School of drama honours stalwarts with gallery
Twenty Caribbean thespians who have made significant contributions to theatre in the region will have their faces etched in the hearts of all who pass through the foyer of the Jamaica School of Drama (JSD).
Over the weekend, specially invited guests from the theatre fraternity and family members of the honorees turned out to witness the unveiling of a plaque and the hanging of pictures of the honorees. It was a joyous moment for all.
The 20 honorees, all deceased and spanning different eras and areas in the theatre industry, are: George Carter, Louie Marriott, Caroll Dawes, Norman Rae, Earl Warner, Henry and Greta Fowler, Harry Milner, Archibald Lindo, Errol Hill, Wycliffe Bennett, Noel Vaz, Reggie Carter, Robert 'Bobby' Ghisays, Louise Bennett-Coverley, Randolph Williams, Lloyd Reckord, Trevor Rhone, Dennis Scott, and Charles Hyatt.
They were chosen by an advisory committee consisting of professional theatre practitioners, past and present, and current faculty members of the JSD, who also assisted in conceptualising the gallery.
The inaugural affair began with guests viewing creatively produced and strategically placed posters that transformed the JSD foyer into a gallery setting. Later, the focus shifted to the middle landing of the staircase leading to the second floor of the JSD main building.
Master of Ceremonies
Director of the JSD, Pierre Lemaire, was the master of Ceremonies for the launch and official opening of the Jamaica School of Drama's Theatre Gallery of Honorees. In welcoming the guests, he informed them that the idea for the gallery was the brainchild of the immediate past director of the JSD, Eugene Williams.
Williams told the gathering that his many years of learning and teaching helped to inform his idea.
"I came to realise that memory is not just a neurological thing. It is also a collective cultural necessity ... . Cultural memory is a dynamic continuum of shared knowledge and experience that can serve not as non-productive nostalgia, but as critical authentication of past illumination of the options in the present binoculars for the future."
He continued, "It can provide security, clarity and awareness that they (succeeding generations) don't have to reinvent the wheel, but build their dreams, assert and perform their evolving identity upon a fortified or already fertilised tradition."
He hopes, too, that the gallery will be the stimulant for conversations that will address "growing alienation from self, community and humanistic development as a nation".
Keynote speaker, Poet Laureate Professor Mervyn Morris categorised and provided some background information on the honorees.
"The honorees, as you know, include playwrights, directors, actors, theatre technicians, producers, theatre administrators, theatre historians and reviewers. And many would belong to more than one division. Take Errol Hill, for example: actor, playwright, director, theatre historian. As a drama tutor at the UWI, he helped to get local material published and to improve the quality of production in the Caribbean. He was one of the earliest to explore the Caribbean culture. His 1972 book influenced many developments and later, research on theatre practices."
He followed up with information on all the other 19 honorees. He described Henry and Greta Fowler as institution builders and shared a personal anecdote about Charles Hyatt and said that the development of the JSD was owed to Dennis Scott and Caroll Dawes.
Dr Nicholeen DeGrasse-Johnson, principal of the Edna Manley College, of which the JSD is one of the five schools, also addressed the audience. The culminating activity was performed by veteran Leonie Forbes and Lemaire. Both unveiled a plaque boasting the names of the honorees, followed by students of the JSD hanging the individual photos and ultimately establishing the gallery.