Sir Derek Wal­cott Passed on the Torch

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Clau­dia Elei­box

To speak with Sir Derek Wal­cott would have also been to feel his un­de­ni­able, un­tainted love for Saint Lu­cia. His work in lit­er­a­ture and the­atre, his con­ver­sa­tion and his rep­re­sen­ta­tion, tes­ti­fied his ded­i­ca­tion to de­vel­op­ing the arts. With No­bel Prize in hand, he reached his arm as far back as he could to the younger gen­er­a­tions of the is­land. Some of us only ex­tended to his hand when he was al­ready start­ing to pull it back, not by will, but by fate­ful end. I re­mem­ber when the STAR hosted the launch for Sir Derek’s fi­nal book Morn­ing,

Paramin, a col­lab­o­ra­tion with the ar­tisit Peter Doig. We had the mam­moth task of cook­ing up an event he would ap­pre­ci­ate, while we sadly re­ceived up­dates on his reg­u­lar vis­its to the hos­pi­tal. Then, when the night of Satur­day De­cem­ber 17, 2017 fi­nally ar­rived and we thought ev­ery­thing was run­ning smoothly, Sir Derek had to cut his po­etry recital short for emer­gency hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sion. Maybe we all saw it com­ing but it was dif­fi­cult, es­pe­cially for Mae and Rick Wayne, to come to the re­al­iza­tion that the lo­cal icon was lit­er­ally fad­ing right be­fore our eyes. I could merely imag­ine how much worse it felt for a young group of stu­dents who had found a men­tor, teacher, mo­ti­va­tor, con­fi­dant and friend in Sir Derek Wal­cott.

Five young novices in drama were re­cruited by Derek Wal­cott for tu­to­ri­als at his home late 2015, with lessons in the­atre and lit­er­a­ture. Sha­keem God­dard, Kyvon Ed­win, Anar­cisse Alexan­der, Jonathan Bruce and the only fe­male in the group, Melissa Harte, told the STAR that they were hon­oured in so many ways to have had an ex­pe­ri­ence of that sort with Sir Derek Wal­cott. They had the op­por­tu­nity to study with the great man for al­most a year learn­ing cru­cial, tech­ni­cal el­e­ments of act­ing as well as prepar­ing for what the real world of cast­ing would be like. From the de­scrip­tions of their classes, Sir Derek seemed to have fo­cused on the depth of the­atre and stressed on meth­ods of ob­ser­va­tion and cri­tique.

“Derek helped us gain a holis­tic ap­proach and pulled out a new per­spec­tive of the­atre and drama from us. He would give us home­work and be stern when telling us that we don’t read enough,” Melissa said. “He taught us this mantra: I re­spect my­self, I re­spect my craft and, if it is my call­ing, I re­spect my call­ing.”

Sha­keem is now in New York fol­low­ing a dream of both his and Sir Derek’s but he made sure not to miss the in­ter­view with the STAR. When the group was asked why they thought Derek Wal­cott wanted to teach them in par­tic­u­lar he shouted from Skype, “He saw po­ten­tial in us! Po­ten­tial we didn’t even see and he didn’t want our pas­sion to die out be­cause of lack of re­sources here. He be­lieved we were ca­pa­ble.”

This group of stu­dents stopped hav­ing classes around Oc­to­ber of last year due to Sir Derek’s de­cline. They were all in dif­fer­ent places when they found out about his pass­ing and feel that they have lost not just a teacher, but a dear friend. “We feel that we have re­spon­si­bil­ity now to de­velop our tal­ents, to make our­selves and Derek proud. There were mo­ments in our per­for­mances when he would give us this look of pride and some­times even tears would come out,” they all agreed. “He passed the torch to us be­fore he left.”

Three of Sir Derek’s last set of stu­dents. Left to right: Jonathan Bruce, Melissa Harte and Kyvon Ed­win.

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