Guyana’s Cultural Platforms A sanctuary for actors, playwrights and lovers of the arts

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The Theatre Guild Playhouse Incorporated, founded in 1957, serves as home to many Guyanese actors and actresses, both young and old, who are lovers of the performing arts.

The Playhouse was opened in 1960, and formally incorporated on September 9, 1961. Though it has a much smaller capacity than the National Cultural Centre, the Theatre Guild is said to host just as many, if not more plays.

Built as a combination of nearly all the amateur dramatic companies in Guyana, the Theatre Guild suffered neglect for years until it was rendered almost unusable.

According to the archival records of the Guild, the decline took place during “the last two decades of the 20thCentury.”

This happened in spite of the combined efforts of those who wished to see it thrive and channeled their efforts in that direction.

However, its restorative initiative, which took place during 2008, cost $85M for a full refurbishing. This included the installation of technical equipment housed inside the theatre and thorough restoration of its structure.

The Playhouse, situated at Parade Street, Kingston, Georgetown, now boasts modern lighting and sound facilities that surpass others in the Caribbean.

Among those who have kept the Guild alive to date are Diana Abraham, who served as Playhouse Manager, Russel Lancaster, who sat on the restoration committee, Daphne Rogers, Playhouse member and performing arts experts Dr. Paloma Mohamed-Martin, Ron Robinson and Malcolm De Freitas.

Now, it practically serves as home for those with a passion for the creative arts.

Reviews on the Guild’s official Facebook page give us an idea what the almost 60-year-old facility means to actors and actresses alike.

Tashandra Inniss writes, “I remember my first time on stage, in Errol John’s Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, and then I grew and I realized that the Guild as we fondly referred to it, was now my home… A home I wish to never part with, I’ve made family there and I will fight to keep this place alive.”

Keon Heywood adds, “The theatre Guild is one of my favorite places in the world. When I’m there I feel alive”, while Simone Dowding, a popular face in local skits, says “It is the only intimate theatre in the Caribbean”.

Theatre life in Guyana cannot be talked about without mention of the National Cultural Centre, which has become more popular among the younger generation.

It is dubbed the premier auditorium for cultural presentations in Guyana.

The Cultural Centre can be found on Homestretch Avenue, D’Urban Park in Georgetown.

Sporting a height of 62 feet, length if 240 feet and 115 feet in width, it has a capacity to accommodate some 2,000 people.

The clay brick structure also boasts a stage that is 48 feet deep with an orchestra pit, and  a 72-foot wide and 20-foot high opening.

History tells us that after the destruction of the Assembly Rooms, the auditoriums of Queen’s College and St. Rose’s High School were the go-to places to host major cultural presentations. However, these were very inadequate venues for ambitious theatre productions.

The idea of establishing a National Cultural Centre can be traced back to 1951, when a foundation stone was laid on the site that now houses the Bank of Guyana building.

However, that idea did not become a reality until 1971.

Out of a number of designs submitted by Guyanese architects in a competition that year, Norris Mitchell Associates was chosen to do the job.

The intention was to complete the Centre in time for the first Caribbean Festival Creative Arts (Carifesta) which Guyana hosted in 1972. However, this did not happen. Nevertheless, the unfinished structure was used anyway, with the aid of three large canvas tents to complete the roofing, and coconut palm fronts as walls.

The Jamaica National Ballet was the first group to perform there, as part of Carifesta.

And, after many delays, the National Cultural Centre was officially opened on 16 May, 1976.

Now, because of its capacity, the National Cultural Centre has become home to some of the bigger productions and award ceremonies in Guyana.

These include Link Show, Uncensored, Pageants, National and other awards, as well as religious shows.

 

 

Article Categories:
Columns · Culture · Issue 23 · Publication · Talent · Tourism and Culture

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