MINSHALL DESIGNS: Playwright Tony Hall displays a sketch which will be displayed on placards in Monday afternoon mas Miss Miles during an interview yesterday. The band will feature designs by famed masman Peter Minshall.
—Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK
Make way for ‘Miss Miles’ — Monday mas
Deborah John Publications Editor News/Features
Carnival 2014 will see a new band on the road aimed at Monday afternoon mas and it features designs by famed masman Peter Minshall.
Titled Miss Miles, it is the brainchild of two well-known artistes, playwright Tony Hall and actress Cecilia Salazar.
Minshall’s designs have not been seen on the road for several years since he stopped producing his own band, to the dismay of mas lovers. The production also brings together names who have long collaborated on various projects.
Clothing designer Meiling is production supervisor for the band and is also in charge of making the costume prototypes.
Rapso group 3Canal has composed the theme song for the band, titled “Corruption”, and they are also the consultants for the music to be played on the road.
Registration begins on Tuesday at the band’s headquarters at Bohemia, Woodbrook, between 5 and 10 p.m.
Hall, who wrote the play of the same name, Miss Miles, which saw Salazar performing the title role to critical acclaim within the past two years, said they both saw the potential for taking the play further with a mas production which will culminate in a band on the road on Carnival Monday.
The band, as did the play, takes its inspiration from the life of Gene Miles, who was one of Trinidad and Tobago’s early corruption busters. It therefore explores several themes of corruption in contemporary T&T. Look out for banners, also designed by Minshall, depicting these themes, with some familiar names in the genre.
In an interview with the Express yesterday, Hall said initially the band will cater for 50 players, but that Minshall has expressed the hope there would be at least 100.
But, Hall stressed, Miss Miles was aimed at Monday afternoon mas because that is when players really have the freedom of the street.
“I mean playing mas, as opposed to playing Carnival, mas is what we do, Carnival is for Tribe and them.”
Hall explained what he meant. He used the word “mas” as Minshall used it and as had Lloyd Best.
“Mas is a specific mechanism that has to do with spirit possession and masking to reveal inner energy. It is an ancient apparatus important to our being. Mas as defined by Lloyd Best is being whatever you’re supposed to be, to do what you have to do.”
Traditional mas, he explained, fulfilled this role in the past. The pretty mas of Carnival Tuesday does not, it is for this reason that Miss Miles is aimed at the Monday afternoon mas arena. He is also hoping to create a new traditional character in Miss Miles.
Hall added that the inspiration for the band was two-fold in that it came from the play which was produced at the Little Carib by Lord Street Theatre Productions, and also from a production sponsored by Transparency Institute and UNDP that Salazar and himself put on last December at Woodford Square in observance of World Corruption Day.
This featured five women, one of whom was Salazar, dressed in signature Gene Miles style (jet black hair, red lips and mole and in a black and white outfit).
Hall said when he first told Minshall of the idea, they exchanged e-mails on it, then Minshall submitted his drawings.
“Once he (Minshall) produced the drawings, he got actively involved, then Meiling got involved in making the prototypes. I have worked with him in this way before. Minshall as designer, takes the idea and gives it a visual weight and quality. Peter is the kind of person who understands theatre and the way it functions and it continues to be a happy relationship.”
Hall said he had also long discussed with Minshall the idea of a band which uses the space in the street for a production.
Hall said the mas for Miss Miles is designed for both male and female masqueraders, and the idea is that they become the spirit of the mas.
“It features padded hips and boobs, and a dhoti pants with a drawstring so it can fit all sizes. It will force you to move in a different way. In the spirit of African masquerade you cover yourself completely and call on the spirit of it. Everyone in the band will be Gene Miles as they will all wear masks depicting her face. Everyone will look like her. The drawing comes straight from a Gene Miles photo. This is her face with the mole, the lips, the eye shadow.”
Hall added he was told that back in the 70s, Miles, during one Carnival, actually played mas as a character titled “The Woman of the World”, and several persons also played a Gene Miles mas.
Hall also recalls seeing Miles sing calypso one year in San Fernando. Tragically, he says, it was that act, which saw her sing in a tent, which caused her family to declare that she was committable, because in those days that was just unthinkable.
Hall adds that Miss Miles will continue after Carnival as the play will be back at Little Carib Theatre in Woodbrook, March 8 and 9, for the celebration of International Women’s Day.