Freddie Kissoon - a life in theatre

As an actor, he has made 210 stage appearances in 26 plays. As a director he has directed more than 100 plays and has also directed cultural shows and stage-managed other shows for visiting dignitaries. As a drama teacher, he has conducted classes both at home and abroad. He was in charge of acting classes for the Vacation School in the Arts at UWI for some years. He also taught creative drama at six Teachers’ Training Colleges, three youth camps and several community centres.

On August 31, 1987, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago presented him with The Humming Bird Medal (HBM) for his contribution to Culture-Drama and Theatre. He is also the recipient of numerous other awards and accolades as well as having a street in La Horquetta, Arima named in his honour.

1 Who were the people who have influenced you the most at the beginning of your career in theatre and since then?

K: Quite a few really, Cecil Gray, Errol Hill, James King, John Ainsworth, Horace James and Mrs Jean Sue Wing.

2 For all of the 50 years and counting as a director, actor, teacher, playwright which would you rate as your most memorable and satisfying performances/presentations/experiences?

K: As a director, the most challenging and memorable production was God and Uriah Butler, 1967. It took me about five months to write and three months to rehearse.

As an actor, my best role was “Judas” in the story of the Passion, staged by the Catholic Evidence Guild in 1959 and again 1961 at the Botanical Gardens. I also enjoyed playing the title role in Ti-Jean and His Brothers by Derek Walcott and the leading male role of “Arjune” in the play Chitra by Rabindranath Tagore. Most of all, it was wonderful acting the role of “Man-Man” in my play Zingay. It’s marvellous being on stage. As a drama teacher, the most memorable experience was at the Mausica Teachers’ Training College where I had 150 students in the hall and about 15 lecturers in the balcony listening to what “Creative Child Drama” was all about. The principal, Mr Harry Joseph, who saw most of the sessions said, “Freddie, you have electrified the college.”

As a playwright, my most popular play is Calabash Alley which was originally a radio serial of 78 fifteen minute episodes, commissioned by Radio Trinidad in 1970. Of my 67 plays, Louisa Calderon took me 36 years to complete while Police Woman Wanted — just about an hour or so.

3 Where were you born and where did you grow up?

K: I was born at 63 Mucurapo Road, St James. I grew up in Morne Coco Road, Petit Valley, Jackson Place in East Dry River and Camille Road, Boissiere Village in Maraval.

4 Are there any other family members in show business?

K: I would not use the word “business” but my uncles Bertie and Arneaud were always active in school concerts and variety shows – all for the sheer love of it.

5 At what schools/institutions did you receive your education?

K: Nelson Street Boys’ RC School, Port-of-Spain; Modern Secondary School, Woodbrook; Government Teachers’ Training College; Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art, England.

6 The one place you would like to visit and why?

K: Jerusalem. It “killeth the prophet”.

7 Your favourite meal or dish/food, and drink?

K: You should ask my wife that one. I eat very little but I like pelau with one chicken drumstick. Drink? Well, let’s make that water. I am a teetotaller.

8What is your greatest fear in life?

K: Yahweh, enough said.

9 What areyour greatest accomplishments, theatrically and otherwise?

K: Theatrically, having managed to stage with the help of my group of course, 121 plays, 2,417 times all over Trinidad, Tobago, Guyana, Grenada, Carriacou, St Vincent, Barbados, St Lucia, St Kitts, Dominica, Toronto, Curacao, and Miami Dade, Broward County and West Palm Beach in Florida. Otherwise, I cycled round Trinidad and have climbed both Mt El Tucuche and Cerro del Aripo, our two highest mountains.

10 What would be the most perfect day?

K: You know Nasser, there is no such thing…perfection.

11 What is your most prized possession, tangible and intangible?

K: That one I’ll keep to myself. It is priceless (uttered with a mischievous grin).

12 What was it like growing up in your family?

K: Wonderful. There were 12 of us – grandfather, grandmother, uncle, my mother, father and six children before I entered the scene.

13 What was your first paying job and what jobs have you had since then, other than as an entertainer?

K: First, last and only job, teaching for 39 years, starting at Laventille RC at the top of the hill, and ending at St James Government Secondary.

14 If you could dine with anyone in history, who would that be?

K: Yeshua. That’s what his mother called him in Hebrew. Readers will know him by the Greek equivalent, Jesus.

15 As a leader of a successful company if you had to solve the ills that prevail in TT what would you do?

K: What ills? I live in the paradise of my inner person. Man is bound in a nutshell.

16 If you could hire any singer or band and actor to perform in your living room, who would you choose?

K: Whitney Houston to sing “Yes, Jesus loves me.”

17 What advice/recipe for success would you give to young people coming into the business?

K: Make sure you have a good job. If you expect financial reward in the theatre forget about it. If you are seeking self-expression and inner satisfaction, that you will surely find. Try it. You’ll love it.

18 What about you would you like people to most remember?

K: I would like people to think of me as a good man, a man of integrity.

19 What would you say is your greatest virtue?

K: I wonder, hmmm, do I have any? Next question, please.

20 What daily motto do you live by?

K: I try to treat others the way I would like them to treat me. No more questions? (Lets out a huge sigh of relief and thanks me heartily and graciously).


"Freddie Kissoon – a life in theatre"

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