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Jean & Dinah goes to Brooklyn

Published: 
Saturday, August 9, 2014

New York’s Sapodilla Sisters will stage Tony Hall’s play Jean & Dinah at Brooklyn’s Tropical Reflections Ballroom on August 17.

Produced by Lordstreet Theatre and directed by Hall, the play, which stars Rhoma Spencer as Dinah and Penelope Spencer as Jean, was previously staged in New York 20 years ago.

This play, inspired by Mighty Sparrow’s classic calypso of the same name, offers an insider’s perspective into the real lives of Jean and Dinah, two “working girls” during the time of the American occupation of Trinidad during World War II. 

Viewed through the framework of Hall’s theory of “jamette consciousness,” these marginalised characters emerge as heroines who led and lived a fight against colonialism, history and old notions of femininity. 

“Jean & Dinah would be the feminist spokeswomen of our time,” said Hall. “Their stories may be harsh and unromantic but it is in fact the chronicling of the jamette history that is very much a part of T&T.”

The calypso Jean and Dinah launched the career of the Mighty Sparrow, known as the calypso King of the World. In the song, Sparrow commented on the large-scale prostitution that the American military bases once supported and the desperation of these prostitutes following the departure of the Americans after WWII. 

In the calypso, Sparrow sang that Jean, Dinah and their cohorts, Rosita and Clementina, are: “on the corner posing…and if you catch them broken you could get them all for nothing.” 

But the real women, the heroines of Hall’s play, are typical of a culture that has to deal with poverty and social problems. 

“I am so elated to have the opportunity to host Professor Hall and the talented cast of Jean & Dinah in this Brooklyn event,” said author and playwright Nandi Keyi of Sapodilla Productions. 

“I believe that it is a red-letter day for Caribbean theatre in Brooklyn to have this play come to us direct from T&T,” said Ketyi, co-producer of Sapodilla Sisters along with media consultant Glenda Cadogan.

In other events to mark the 20th anniversary of the staging of Jean and Dinah in New York, Tony Hall will be featured in a talkshop at Medgar Evers College on August 13. 

The event is staged jointly by Sapodilla Productions and the Center for Black Literature and will feature Hall discussing his “jamette consciousness” and “Jouvay process” theories with two veteran Trinidadian broadcasters, Dave Elcock and Eric St Bernard. 

On August 14, the cast of the Jean & Dinah will make a special appearance at the popular Trinidadian-owned eatery Super Wings for a two-hour street improvisation theatre session. 

Super Wings is one of the play’s sponsors and owner Colette Cyrus-Burnett has created a special “Jean & Dinah wing” to mark the occasion. 

ABOUT SAPODILLA SISTERS

Sapodilla Sisters is a world-wide promotions and production company with headquarters in New York City. Its primary owners are Nandi Keyi, author of the True Nanny Diaries and Flambeaux, and Glenda Cadogan, an award-winning journalist. 

The individual efforts of Keyi and Cadogan have produced several events in the Caribbean-American community like At The Feet of the Masters, The Crab Hole and Fireside Chat and Yesterday’s Children.