2011 IndieFab Award Winner, Performing Arts (Adult Nonfiction)
The late Wycliffe Bennett (1922–2009), widely regarded as the godfather of the Jamaican theatre in the second half of the twentieth century, brings all his experience and insight to this last, formidable production. Wycliffe Bennett saw almost every theatrical production of note in this period, directed some productions himself, and, in addition, worked as a manager and trainer in speech, radio and television. His wife, Hazel, co-author of this liberally illustrated
work, adds her skills as documentalist and witness. Together, the Bennetts have produced the first book of its kind, a panorama of performance, from the imported touring companies and fledgling local elitist groups of the 1920s and 1930s, to the birth of the Little Theatre Movement during the war years; from the small, ambitious groups of the 1950s and 1960s to the thriving commercial “roots theatre” of the new century.
The book also chronicles the development of drama on radio and television, and Jamaica’s small but important film industry. In extensively documenting and analysing dance, it considers modern foundation groups like Ivy Baxter and the National Dance Theatre Company, as well as their precursors and myriad offspring. A pioneer of the Jamaica Festival movement, Wycliffe Bennett describes it from the inside, culminating with eyewitness accounts of the spectacular
Caribbean Festival of the Arts, Carifesta ’76, over which he presided. As well, the authors treat music in all its variety, from classical through the Frats Quintet to reggae.
There are also sections by experts in their fields: Yvonne Jones Brewster writes on Theatre 77 and Barn Theatre; Dr Maria Smith examines Revival; Barbara Requa discusses dance techniques; and Mary Brathwaite Morgan considers the golden age of drama at the University of the West Indies.
To complete this panoptic view of the performing arts, there is an A to Z of the scores of outstanding personages in the different fields.
“This story of the Jamaican theatre comes with the authority of a particular brand of knowledge rooted in practical experience not only in the shaping of what takes place between proscenium pillars, but also in sustained scholarly observation and analysis of the work done over years by many throughout Jamaica. The authority is further bolstered by the authors’ active engagement over time in the building and active management of institutional
frameworks which guarantee to Jamaican arts and culture the continuing exercise of the creative imagination – individual and collective.” – From the foreword by late Rex Nettleford, OM, co-founder and artistic director of the NDTC.
Wycliffe Bennett was Chairman Emeritus of the Ward Theatre Foundation and life member of the Little Theatre Movement. He also served as General Manager of the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation and Chairman of the Creative Production and Training Centre, the Jamaica School of Drama and the Jamaica School of Music, and was a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Hazel Bennett is a former Head of the Department of Library Science, University of the West Indies, Jamaica, and co-author, with Sir Philip Sherlock, of The Story of the Jamaican People. She has been active behind the scenes in myriad theatrical productions in Jamaica and served on a number of National Festival committees.