Les Misérables and The 100 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle Paradigm


It was immediately after the curtain call of the very first  performance of Caribbean Theatre Production’s “Les Misérables: The School Edition” – a performance patronized by an  audience of secondary school students, most of the cast had already eagerly exited into Queen’s Hall’s lobby, still very much in full costume and make up,  to meet their friends and patrons. One of the younger cast members, the only one at the primary school level that day among a cast of mostly secondary and tertiary level students, returned to the rehearsal hall with a very lugubrious expression painted across his face. (I learned that word from the 25th annual Putnam county spelling bee a couple years ago. Musicals make the world go round yo!) I asked him what was the matter and his response was one of the saddest things ever… He lamented that no one really applauded him during his curtain call. He said that it was because he was still in primary school (to an audience of secondary school students), and  as a member of the ensemble, he was not important to the show. Personally I felt that the audience that day gave their fair share of hoots, hollers and laudation, but this was his perception, and perception is truth… sad right. sigh!

“You don’t understand anything until you’ve learned it in more than one way” ~ Marvin Minsky

Before I had approached him, someone attempted to comfort him with “there is no such thing as small roles, only small actors.” That’s the go to proverb in situations like this… Heck, that’s what I was going to say, but he said, in the most depressing voice ever, that someone already told him that. 😦 It became clear that whatever sense that was supposed to make just went straight over his head. I paused… and approached it at a new angle, and because I am in a very Big Bang Theory mood right now, the analogy which followed I shall dub “The 100 piece Jigsaw Puzzle Paradigm.” (Paradigm is a way of looking at something) *Takes Deep Breath. Here it goes…

“Think of this production as  a 100 piece jigsaw puzzle. It is made up of many pieces, some of the pieces may look the same, but they are not and some pieces are very different from each other. Every piece has a different size and shape. Every piece has its own place. So too does the crew and  EVERY single actor, no matter what their character; leads, supporting, ensemble or cameo, they all have their own place in this big picture. The picture will never be complete unless all of the pieces coming together in the right place because all of them are important. If just one piece were missing the rest of the picture would not matter as the observer’s eye will be immediately fixated on the gaping hole… that nagging voice that will keep reminding them that something is missing. Plus no one else dies like you on stage. You are important! The show will never be complete without you. ” ~ Triston Wallace

… he totally understood, and it was the beginning of  a very dynamic relationship. He would ask me all sorts of questions about the theatre and how things work, what things mean, and I would share what I have learnt through my experiences, engage his mind in such a way that he can figure it out on his own, or say “Aye kid move! Set pieces coming through!” (I was a stage hand in that production but sometimes he’d want to talk at the most inconvenient times.). He always wanted to talk to me and I enjoyed talking to him. Relating to him reminded me of that awesome experience I had working with the kids at La Joya Sporting Complex’s “Tropicamp 2012” during the vacation. To see how the passion was rekindled in his eyes is indescribable.  I could just sum it up as what i call “The Oprah Effect”, but for those are unfamiliar with the awesomeness of the Queen of Daytime Talk Shows,  Leo F Buscaglia said it best…

“The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another’s, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises. ” ~ Leo F Buscaglia

I truly believe that everything that happens in life is an opportunity to learn. (Heck, just writing this blog gave me an opportunity to learn how to spell paradigm. lol. I never knew there was “g” in there. Even having worked with Paradigm Entertainment in their H2O Phlo/ 2G Micheal Jackson Tribute production, it never occurred to me that Paradigm was pronounced “para-dime”. Ha! but i know now.)  Yet they say that nothing is new under the sun. It stands to reason that no one can possibly learn everything about life in his/her own lifetime, which is not to say that one should stop learning, but rather give credence to the significance of sharing knowledge. We lose nothing by sharing knowledge, and, if nothing else,  in doing so we create an opportunity to have that moment of truth, an adventure into our own minds, a journey to understanding ourselves… who we are, and who we want to be.

” In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn” ~ Phill Collins, Tarzan

In sharing my lil two cents with him, I learned a lot about myself and who I’d like to be. I am apparently really good with kids And I’d like to do more work with kids.  Mums has always said I should be a teacher… well I don’t know about that yet, I kinda hate being called by generic titles like “sir” *shudders*..but who knows.. things could change. I guess tomorrow I’ll discover what my God in heaven has in store…

“One Day More” from Caribbean Theatre Production’s “Les Misérables -School Edition at Queen’s Hall 2012


Hey, I’m Triston, the Founder and Managing Director of the Trinidad and Tobago performing Arts Network. When I wrote this article, I was 25 years old and this was my personal blog where I shared my thoughts and experiences as I tried to find my place in our performing arts landscape.

One interesting fact is that the year after this article was published, I choreographed for my first musical – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with Presentation College Mixed Choir. I then went on to choreograph for other high school and youth theatre production companies. So while I did not become a teacher as mums would’ve suggested, my calling seemed to be working with children, and it has been a rewarding experience.

More from Triston Wallace


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