Trinidad Theatre Workshop (TTW) founding member, actress Eunice Alleyne began her theatre career in high school. She told a captivated audience at the Monday Night Theatre Forum at the TTW that while at St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain, she was drawn into the choral group because of the quality of her voice.
During A-levels, Alleyne joined the Barajuan (Barataria/San Juan) Literary and Cultural Club, where she participated in debates, choral speaking, as well as doing choral speaking at the Catholic Youth Organisation. After leaving school, she continued training and won the Islandwide Prose and Verse Competition.
In addition to working at the Government Broadcasting Unit and the Office of the Prime Minister, she worked with various groups to educate people about theatre and public speaking. These included Horace James and Joy Ryan in a group called Three’s a Crowd, which went around to community centres doing prose and verse and educating people about culture, and Sydney Hill to do readings of Shakespeare at the public libraries. Both ventures were short-lived.
Alleyne later joined the Company of Players, where her perfomance in The Rose Slip got favourable reviews from Derek Walcott, which inspired her to continue work in the theatre. Alleyne said her small roles in The Insects, Drums and Colours, and Dream on Monkey Mountain helped to build her integrity as an actor because she moved right on to Derek Walcott’s Remembrance.
“This shows you that you have to take small steps, and this resonated with me: there are no small parts, just small actors.” Her first and last efforts as a director were the plays B Wordsworth and Testimony.
Following this, Alleyne helped found TTW, where the members spent two years workshopping and doing improvisation before they put on their first productions. The group later moved to Bretton Hall, where “theatre was alive and there was a lot of social and intellectual connection with the audience.”
Alleyne did a series of radio plays for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and then went away to Boston to study. When she came back she did the TV drama Who the Cap Fits with Tony Hall.
“TV dramas are real training programmes, because you have to create the dialogue and everything yourself. It really stretched you, you just had to create.”
Allyne acted in The Maids, Departure in the Dark, Marie Laveau and others. She was appreciative of the travel and working opportunities working with Derek Walcott opened up. She also got to work with other directors and to experience different styles of directing. Alleyne said her most difficult and most rewarding role was as Lena in Boesman and Lena, a South African play by Athol Fugard, due to the differences in the rhythm of the language.
Alleyne was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the National Drama Association in 2003. She also played Dr Cuffie in Westwood Park. Alleyne co-authored Three Women, which won four Cacique Awards, and recently played a Yoruba elder, Ma Sandrin, in Eintou Pearl Springer’s short play Freedom Morning Come. Alleyne also had a starring role in the film Sally’s Way, which won Best Family Film at the 2015 T&T Film Festival.
“I rather like film,” Alleyne said. “When you’re on stage, you have butterflies in your stomach, adrenaline is pumping and you have to get it right, but it’s better in film, there are more takes and more time to learn lines.”
She said being an actress, public servant, wife and mother required a lot of juggling and balancing each one to fit it into the scheme of things. “It’s a lot of work but if you’re committed, you manage to do it. I have no regrets.”
Alleyne said she constantly updates her skills as an actress by going to workshops, doing training and reading about acting because there’s always something to learn. She puts a lot of time and work into individual roles and said there are a lot of brilliant actors in T&T, but they are in too much of a hurry to get on stage, and need to develop their craft. Alleyne said theatre was very active in T&T and there’s a tremendous amount of talent present, which needs to be harnessed and showcased.
“There’s a place for everybody in T&T theatre. It’s very rich and diverse although it could be more so. The problem is money is needed because you can’t do anything without a budget. It doesn’t have to be much, but it has to be there.”
Alleyne next appears in Springer’s piece Shades of I-She, which opens month end at the Big Black Box in Woodbrook.