Catherine's Gift

Catherine Rachel Ostrow-D'Haeseleer of Middletown, CT,  passed away suddenly on Saturday, November 23rd, at the age of 65. She was born in Kananga (formerly Luluabourg) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where her father was a teacher and school administrator.  It is a fitting testament to her life that the name Kananga is derived from a word in the local dialect that means, "a place for peace and love," since she was fiercely devoted to both of these concepts. 

My name is Kirk Bartholomew, and I am her husband.  In her memory I am starting this campaign  to foster the creative success of an artist that became very dear to Catherine and me over the last year and a half of her life, Toto Kisaku of the DRC, who is currently an asylee in the USA with his son Rays.   Toto is a special person, so aside from honoring Catherine's memory you are also helping a truly special man regain the career that he justly deserves.  Funds raised by this campaign will be used in consultation with Toto and others in our local artistic community solely to promote Toto's artistic career by enabling him to promote his work, travel for artistic purposes, and develop theater with meaning and purpose.

Toto Kisaku
is an internationally-acclaimed and award-winning playwright, actor, director and producer from the DRC. He organized theater communities across the DRC and established the K-Mu Theater in 2003 in Kinshasa, DRC’s capital. For the next 15 years he traveled the world, producing and participating in plays. His work focuses on examining the ways that people living in difficult circumstances can use theater to recreate their environment and improve their lives. His most recent professional appointment  was as,  Artist-in-Residence at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, Connecticut.

Statement of Artistic Practice by Toto Kisaku
"I am a theater maker, but I do not just write plays. Rather, I explore the identity and environment of a community through theatrical art. The construction of the scenic environment is the major part of my artistic work, before inventing and inviting the characters to take possession of it. Starting from this environment, I explore the « quatre murs » or "four walls": the interior of a body -- with or without life -- a constitution, a community, a political and social system, the common thought of a group of individuals or an organization. Based on these materials, I take drama, tragedy, comedy, habits, questions, silences, thoughts, new forms and – always -- identity to create something new. It is in the depths of these four walls that I search for and find emptiness, an opportunity within each person and each community to realize their values and metamorphosize through the introduction of beauty and the principles of art.

I consider the public as a major player in all my artistic projects. He is an integral part of the show because it is about him that it is in my plays. So he is this need that the theater today must compose. He is the breath of any action in a room. The theater adds a real dimension to his daily life, saving him, sometimes, from the drama and tragic situation offered by the physical environment (« quatre murs ») and the political systems in which he lives.

That's why I take the risk of taking the theater out of the building and into the neighborhoods where people live, work, play, love. And this great need is found in this one who discovers the magic of the theater and reacts. I force myself to reinvent a theater that tells the truth in beauty, which values and rehabilitates the human. That is who I am."

Toto's first major work in English, Requiem for an Electric Chair , is based on his arrest, imprisonment, and near miraculous escape from execution in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
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Kirk Bartholomew 
Middletown, CT

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