My wife and I and some friends attended the St. John "Face of America" evening at Wolf Trap [See "Wolf Trap production shows off St. John's 'face'"] and I thought I should relay our impressions to you all.
First, Wolf Trap is an open-air theater; the stage is open to a gentle slope where the spectators sit on blankets and have wine and cheese, fruit and gourmet snacks. We could look down into the theater and see the stage. The people there that night were a wide range of nationalities and backgrounds, very typical of the area we live in. It was a beautiful night. The weather gave us one of the most comfortable summer evenings of the entire season.
I should tell you that we have been to your Virgin Islands these last two years and loved it. We've stayed a few days each at St. Thomas and St. Croix, but our hearts are on St John. So, we were excited, as were most others we encountered walking with our baskets up the hill to the gates.
Most members of the audience were dressed in "island garb" or something close to it. We were ready for limin'. We expected steel drums, island music and all of the other things we would expect to see at a St. John evening. We expected Skinny Legs, Roma's, the dock and some of your beautilful art and artists.
But the evening, although wonderful, was not what we expected, and many there were disappointed in the main theme. We saw one dancer's interpretation of the history of slavery on the island and at the Annaberg sugar mill. It started with a strong reference to slavery in Virginia and the sadness involved. This had nothing to do with St. John.
Then the storyteller wove a long, beautiful tale of a young slave girl who knew a secret and became a threat to her owners — how she was pursued from the ship when she escaped and her adventure getting to a hut on the hill to meet friends.
The music was wonderful, composed to blend with the visuals on the screens and the dancing. Beautiful visuals, great dancing and great music … but all about slavery, not about the joys of St. John.
This was not a project intended to introduce your islands to tourists. I fear it will not encourage tourists to come. This wonderful evening was dedicated to explaining the experience of slavery on your island. A true sadness.
As we were walking on the way back down the hill to our cars, people were openly talking about being disappointed at not having experienced the evening they expected.
As I hope I described, this was a beautiful demonstration of dance and its music with wonderful visuals. My compliments to the artists involved; it was a beautiful piece of work. But it was not what the audience expected. We left a great presentation with less than a happy experience.
I hope others will write and explain their experiences with this presentation. I hope I was fair.
John R. DiMiceli
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