FirstWorks opens season with powerful ‘The Telling’


When FirstWorks came on the scene 18 years ago, founder Kathleen Pletcher had a vision of building community through the arts by creating programs that were accessible to all.

Surviving pandemics and recessions, Pletcher and her dedicated staff, board and volunteers have grown to become the premiere Rhode Island Arts nonprofit and a leader for cultural enjoyment, education and opportunity for All Rhode Islanders.

Last week’s powerful performance of “The Telling” by renowned Haitian-American composer, violinist and activist Daniel Bernard Roumain, and his talented collaborators, was a shining example of how far FirstWorks has come.

Roumain follows in the footsteps of world-class artists from every corner of the world who have participated in programs that have enriched the cultural lives of our citizens. He lives 30 miles up the road in Norwood, Massachusetts.

Besides getting an “A” in collaboration, Pletcher also gets an “A” in site location.

I have attended programs at the Vets, PPAC, Roger Williams Park, school basements, churches and any place where people gather in a sense of community.

The setting for “The Telling” was the WaterFire Arts Center, and WaterFire Director Barnaby Evans was there to greet the hundreds of participants who paid what they could to enjoy the program and then actively took part in a discussion of what the performance meant to them.

The hour-long collaboration featured pianist Melvin Chen, the Community MusicWorks Collective string quartet, soprano Becky Bass, tenor Albert Rudolf Lee, choreographer Shura Baryshikok, and dancers Victoria L. Awkward and Jay Breen.

“‘The Telling’ is the sharing of stories, song and ideas – things that don’t seem quite right, and when words evade or fail us, the work of artists might matter most,” said Roumain.

Bill T. Jones Coming Next

Choreographer Bill T. Jones will perform alongside his 10 member company, four vocalists and 20 community members in a powerful new work of dance, spoken word and music, “What Person?” on Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Vets. For tickets and more info., go to


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