Trinidadian-American Playwright Honors Caribbean Folklore With a New Book

New Children’s Book to Pay Homage to Caribbean Storytelling

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Marjuan Canady – Photo credit: Carl Gray

Trinidadian-American playwright, director and actress, Marjuan Canady, debuted her second original work, Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale, to a sold out audience at the Duke Ellington Theater in Washington, D.C. on January 12, 2013. In the stage production, Canady seamlessly intersects jazz, dance, theatre, carnival costumes and film together to celebrate Caribbean folkloric traditions.

It was during a talkback session with the audience after her performance where Canady was asked, “How will we, as Caribbeans, continue to teach our first generation Caribbean-American youngsters the folklore of our ancestors?” As an answer to the audience member’s question, Canady has teamed up with illustrator and creative virtuoso, Nabeeh Bilal, to release their first children’s book; a book that will pay homage to Caribbean folklore and leave a legacy for future generations to come.

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Image Credit:graphic design by Nabeeh Bilal

“Originally, I created this story as a play because theater is what I know. I have studied and performed in the theater for over ten years. But I always envisioned this as an animated story and when Nabeeh approached me about the idea, I jumped at the opportunity to collaborate,” says Canady.

Canady and Bilal, met while they were both students at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. Canady was a musical theatre major while Bilal was a visual art major but upon graduating the two remained in touch. Bilal, a Temple University graduate, has lent his talent and expertise as an illustrator, animator, web programmer, designer and creative director to companies such as The Smithsonian, The National Urban League and The Military Officer's Association of America (MOAA) and he is also the co-founder of a multi-media production studio specializing in video and animation (CreativeJunkFood – www.creativejunkfood.com).

Canady, a Fordham University and New York University graduate is the founder and creative director of an entertainment production company (Sepia Works LLC – http://www.sepiaworks.org) which produces live events, programming, videography and offers design services. Her original works have received commissions from Harlem Stage and DC Commission on the Arts. In 2013, Canady served as a featured playwright at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts Director’s Lab for her play, Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale.

“In Callaloo [the play], I saw a story that went beyond the stage it was performed on, I saw characters that had cultural significance, I saw a writer with a passion for her work that rivaled my own, I saw the beginning of a brand new journey — It was something I had to be a part of. I believe Callaloo will be remembered as a classic,” says Bilal.

Under the creative direction of Canady and Bilal, readers of all ages will be transformed as they follow the story of a young American boy named Winston who travels to the magical islands of Trinidad and Tobago. While there, he encounters mythical folkloric characters that roam the island. Winston’s fears and fantasies fuse together as his dreams become reality and he must find his way out of the haunting paradise to make it home to his grandmother.

Canady says that she first learned of these folkloric stories as a child. “When my mom would tell me the stories, the characters sparked my imagination. The folkloric stories are so magical and full of danger, hope, fears and dreams, all in search of reclaiming memories. This folklore is rooted in the mystery of what else exists in the world. I thought it was important to re-create these stories through illustration because there are so few books geared towards black and brown kids; especially of Caribbean descent. I am a firm believer, if you can see it, you can be it. Children of all colors should know about these Caribbean folktales and appreciate how they connect to the contemporary world. I hope this book inspires Caribbean-American children and all children to take pride in their culture and where they come from as well as think twice before they disobey their elders!”

Upcoming holiday reading series are currently being scheduled for December and January in New York and Washington, D.C. Books will become available on Amazon.com and iBooks in January 2014. Readers who pre-order by November 18, 2013 will receive their autographed, limited edition copy by the New Year. 

For the latest information on upcoming holiday readings and pre-orders, please visit www.callalootheplay.com

Contributed by:

Tatiana Johnson 
818.925.5239 – tmj@1stladymanagement.com

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