Sixtus Jeanne Agnes Charles
A Tribute to Sixtus Jeanne Charles
The late Sixtus Charles was a product of illustrious St. Lucia Arts Guild, which came to life in St. Lucia around the late 40’s, through persons like the late Alix Walcott, the Mother of St. Lucia Arts Guild; Clendon Mason, Hunter Francois, Howick Ellcock, Harry Simmons, Eric Branford, Derek Walcott, Roddy Walcott, Pam Walcott, Doris Thomas, Frank Henry, Lennie St. Hill, Euralis Bouty, Garth St. Omer, Leo St. Helene, Dunstan St. Omer, Augustus Romain, Arthur Jacobs, Irvin Norville, Irvin Grey, Alan Weekes, Mc Donald Dixon to name a few.
The group met through almost twenty years to explore the Performing Arts as was then in Music, Poetry, Art, Photography, Painting and Lectures on Logic, Ethics and Religion and produced the best of World Theatre. Some of these productions featured were King Richard the Second by William Shakespeare in 1952; Anton Chekhov’s one acts “The Proposal”, “A Swan Song” and “The Bean” in 1955; Eugene O’Neill’s “The Emperor Jones” in 1960; August Strinberg’s “Miss Julie” and “The Stronger” in 1962; Jean Anouilh’s “School for Fathers” in 1963; Oscar Wilde’s “Salome”, Oeidipus by Sophocles and Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage in 1965. The St. Lucia Arts Guild was the nurturing ground for the work of Derek and Roddy Walcott, who led the productions in writing and directing while affording budding directors and writers an opening to hone their talents.
“Henri Christophe” was the first of the Derek Walcott produced plays in 1950, to be followed by “Paolo and Francesca” and “Three Assassins” in 1951. In 1954 “The Sea at Dauphin” was staged to be followed by “Ti Jean and his Brothers” in 1957. The one Act “Joumard” was staged in 1959 together with “Malcochon”. The next work coming from the pen of Derek Walcott was the major Federation Inauguration commissioned “Drums and Colours” in 1962 which incidentally was the last Derek Walcott work produced by the St. Lucia Arts Guild.
Roderick Walcott’s plays produced by the St. Lucia Arts Guild began in 1956 with three one act plays, the recently staged “The Harrowing of Benjy” by Soufriere Action Theatre directed by Gandolph St. Clair, “Shrove Tuesday March” and “The One Eye is King”. The work produced in 1958 was another one Act “A Flight of Sparrows” to be followed in 1959 by “The Trouble with Albino Joe”. In 1962 the produced play was “Malfinis” to be followed by “The Expatriates” in 1963 and “The Education of Alfie” in 1964.
The St. Lucia Arts Guild gave rise to such neophytes like Irvin Grey as a playwright, producing “ The Bitter seed” in 1958 and “The Serenaders” in 1963. Alan Weeks also tried his hand at playwrighting, producing “ Talk of the Devil “ in 1958. Both Derek and Roddy directed their own plays but they developed the directing talents of Garth St. Omer, an accomplished writer; Alan Weekes, Irvin Grey, Eric Branford, the late Howick Ellcock and George Odlum. The selected international plays spanned the globe. The works of playwrights came from the United States, Ireland, Sweden, France, Spain, Italy, England, Greece, Germany and the Caribbean. The St. Lucia Arts Guild toured Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent during their tenure. After 1960, the Annual Festival of Arts became competitive and awards were presented in the best actor and best supporting actor areas, as well as best director and production.
Sixtus Charles astonished her audience with her sterling performance in Garcia Lorca’s “The House of Barnada Alba” in 1963 directed by Geroge Odlum and won the best actor that year. Other outstanding performances were in the title role of August Strinberg’s” Miss Julie” directed by Alan Weekes and she also played in Errol Hill’s “Bongo Man”.
Sixtus Charles received the 2002 Joseph Devaux Lifetime Achievement Award initiated by The M& C Fine Arts Council. Sixtus Charles is survived by her four children Steve, Leslie, Tony and Bernadette and families. We say goodbye to this seventy year old veteran of the stage, Cultural icon and legend, the grandmother of Dance and our first lady of the Arts in her own words “……these are just some of what was done for the grateful love of God, who bestowed on me so many graces and talents to share the undying love of the Arts, the love of my beautiful Country, the love of my people generally and particularly to have the privilege of leaving Cultural footprints everywhere my Guardian Angel leads me on the sands of time.”
About Sixtus Jeanne Charles
Sixtus Charles was an Aries born. She was not an only child. Her younger sister Ulina suffered polio and died before the 1948 Castries Fire. Sixtus Charles was born to Agnes Laurent and Grant Charles. At the separation of her parents, the father Grant migrated to seek fortune in Cayenne, while Agnes Laurent moved to Trinidad.
Sixtus grew up on 7 Peynier Street under the guardianship of Josephine Laurent, who was the mother of Garth St. Omer and Vincent St. Omer. The late Mr. George W Odlum, a former Director of the Saint Lucia Arts Guild, described Ms Sixtus Charles as an active member of the Saint Lucia Arts Guild, a committed voluntary worker, one who “was undoubtedly an extrovert personality, who could throw entire resources into the interpretation of a Role.”
The musical Career of this Saint Lucian Cultural icon began at the tender age of five (5) through participation as a Soloist in the Annual Concerts organized by Ms. Berthilia, Mr. Belgrave and the efforts of Mr. John Devaux, Choir Master and organist at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. During her stay in Trinidad, Sixtus sang the first solo to be broadcast in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Port-of-Spain, and followed this by a series of performances with choirs from several churches, Radio Trinidad’s Studio Party, the Trinidad/Tobago Royal Police Band, Sacred Heart/St Ann Choirs, Olive Walker Group, and the Lydian Singers.
The strong melodious voice of Sixtus Charles was also heard in Grenada, St Vincent, Guyana, Jamaica (Sandals Hotels), Barbados and Dominica, as well as part of church choirs all over Saint Lucia, the Royal St Lucia Police Band, the Yuletide Choir, Retired Members Division Choir in Manhattan, church choirs in Brooklyn & Queen’s Village New York, where the St Lucian Ambassador & Parishioners were delighted with renditions of “The Holy City” and “Minuit Chretien” respectively. Sixtus Charles’ love of music extends to assisting with the re-organization of Parents/Students Associations, the study of the Guitar, singing solos at weddings and funerals, as well as playing the Piano and about thirteen (13) Percussion Instruments with Steel and Jazz bands.
An extremely sensitive exponent of traditional Folk Dance, she played a very active role in passing on this art form to the younger generation by: – a) Working with the late Mrs. Rumelia Elwin to revive traditional Folk Dances; b) By organizing a beautiful portrayal of the National Dance of Saint Lucia, at a rally in honor of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to Saint Lucia at the Victoria Park by the St. Joseph’s Convent Rangers, which was followed by a Farewell Dance on the Northern Wharf on November 15th, 1964 and c) By co-ordinating activities with other performers to mark the departure of Her Majesty the Queen at midnight on October 26th, 1985.
Sixtus Charles was acclaimed as a ‘highly versatile Dancer’ by Mr. McDonald Dixon in his review of the successful presentation of Dance executed, in collaboration with Messrs. Romain Augustus and Eric Branford, on the occasion of Statehood celebrations in 1967. Sixtus choreographed the Solo opening of Banjo Man for Carifesta ’72 in Guyana; and danced Culturama Expo “in Grenada in 1967 and was Dance Instructor, CYO Dance Group from1970, till performances ceased.
Former director of the St. Lucia Arts Guild Mr. George W. Odlum said of our dearly departed in a letter written in 1963 that “the peak of this individual’s theatrical efforts came when he (Mr. Odlum) directed “The House of Bernada Alba” written by the Spanish playwright Frederico Garcia Lorca, and returned a performance of such profundity and tense characterization, that even fellow-actors and actresses were stunned, by the range and versatility of the performance”.
An active member of the St. Lucia Arts Guild, this individual choreographed Modern, Interpretative, Creative, Shango, Ritual and Folk Dances during the first Arts Festival of Dance and Drama held in 1960. In 1961, the award for Best Supporting Actress was awarded for the role of Catherine Mac Elroy in “The Wise have not Spoken” written by Paul Vincent Carrol of Ireland and directed by Irwin Grey. In 1962 another prize for supporting actress was won for her role of “Yvette and the Soldier” in the play Drums and Colours by Derek Walcott, directed by George Odlum and in 1963 and 1966 for the lead role in “The House of Bernada Alba” by Fredrico Garcia Lorca and “’The Mother – The two Executioners” by Fernando Annabel, she won best actress and best supporting actress respectively. She performed in Derek Walcott’s Government of St. Lucia’s Commissioned The Haitian Earth… in 1984, which was later filmed. While living in Trinidad, Sixtus was actively involved with the Basement Theatre working with Hon. Derek Walcott’s plays such as “Ti Jean and His Brothers”, “The Joker of Sevillle” and “Antigone” which were also produced in St. Lucia.
As part of St. Lucia Arts Guild during Festival week, the following House Management positions were undertaken by SIxtus Charles: • Assistant House Manager to Roddy Walcott • Booking Office Assistant • Ushering • Publicity – Radio and T.V excerpts • Sale of Tickets – Front of House • Seating Arrangements – Patrons and V.I.P Audience • Announcements on Stage • Assistant Stage Manager • Make-up • Props • Assistant Wardrobe Mistress • Dressing Room Attendant
Among the other notable performances are the Dramatization of “A City’s Death by Fire” directed by Adrian Augier at the 1996 Presentation Evening of the M&C Fine Arts Awards. “When fisherman was King” for S.L.H.T.A. and a scene from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” in Creole.
This cultural versatile individual acted as an extra in the films shot in St.. Lucia , “Fire Power” starring AJ Simpson and Sophia Loren directed by A.B Winter and “Dr. Doolittle” filmed at Marigot in the early 60’s and as a Midwife in “Fame”.
She participated in a Folklore Radio Service with Eric Branford called “Cultural Corner” at Radio Caribbean International, assisted with the Schools Music and Story Telling Radio programs, Radio excerpts of plays for the Arts Guild as well as a Christmas Story adapted for Radio St. Lucia.
This descendent from an African Prince, a Kele Queen and in her own words French Aristocracy was an avid traditionalist, a storehouse of information on Cultural norms and practices and a stickler for the proper use of the English Language and correct pronunciation of Place names by news journalists.
A firm believer in giving back to the community some of her God-given talents, she has worked voluntarily with Radio St. Lucia, Trade Unionists as Physical Education instructor 1960, the St. Lucia’s Teacher’s College, the St. Lucia Tourist Board with the first advertisement, the St. Lucia National Trust, the Salvation Army, Lions Club of Castries and Corpus Christi Girls Vocational. She provided commentaries on Carnival Bands and at the Queen Shows. She was on the staff of the Castries Comprehensive School. She has also served as Mistress of Ceremonies on several occasions including an evening of Spiritual Songs arranged by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Labor held during the Arts Festival on July 20th, 1995. She was also a Carnival Judge for Band of the Year, King & Queen of the Bands and Junior Carnival.
This seventy year old veteran of the Arts, Cultural Legend and icon, the grandmother of Dance and Our First Lady of the Arts trained with the Goeffrey Holder Dance Troupe, Little Carib of Trinidad and the Beryl Mc Bernie Dance Troupe among others. Sixtus Charles received the 2003 Joseph Deveaux Lifetime Achievement Award initiated by the M&C Fine Arts Council whom we acknowledge for the information of the life and times of Sixtus Charles. This information was compiled originally by the late Patricia Charles.
We end this tribute in her own words: “….These are just some of what was done for the grateful love of God, who bestowed on me so many graces and talents to share, the undying love of the Arts, the love of my beautiful Country, the love of the people generally and particularly to have the privilege of leaving Cultural Footprints everywhere my Guardian Angel leads me, on the sands of time.”