The Trinidad Theatre Workshop (TTW) is more than half a century old, and has produced theatre classics like Dream on Monkey Mountain and Joker of Seville that captivated past generations of lovers of theatre in the Caribbean. Yet despite its rich cultural pedigree–it was founded in 1959 by St Lucian poet/playwright Derek Walcott, his twin brother Roderick Walcott, along with performers including Beryl McBurnie, Errol Jones, and Stanley Marshall–the TTW remains, up to this day, homeless.
In an effort to finally, like Mr Biswas, obtain a home of their own, the TTW is launching a crowdfunding campaign at a private gala function this Saturday evening at the TTW venue in Belmont.
Artistic associate and drama instructor Timmia Hearn recalled some of the theatre's roving history in a telephone interview with the T&T Guardian on Monday:
"We've been a homeless entity since 1959," she said. "We started at the little Carib Theatre, but had to move. Then we were in the Basement Theatre for a while. Then in the late 80s to early 90s, we applied to the Government for use of one of their free buildings: the Old Fire Station. And we were there for almost 20 years."
Then, she recalled, around 1999, officials decided they wanted another kind of partner for the library, and the TTW once again had to move.
"We then went on Rust Street, and various other places for a few years...then in 2004, we got the chance to lease the Belmont building where we are located now.
"It was just a house in Belmont, which used to belong to the Gomes family. We built the back courtyard of the house into a theatre. With the help of sponsors including BP and the Ministry of Community Development, we were able to build the theatre and air- condition it," said Hearn.
But she emphasised that they only occupy the Jerningham Avenue, Belmont building on a lease basis. This means the TTW cannot do any long term infrastructural development.
Recently, however, the owner of the property has offered to sell the house to the TTW.
"In order to seize this opportunity, and continue our journey stronger than ever before, we are launching a crowdfunding campaign titled Trinidad Theatre Workshop: The Journey Continues," explained Hearn.
"Crowdfunding has made tons of independent films possible, but there haven't been many crowdsourcing projects here. Not because it won't work, it just hasn't been done much," commented Hearn. Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the internet. In 2013, according to Daniel Broderick, an HSBC contributor writing for www.forbes.com, the crowdfunding industry grew to be worth over US$5.1 billion worldwide.
"Internationally, the TTW has friends who are working in many places, including Broadway and the West End. We partnered with a Norwegian theatre company for a while. There are probably as many T&T people living abroad as those who live here," reflected Hearn. This means many people have either been part of the TTW or have been touched by its work, so the company feels the time is right to reach out to these friends now.
"We're still struggling to pay rent every month," reminded Hearn.
The crowdsourcing idea is not just about raising money, but also about raising awareness of the TTW's work, said Hearn.
Funds will help fund a permanent home as well as help fund the TTW's programmes, including good quality theatre productions–the kind that once earned the company the praise of Jamaican scholar and choreographer Sir Rex Nettleford, who once called it "the flagship of the theatre movement in the Caribbean."