Using drama to educate has always been the focus and passion of educator and dramatist Victor Edwards. The retired teacher and curriculum co-ordinator for Theatre Arts at the Ministry of Education has successfully married his two loves to reach his audiences.
It is for this reason the majority of presentations coming out of his Iere Theatre Production house have centred on the historical and heritage perspectives of his subject.
Among them are Eric: the Musical, depicting the life of the country’s first Prime Minister, Dr Eric Williams, through calypso; Temple in the Sea; Nelson Island: Re-enactment of the Arrival of Indian Indentured Labourers; Ten to One –the Rawle Gibbons account of the life story of calypsonian Mighty Sparrow, and Sundar.
“Everything we do must have an educative component in it,” Edwards said as he sought to promote another of his plays in this category, Hyarima and the Saints. Hyarima was first staged in Arima in commemoration of the Santa Rosa First Peoples’ community. Recognition of their presence in this country was marked with a one-off public holiday on October 13.
“We did it in August for the First Peoples because of its history, its heritage. That’s the kind of theatre we do. Also, the issue of the First Peoples is also on the curriculum of both primary and secondary schools,” said Edwards who directed the play.
Because of the educational value and also the preparation that went into producing this play, Edwards said he did not think one performance was sufficient to spread the important message.
As a result, Iere Theatre has decided to mount more performances at the newly-renovated Naparima Girls’ High School Auditorium, San Fernando, for not only the school population but adults as well. Two shows, tomorrow at 9 am and the other at 1 pm, will cater for students. Two more shows at 7 pm on November 18 and 6 pm on November 19 will be put on for adults. Tickets are priced at $40 for children and $100 for adults. Hyarima, originally written in the 1930s by FEM Hosein, a former Arima mayor, lawyer and member of the Legislative Council, gives an historical account of the Arena Massacre. It tells of the early 17th-century killing by the Amerindians of the governor and his party and the missionaries of Arenales and the revenge killing of the Indians that followed.
“The events of the play, more directly the Arena Massacre, is considered by some researchers in theatre to be the first recorded ‘theatrical’ event in our history. The Amerindians are credited with slaying the governor and his party on the one hand, and the missionaries of Arenales on the other. It is documented that the Nepuyos donned the garments of the slain missionaries and began to mimic their rituals of the Holy Mass.
"The first theatrical act! The event is steeped in resistance and the true massacre – the slaughter of the Amerindians after the fact – is not given much prominence in this piece," Edwards explained.
He said Iere Theatre sought to create a balanced presentation by introducing some scenes "which in our opinion, gave a more sensible account of the events without diminishing the story that Hosein intended to tell.
"The Amerindians did resist, were decimated, and did accept Catholicism through Santa Rosa of Lima. These facts are indisputable. We have tried our best to grapple with the language and its verbosity and have made many cuts to repetitious ramblings. We have attempted to create action where there was none and have in all areas tried to make this play as stage-worthy as possible."