Darrel Toulon with friends after receiving one of his awards
Darrel Toulon with friends after receiving one of his awards

Dominican-born Darrel Toulon returns to his native country after 37 years of living and working in UK, Germany and Austria to create a piece of Musical Theatre together with young talented fellow-Dominicans.

"Oh Maria! – songs and stories of the survivors" is going to be an original Song Cycle to be created over an intense collaborative two-week workshop, to be performed in venues all across Dominica.

During the workshop, which will run from 5th until 18th August 2018 at Old Mill Cultural Centre, stories of survivors of Hurricane Maria will be converted into monologues, and then into lyrics for songs arranged for performance by the workshop participants themselves.

Under the artistic direction of Darrel Toulon, the selected participants of the workshop, who Toulon plans to attract from all over the Island, will be introduced to a whole new range of creative tools, by the international leading team of Maurizio Nobili (musical director, song writer, composer, and arranger) and Carole Alston (singer, actress, vocal coach, singing teacher). Complementing the faculty will be Alwin Bully, Pearle Christian, Lennox Honychurch, Dorothy Leevy, Ophelia Marie, and Anthony Toulon who have been invited to give key-talks, providing invaluable intergenerational local input.

Darrel Toulon stated: "This provides me with a chance to give something back to Dominica after 37 years of living and working abroad. Leading and creating similar projects internationally with people from other countries and using their traumatic experiences to communicate with a contemporary European Audience, it matters now to initiate this project back home."

The project, was well-received at its first presented to the Dominica High Commission in London. Janet Charles, Acting High Commissioner stated: "Following the astounding success of the Gala event in Austria last year, the Dominica High Commission in the United Kingdom is very pleased to endorse Darrel Toulon and his team for the upcoming project in Dominica."

This is an excellent education opportunity for the participants, to work with experienced and highly skilled professionals of international repute, where they will be given guidance and coaching, be introduced to ideas concerning storytelling, song-writing, arrangement, interpretation, and performance, for creative purposes of transforming the stories of trauma and resilience.

The final performance will be kept deceptively simple, almost like a live-radio-play, in that the emphasis will be on the voice, and the stories will unfold through song, spoken-word and a sound-scape all created in the two-week workshop.

Alwin Bully, one of the first to be approached to be part of the academy stated: "The Arts can be incredible supporters and healers of the traumatized after disasters. It would be truly interesting and amazing to see what can be achieved when a group of talented individuals come together around a specific theme."

Carla Armour of Vetivert Inc. expressed her excitement in working with "Oh Maria!":

"As a company specializing in producing and promoting Heritage Events and Creative Tourism it is very exciting to work with Darrel and the alpha group's project and to realize "Oh Maria!". It is a perfect extension of our current activities geared at finding new and innovative approaches to rebuild and renew ourselves post Hurricane Maria. Numerous studies show the importance of creative expression and innovative implementation of traditional practices in building psychological resilience. We are confident that this ambitious project will provide an ideal seedbed to help accomplish this."

Gisele Astaphan, as sponsor for "Oh Maria!" stated: I support this venture because it is free and accessible for all. The only way we can advance as a nation is to create a society which develops the human mind and its creativity to maximize the potential."

Discover Dominica Authority has endorsed 'Oh Maria' as new or improved skills learned during the workshop will be an enhancement to Dominica's cultural tourism offering as they can be incorporated into existing tours or used to create new tour options.

"Oh Maria!" is a production of the Alpha Group (Austria), and is presented in Dominica by the Dominica Institute of the Arts, Division of Culture.

Sponsored by J. Astaphan & Co, Josephine Gabriel & Co, Valley Engineering, and Harmony Villa.

Other interested members of the Private and Public Sector are being invited to join as sponsors in this inaugural project of the Summer Artistic Academy.