By Stephen Weir
Actors, stick fighters, stilt walkers and calypso stars will “dingolay” in Centennial Park in Scarborough at the Ol’ Time Carnival, Bacchanal in d’ Plantation Yard! on
The show tells the story about how the Trinidad carnival started.
“ Ol’ Time Carnival came about after I met a young woman who told me she was going play mas’ in the Toronto’s Carnival Parade. I asked her if she knew why we play mas’. She said she didn’t, which made me mad,” show co-producer and writer Jacky Forde told the Caribbean Camera in a late night mas camp interview earlier this week.
“But then we (pointing at her husband, Clarence) got to thinking, why don’t we tell the truth, the real story of how carnival came to be and what it all means.”
The couple, both well-known costume designers, set about to use all of the carnival arts to take its audience back to 19th century Trinidad. It was the summer of 1834 and on August 1st slavery was officially abolished. It was the night before emancipation in the Gonsales Cocoa Plantation.”
“ This is my family story. It was my great- great uncle who gathered all the children into the tenement yard on August 1st and told them what happened,” said Clarence. “ Those children grew old and told the story to their children and so on down to now. I based the Ol’ Time Carnival storyline on what my uncle had said!”
“It is 4 o’clock in the morning, the last hours of slavery. The story opens with Baby Doll looking to find the father of her child,” he related.“ The male slaves were often thrown into the unlit huts and expected to breed. The women didn’t know who they had been with and the men didn’t know if they were even fathers.”
Baby Doll was a popular figure in the early Carnival parades. The masquerader portrays a gaily-dressed doll decked out in a frilled dress and bonnet. In her arms she carries a doll that symbolizes an illegitimate baby. She stops male passers-by and accuses them of being the baby’s father.
“ We don’t want to give it all away, but Baby Doll’s search brings out the moko jumbies, stick fighters, dancers and two of the best Canadian Calypso singers,” said Jackie Forde, who co-wrote the script with Michelle Parson who also plays Thelma, the washerwoman, and is in the opening scene.”
This is the third summer that the Cajuca Mas’ Arts Producers has told the story of Carnival’s first year.
There are 45 performers, including two Calypso singers Connector (Joel Davis) and King Cosmos (Henry Gomez). “ They will be singing some of the original songs of 1834, based on the lyrics that our uncle’s uncle told us. You don’t forget. They will be singing with Hummingbird Drummers, lead by Keith Pascall “
Organizers have described the show as a “free, family friendy, rain or shine event”
And for those who are planning to attend, the organizers have some advice:
“Bring a lawn chair and wear sunscreen. ”
Showtime: 3 p.m.
There will be a repeat performance of Ol’ Time Carnival, Bacchanal in d’ Plantation Yard! on the evening of July 31 at the base of the CN Tower.