May 15, 2005 – One can hardly think about the Caribbean Community Theater without thinking about Eileen (Bishop) Des Jardins, managing producer.
Her longtime friend and former co-worker Lorraine Durand says, "Name something, anything at the theater, and she has probably done it."
Durand adds, "And if anyone needs to know anything about the theater or needs help, they turn to Eileen."
Neither Durand or Des Jardins has an easy answer for why Des Jardins spends so much time keeping shows going, selling tickets, and raising funds.
Durand says, "At first I thought it was because her children were in the plays, but they have both been gone a long time now."
The two children – Ruby and Nick – might be gone from CCT productions, but not from Des Jardins' mind. She points out that "We were told that Ruby is the only person from the Virgin Islands who has won the American Collegiate Award for Acting at the Kennedy Center. First she won first place for the New England Region (when she was attending Suffolk University in Boston), and then she competed with the winners from the other U.S. regions, and she won the top prize for acting."
Des Jardins believes Ruby's early experience with CCT contributed to her success.
Nick, who is graduating this week from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, is also following up on the theatrical life. He is involved in Kaiju, a form of Japanese wrestling, involving strange costumes – like bugs and buildings – thrown into big battles.
Des Jardins is probably best known locally as "de gal wid de rubbah ban on she han" in the Crucian Gold commercials, but her experience in the local entertainment is extensive.
She says, "I wrote plays, poems and stories during my school days, and I always loved music."
She started singing for a living in the late 70s with her first husband Peter Des Jardins. They sang at most of the small clubs and hotels on St. Croix for about 10 years. She quit so she could spend more time with her children and that began her slide into spending more time in volunteer positions with CCT.
The CCT is in its 20th season and Des Jardins has been there almost from the very beginning.
As for why she is dedicated to the CCT, she cites the other people involved.
She says, "It's a group effort and we all love theater a whole lot, or else we're just really nuts."
She cites people like Robin Becker, the current president, who is also in charge of concessions, the building committee, and presently is playing in her largest role ever in CCT's current production of "Jest a Second!"
She also mentions Kiomie Pedrini, who, like Des Jardins, was born and raised on St. Croix. She is the properties manager, and has completely organized the costume room. She was stage manager for the recent production of "Steel Magnolias" which Des Jardins directed.
Other people who keep her coming back that she mentions include Lionel Downer, who is no longer on the board, but still works as house manager, and performs in at least two shows a year; Marsha Munchez, current board member, who directed several shows for CCT including "A Raisin in the Sun," "Dictation" and "Real Women Have Curves."
She also has praise for the two founders of CCT that are still active Marty Merrick and David Richards.
She says, "I think the reason I work so hard to keep CCT going, is that there were folks that worked hard before me that got CCT started, and someone has to keep it going."
Des Jardins first got involved in musical theater when she sang in a production of "Jesus Christ Super Star" at Island Center, and then in "Annie Get Your Gun" with CCT at its Strand Street Theater, which was eventually destroyed during Hurricane Hugo.
She says she found herself happier singing on stage for musicals than in bars and hotel lounges. She says about singing in theater for no pay,"It may not have made sense financially, but I was certainly happier doing musical theater."
Although she was born and raised on St. Croix, not all her brothers and sisters were. Her parents, Donald and Rosemary Bishop, had four children in Alaska before moving here and having five more.
Her father worked for the federal government as an air traffic controller and her mother was an employee of the local government, as a registered nurse – first in the operating room, and then in post-partum.
Her brother Brian owns Crucian Gold, and he does the radio commercials for Crucian Gold with her. Usually he writes them and they do the voices together.
She does have other interests in life. She enjoys time with her husband Charles Jaquays, lazy Sunday afternoons, and trips to Victory Camp in the rain forest to enjoy good music with friends.
But her thoughts always seem to wind back to the theater.
She says one thing she loves is "seeing someone with potential at an audition, and then seeing them four to six weeks later on stage in a performance, and see the amazing change and improvement that happens with good direction, camaraderie and practice."
She also loves "seeing a spontaneous standing ovation occur after a wonderful performance by a talented cast."
So, it appears Des Jardins hard work at CCT rewards her not with money but things she loves more.
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