Shakespeare in Sable: A History of Black Shakespearean Actors

Shakespeare in Sable: A History of Black Shakespearean Actors

Shakespeare in Sable: A History of Black Shakespearean Actors

Shakespeare in Sable: A History of Black Shakespearean Actors

Excerpt

I must have inherited my love of theater from my parents. Not that they were professional actors or avid playgoers. There was no professional theater in the West Indian island of Trinidad where I grew up and amateur productions were a rare commodity then. My mother was a chorister in the Methodist congregation in Port-ofSpain, and after she stepped down from the choir her voice could still ring the rafters from our pew in the front of the church. More than that, she was a veteran performer in religious plays. She had the gift of eloquent speech and it was unthinkable to present a sacred drama without asking Lydia Hill to read the principal part. She was well into her eighties when she played her last role, and I like to think that with her beautiful voice and clear diction she continues to enliven the regions of the departed.

My father was a bit of a histrion also. I didn't know him well. He went abroad on business when I was a child and stayed away. When finally he returned home to die I was already a man. He too was musical. He composed hymns for my mother to sing and would send them home to her from his voluntary exile. He also conducted his own church for a time and I am told that on Sunday mornings he would spellbind his small congregation with stirring exhortations.

My earliest recollection of performing was at morning prayers held by my mother on weekdays. Because we all went to church several times on Sunday we escaped the early morning ritual on that day -- except on a feast day like Easter Sunday when mass was held at 5:00 A.M. and we had to rise earlier than usual. All the children would gather at my mother's bedside and would read one or two chapters . . .

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