tobago Heritage Personality Show. Tickets for those events cost $100 for adults and $50 for children.

To get more details, call the Tobago Festivals Commission at 639-4441, or visit the Commission’s Facebook page.