Idris Ackamoor

What the National Performance Network has meant to Cultural Odyssey

by Idris Ackamoor

Trinidad & Tobago 2010! Hot! Lush! Shark & Bake! Wings restaurant! Crazy elections! As I write this, I sit in my apartment at Auzonville Heights in Tunapuna, a suburb of Port of Spain and immediately adjacent to The University of the West Indies. My long time partner-in-crime, Rhodessa Jones and I are conducting an intensive rehearsal period with three of the best female calypso singers on the island, Singing Sandra, Shereen Ceasar and Kizzie Ruiz. We are working with a talented group of accompanying musicians as well on the musical theater production, Women of Calypso, a collaboration between the NPN’s Performing Americas Program, the University of the West Indies, and Cultural Odyssey.

This is Cultural Odyssey’s fourth visit to Trinidad through assistance from the NPN and this trip culminates a remarkable creative and spiritual time here in the West Indies. It is an impossible dream made possible by the incredible efforts and vision of the NPN. Who would have thought that 25 years after our first contact with NPN, that Cultural Odyssey would still be on fire with the collaborative passion and imagination that marks our connection with the Network?

Flashback! New Orleans 1985/86! Rhodessa and I have come to New Orleans to perform one of our landmark works, The Legend of Lily Overstreet at the Contemporary Art Center. It was our first visit to the renowned city where we stayed at Hotel Monteleone, walked and experienced the French Quarter for the first time, and tasted the wonderful food that the Big Easy offers. We subsequently returned to perform our musical based on the life and times of Ike and Tina Turner, I Think it’s Gonna Work Out Fine, and another classic Cultural Odyssey work, Big Butt Girls, Hard-Headed Women, courtesy of John O’Neal and Junebug Productions, an NPN Partner.

It just seems that our connection to NPN keeps growing and glowing with a remarkable vitality that demonstrates the love, respect, and understanding that the NPN has for the performing and visual arts fields as well as for individual artists. Rhodessa and I are creative offspring of the NPN in many ways. As we grew as performers, we were nurtured by our many contacts with NPN Partners who presented our work including Junebug Productions, Out North in Alaska, Sushi Gallery in San Diego, 7 Stages in Atlanta, Tampa Bay Center for the Performing Arts, Painted Bride in Philadelphia and many others. We also grew as presenters and eventually became an NPN Partner, featuring national and international artists through the support of NPN.

Flash Forward to 2006! I was a part of the curatorial team of Performing Americas traveling all over South America searching…seeking compatriot artists to tour North America through NPN. Caracas! Rio! Uruguay! Costa Rica! International Theater Festivals and remarkable travels to investigate and discuss international performance. Back here at 28 Auzonville Heights, Tunapuna, Trinidad, I send a big shout-out and celebratory greeting to all of the NPN board and staff for their diligence, commitment, vision and support they have provided to artists throughout the world, but particularly from Rhodessa and myself. We salute the 25th Anniversary of the Network!

June 2010

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