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Journal of American Drama & Theatre

Volume

Issue

36

2

“A Caribbean Soul in Exile”: Post-Colonial Experiences of a Jamaican Actor

Thomas H. Arthur

By

Published on 

June 6, 2024



Color him black

And count the bruises

He was tough and slender

Chiseled in bronze

He died too young

And he smiled too little

But his dreams were the dreams of a man.


--Sydney Hibbert (1986)

 

This article investigates the career of Jamaican American theatre practitioner, Sydney Hibbert (1932-1990), who worked in Jamaica, London and the United States as an actor, teacher, and poet, and wrote meaningfully about these experiences.  (1)  Hibbert emerged from a colonized place and culture and was, in many ways, a postcolonial subject who negotiated the differing and often conflicting demands of values and structures created by the British, while also struggling to maintain his identity or connection with his home culture and sense of self. Educated in Kingston and London, he returned home in 1965 and, with other Jamaican students who had studied in London, attempted to establish an indigenous theatre for popular audiences of Black Jamaicans. At first this initiative failed, and Hibbert turned to the American Black Power Movement in Harlem for inspiration. Moving to New York to teach at the Harlem School of the Arts, he found frustration and rejection in the theatre world. When his agent suggested he get rid of his Jamaican accent, he refused. His struggles to preserve his Jamaican identity and find a voice among African American people reveal the challenges and complexity of postcolonial experience. Nevertheless, he managed to have a substantial career as a teacher and performer in the United States and helped start the National Black Theatre Festival of the North Carolina Black Repertory Company that exposed audiences to Black classics and new works. Hibbert was sometimes disillusioned but never idle in his pursuit of artistic accomplishment along with racial justice. (2)


Black Jamaicans and the Colonial System


Hibbert’s Jamaican, enslaved roots helped shape his personality and professional ambitions. Columbus landed in Jamaica on his second voyage in 1494, an arrival that was a disaster for Jamaican residents who were killed, sent to Spain as slaves, or became slaves in their native land. (3) In 1645, England captured Jamaica from the Spaniards, and in 1670, the slave trading Royal Africa Company was formed using Jamaica as its chief market and a center of their activities in the West Indies. (4) Between 1647 and 1838, British settlers imported between one and two million slaves from West Africa for plantations and estates that produced sugar, cocoa, indigo, and later coffee, with tens of thousands dying on the passage to the Caribbean. (5) Many Black Jamaicans inherited their surnames from plantation owners such as the English merchant Thomas Hibbert who immigrated to Kingston in 1734. The Hibbert family subsequently held interests in sixty estates and controlled almost half of the Jamaican slave trade. They profited from British colonialism’s triangular trade routes which began in the mother country with sugar and rum transported to Africa that was exchanged for slaves transported to the Caribbean, after which the ships were reloaded with sugar for a passage home to England. (6) By virtue of his surname, Hibbert was metaphorically part of this triangle of people, culture, and influence. 


Along with slavery and trade, the British brought their theatre culture, which became part of the Jamaican heritage. The first professional company to perform on the island presented John Gay’s The Beggars’ Opera in 1733. (7) Throughout the Pre-Emancipation period, whites-only audiences were exposed to Shakespeare plays, farces and melodramas performed by European and American professional companies. (8) In 1775, the Old American Company—the first fully professional theatre group to perform in North America—staged Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In 1807, the British Parliament abolished the slave trade, and in 1834, slavery in Jamaica, but this had little cultural effect. Even after Kingston’s formerly whites-only theatres began admitting patrons on segregated and then mixed-color bases, these audiences still saw standard classics and a few current English-originated works. (9) For instance, in 1912 the new Ward Theatre opened with Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. (10) Later, in 1941, under the aegis of the Little Theatre Movement, the Ward Theatre became the home of Boxing Day pantomimes that grew popular for a wide audience, although according to one observer, there were a “token few” black performers—the musicians and a school teacher—in the first Jack and the Beanstalk performance. (11) The next decades saw the “Jamaicanizing” of the British pantomime. (12)


Perhaps more significant in the history of Jamaican theatre is the body of African-Caribbean musical and performance traditions associated with folklore, religious rituals and seasonal festivals. (13) These enactments involved storytelling, idiomatic speech, movement, gesture, personification, choreography, audience participation, and pantomime. There are parallels between the techniques of this informal theatre and formal drama which the colonial system defined as “real theatre.” The folk theatre went underground during colonialism, but re-emerged in the 1940s, forming the essential basis, sources, and techniques for a new generation of playwrights and actors seeking to define their Jamaican identity and create an indigenous theatre.


Sydney Hibbert (b. 1932) grew up during the early decolonization period when Jamaicans gained universal suffrage in 1944 and full independence in 1962. (14) He had sharp words for Black voting rights: “Universal Adult ‘Sufferage’ (sic), Man to man wid’ a(n) equal X! Count the papers and forget them. Keep some pedigree and class!” (15) He became interested in theatre through a small role in a secondary school production of The Pirates of Penzance which, even though its distinctly British character had nothing to do with his own life experience, settled his goal of acting as his future occupation.  “You enter into another world” doing theatre, “you’re the center of that world” he later recalled. “I knew I was always going to do this.” (16) The contrast between the world of Pirates and his own could not have been sharper. He was raised with two siblings by a widowed mother in the “lanes” (back alleys) of the Cross Roads section of Kingston with sanitary conditions so bad that residents petitioned the town council to build sewers. (17) He described it as “a heaven and a hell—a home and a prison.” (18) In a poem entitled “Actor Boy” he writes, “Boy, you come from Cross Roads/ Mek some money man!” Shame at the end of my smile/ Screaming inside my head like voices, Run, boy, run! There’s no inheritance here…” (19) A poem “Morning Call” reflects Hibbert’s disillusionment with the school curriculum: “Hiding inside the sounds change/ London bridge is falling down, Falling down… And the Lane is paved with gold, But the gingerbread houses are scarce/ And Red Riding Hood never plays here.” (20) 


Opportunities for education were limited because grammar schools charged fees, but Hibbert received a scholarship intended for disadvantaged Black youth at Excelsior College, recently founded by young educator A. Wesley Powell. (21) When Hibbert attended the school, it had outstanding music, speech and drama programs including performance opportunities at the Ward Theatre. While Hibbert was a student. one of Excelsior’s most famous graduates, Louise Bennett (Coverley) taught there from 1946-48. (22) Coverley, who as a student had written poetry in Jamaican patois, became a national icon in theatre, radio and TV, and champion of Jamaican folklore and indigenous literature. Later in his own poetry, Hibbert referred to “Miss Lou” in explaining his use of poetic dialect. After graduation from secondary school, he explored his interest in theatre by attending classes at the private Continental Academy, which offered tutoring in music, dance and drama. During this period, he supported himself with a low-paying civil service position in the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. (23)  


Because of its colonial past Jamaica was believed to have a racial blending that created a homogeneous creole multi-racism. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Jamaica in June 1965 and was impressed that so many different nationalities seemed to be combined into one Jamaican identity. (24) However, recent studies indicate that “shadeism,” or colorism, was an open secret in Kingston. In “Examining Race in Jamaica,” Monique Kelly finds that both race category and skin color affected opportunities for schooling and access to household amenities. (25) As another researcher describes it, children acquired a sense of social differences based on skin color at home or in school. Sydney’s dark skin complexion was less desirable than lighter mixed-race skin, so he was considered to be lower class. In a poem describing his childhood, he wrote “your father is not backra (white)/ not even high brown skin.” (26)


Perhaps the most important Black influencer in Hibbert’s early life was Jamaican-born activist Marcus Garvey (1887-1940). (27) Garvey established the “Universal Negro Improvement Association” (UNIA) in Kingston in 1914, aiming to achieve Black nationalism through the celebration of African history and culture with a Back-to-Africa message. In 1916, he moved to Harlem, New York where UNIA eventually established 700 branches in thirty-eight states, spreading to more than forty countries in Africa, Australia, Europe, and the Americas. (28) Garvey was deported from the US for possible fraud and lived in Kingston 1927-1935 where he continued to articulate ideas of Black pride and racial success. Though Hibbert was too young to understand Garvey’s message in the 1930s, when his body was brought back for burial at the National Heroes Park in 1964, Jamaica boiled with debates over Garvey’s significance and concepts of Jamaican nationhood. (29) Living in Harlem became a goal and when Hibbert finally moved there, he heard Garvey’s ideas reechoed by Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael.  


Playing ‘the Outsider’ in London 


Seeking to better themselves in London with professional qualifications was standard practice for Commonwealth citizens. In 1962, Hibbert received a bursary scholarship to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal Academy of Drama (RADA). At the Guildhall, one of his most important roles was in John Gay’s Polly, a classic play rife with racial satire against the British planters and colonization. The actor was likely cast for his Jamaican identity since the story takes place in the West Indies. Instead of white men wearing black makeup, Hibbert was playing a main role as a Black actor in his own skin without makeup. He received critical acclaim for his interpretation of “Cawwawkee,” the West Indian prince who in the story eventually marries Polly. According to historian Richard Dryden, this ballad opera (a sequel to The Beggar’s Opera) “condemns the British planter, the British soldier, the British slave trade, the transportation of British criminals, and the pirate,” thus labeling all characters as being either fools or knaves except for the heroine, Polly, and the native Indians.” (30) The West Indians were the “good guys” and the white British merchants and planters the “bad guys,” setting up a racial role inversion within a safe, comedic format. Gay’s Polly has been understood as both a superficial satire and/or an early radical anti-colonial statement.


Hibbert’s Shakespearean roles also fall into the outsider category, from the title part in Othello, to Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to Feste in Twelfth Night. Othello the Moor is a Black man in a white Venetian society. Oberon is the king of the fairies and a magical being, outside ordinary human limitations. Feste is a licensed fool, free to observe and comment on the foibles of the play’s authority figures. All three characters were thought suitable for a Black actor. Hibbert received Guildhall’s characterization prize for his Feste, interpreted with humor, satire and menace, in the Shakespeare 400th anniversary celebrations. (31) His success with Shakespearean roles demonstrates his ability to “mimic the colonizer” while still honoring his love of Shakespearian language. When he returned to Kingston in August 1965, he was celebrated in the press, and promoted to the Ministry of Development and Welfare. (32)   


In the 1970s, Hibbert used his London training at the Colorado and Alabama Shakespeare Festivals. (33) At Colorado, his Othello moved critic J. H. Crouch to compare his portrayal with actors like “the sun-tanned Walter Huston, a liver-lipped Lawrence Olivier and a magnificently bullish Paul Robeson.” The critic wrote, “I had contemplated Othello as an exotic, a stranger, a pantaloon, a victim, a fool, even a black hero in a white melodrama, but he had not been prepared for “the pagan gentility, the curtailed, then unleashed barbarousness of Sidney Hibbert’s Othello.” Kari Howard notes, “The actor was devoted to the detail of character construction— from modest storytelling, through quiet authority, through steely authority through laughing security through rational security, through genuine dilemma, through a disintegration of personality which commands the trance (the most real I have seen).” (34) Hibbard later played Othello at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, where a critic commended the contrast between the actor’s soft-spoken delivery at the beginning and tension of a man maddened by jealousy at the end of the play. (35) 


Creating Jamaican-centered Theatre


Returning to Kingston in August 1965, Hibbert was caught up in the attempts to identify and define indigenous Caribbean culture. His first Kingston project was 1865—A Ballad for Rebellion, written by Jamaican playwright and novelist Sylvia Wynter who had returned from London to teach at the University of West Indies and form “a truly indigenous theatre.” (36) In an interview, she explained the problem: local drama needed more serious audiences than pantomime attendees, as well as fresh, realistic scripts by West Indies playwrights. In addition, new professional standards should be developed. Wynter and her then husband Jan Carew wanted to establish The Jamaican Folk Theatre, starting with a production of her script A Child is Born. (37) This was delayed because the Ministry of Development commissioned her to write an epic historical drama about the Morant Bay Rebellion.” (38) After a year’s intensive research, it was ready in October 1965. Directed by Jamaican Lloyd Reckord, with Hibbert as his assistant and production manager, it featured over a hundred players. Reviewer Norman Rae described it as an elaborate production that ran three and a half hours and contained much “speechifying,” while missing opportunities for dramatic expression. He thought that the basic concept of the play was confused with no point of view and stereotyped character development. (39)


It is difficult to assess the impact of this event, already highly politicized because the “Tercentenary of English Colonization” celebrated in 1955 was followed by “Emancipation Day” in 1965. (40) Ballad may not have been an artistic success, but Wynter’s approach to rewriting history more inclusively, from the Jamaican people’s viewpoint, marked a fundamental step in decolonizing the story. (41) Almost all local working Black actors were involved and thereby exposed to her humanization of the Black characters and the shift in collective memory. This predates Wynter’s theoretical writings, but reveals the germinal stages of her decolonial thinking. One concrete result of the performance was that the Ministry of Development promised to commission new West Indian scripts at future festivals. 


Within a month, Hibbert led a group of young theatre practitioners (five of whom had been in Ballad) in establishing a new theatre company that aimed to attract audiences “beyond the Europhile elite.” (42) They selected the name “Theatre 77” reflecting their goal, “to establish a fully professional theatre company in twelve years: sixty-five plus twelve makes seventy-seven.” (43) They could not agree on any Jamaican scripts for their first performances, so they chose Edward Albee’s Zoo Story and Miss Julie by August Strindberg. According to company member Yvonne Jones (Brewster), they reasoned that both plays concern the struggle between the “haves and have nots, between the lower classes and those they serve.” Social inequality was “examined so brutally by both playwrights,” they believed that “audiences would see the parallels with their own society, which would make the double bill a sure winner.” (44) Without financial backing or public relations experience, the group nevertheless pushed forward arranging for performances in the Old Library/Dramatic theatre at the University of West Indies Mona campus. Hibbert directed Miss Julie, performed in Zoo Story, and was the producer and stage manager. The review by Harry Milner (a lead actor in Ballad), published two days after the opening, was mixed: entitled “Promising Start” he praised some acting, but found the production “a bit melodramatic, old-fashioned, and slow.”  (45) The show closed early, and the company was left with a large debt in part because of expensive programs ordered by Hibbert. Brewster later wrote that “we all were to blame for the fiasco” due to “over-optimistic audience projections, inflated egos, and a complete absence of financial and logistic planning.” (46) 


The group soon acquired a new performance space, “The Barn,” and staged the British playwright Roger Milner’s comedy How’s the World Treating You with Hibbert in the lead role. Norman Rae’s review was positive and Hibbert received special praise for his deadpan comedic delivery. (47) Still, the script was not written by a Jamaican and did not deal with the island’s political and social concerns. The company attempted to remedy this by next presenting recital/performances by four Jamaican writers, On the Off Beat, along with Afro-American Harlem Renaissance leader Langston Hughes’s jazz poem Ask Your Mama. (48) These pieces, billed as happenings with the audience bringing their own cushions to sit on the floor, were directed by George Carter, already one of Jamaica’s most established theatre practitioners. (49) Still seeking subjects more relevant to their audience’s lives, the company began to hold improvisational “devising workshops” that were recorded, transcribed with scenes marked for further workshopping. These innovative activities led to Trevor Rhone’s first play Look Two in 1967. During this time, Hibbert was working with the Jamaica Festival Office as a theatre lecturer and drama tutor. (50) Theatre 77, now renamed The Barn Theatre, endured for forty years becoming an important chapter in Jamaican theatre history. 


Encountering Black Power in America 


By early 1968, Hibbert had been transferred to the Jamaican Embassy in Washington, D. C. as the cultural attaché, but he soon abandoned the Civil Service to move to Harlem. It was in Washington that Hibbert first encountered the South African playwright Athol Fugard whose work was so important to him in future years. Hibbert studied after hours at the Stage Studio, a method acting school founded by Louise Brandwen (1932-1974), a Russian-born émigré who had trained at the Moscow Art Theatre and worked with Lee Strasberg in Los Angeles. At the Stage Studio, he studied the Stella Adler technique and the teachings of Grotowski, Artaud, and Meyerhold. He was now cast in Blood Knot, one of Fugard’s first plays written as a statement against the South African racial laws. (51) The play premiered in Johannesburg on October 23, 1961, after which it was banned in the city. The American premier of Blood Knot opened Off-Broadway with James Earl Jones playing Zacharias in 1964. (52) The plot concerns two half-brothers who share the same Black mother, but one of them passes for white while the other cannot. In the Stage Studio production Hibbert, a Black Jamaican, played the darker-skinned brother Zach. This was an especially compelling story given the young actor’s experience of racism and shadeism. 


The significance of Fugard’s influence on Hibbert’s career cannot be overstated. He played a variety of parts created by many playwrights, but often returned to Fugard’s plays and Blood Knot. At Illinois State University in 1970, his training included non-traditional reverse casting such as a class in which white students worked on Black playwright Ron Milner’s Who’s Got His Own while Black students performed Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.  Milner’s play had been a great success at the Lafayette Theatre in Harlem in 1967 and represented the trend among the Black Arts Movement’s cultural nationalists to create “Black theatre for the advancement of Black people.” (53) Hibbert also arranged a staged reading of Fugard’s Blood Knot in which he played Zachariah with a white faculty member playing his lighter-skinned brother. In 1982 Hibbert played Zachariah again at California’s South Coast Repertory Second Stage, and in 1986 he played the teacher/servant, “Sam,” in Fugard’s anti-apartheid Master Harold, and the Boys. (54)  Los Angeles Times critic Lawrence Christon calls Hibbert a “forceful, compelling figure” in a Master Harold review. (55) The Santa Ana Orange County Register’s reviewer, Jeff Rubio, focuses on the relationship between the actor’s work, playwright Fugard and South Africa. “The playwright brings apartheid into focus,” writes Rubio, “Fugard demands an identification that is beyond most performers, but Hibbert disappears into Sam.” (56)  In 1987 while teaching at the North Carolina School for the Arts, Hibbert played Zachariah again in the university production of Blood Knot, receiving stellar reviews. (57) Studying Fugard, playing his roles, and thinking about racism was becoming a central concern in Hibbert’s lifework.


Hibbert was drawn to Harlem in his quest to perform plays written by Black writers about their own identity. Earlier Afro-Caribbeans had been key figures in the international Harlem Renaissance. (58) In the late 1960s Harlem was alive with militant activist ferment due to the turmoil of the Civil Rights movement and assassination of Malcolm X. Black culture was fostered by the New Lafayette Theatre, the short-lived Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School, the New Heritage Repertory Theatre, Harlem Dance Theatre, the journal Umbra and the Harlem School of the Arts among others. (59) Hibbert wrote a short prose piece, “Harlem Adagio: Part of a Symphony for Black Men Uptown,” which describes the urban scene. At first, the mood of the essay is upbeat: “at the New Lafayette, there were sold-out houses of people wearing dashikis and afros you couldn’t see around!” Hibbert noticed “Black men were looking each other squarely in the eyes for the first time in their generation’s memory. Malcolm’s words were pouring out of the most unlikely mouths in word-for-word accurate quotes; Stokely Carmichael was upfronting it all over the university campuses; and the Panthers were going to lead this revolution to kingdom come.” (60) Yet Broadway was still difficult for Black actors except for superstars, and local roles were not easy to win for a newly emigrated West Indian actor. (61) After Hibbert’s fifth unsuccessful audition in one day, ranging from Equity Principals Only to Off-Off-Broadway, his agent, who had previously respected Hibbert’s Jamaican identity, urged him to lose his Caribbean accent, something the actor refused to do. His desire to keep his linguistic culture alive was certainly influenced by Louise Bennett-Coverley who, as aforementioned, had taught in Hibbert’s secondary school. In his poem “For Those in Exile,” he wrote, “Talk bad-talk with pride/ For Louise is dictionary now!” (62) At the end of “Harlem Adagio” Hibbert talks about fighting poverty, dodging bill collectors and disrespect, and becomes furious, “Jesus Christ! I gon’ kill somebody if this go on much longer…DAMN!” (63)


But then Hibbert was hired as the director of the drama workshop at the Harlem School of the Arts (HAS). After his experience in Jamaica both teaching and working with cultural development, this position was a perfect fit. The school was founded in 1964 by singer Dorothy Maynor, and offered children and adults opportunities to study music, visual arts, and theatre. She wanted children to be exposed to beauty within their community and to develop their talents from an early age. Maynor selected teachers who, like Hibbert, were professional but also adaptable to people coping with deep poverty and racial prejudice. (64) HAS hired five theatre faculty and inaugurated a new performance space in a converted garage in 1969. They presented Aimé Césaire’s A Season in the Congo that told the story of Patrice Lumumba's rise to power and assassination in 1961. Césaire, poet, writer and political figure from Martinique had been one of the founders of the French literary movement Négritude. Césaire advocated for acceptance of blackness in order to free or decolonize the mind. For his part, Hibbert directed a Nigerian play Akowawe with Afolabi Ajayi and the Moari-Moayo [Mbari Mbayo] Players, which included African music and lyrics in English, Swahili, and Yoruba. (65) Variant spellings of Yoruba names have obscured its relationship with the Mbari Mbayo clubs founded by Yoruban playwright Duro Adipo in Nigeria. Adipo’s theatre company produced performances heavily infused with Yoruba rituals, poetry, dance and theatre using authentic, historical instruments. (66) These two events show how Hibbert and the Harlem School of the Arts were instrumental in bringing contemporary pan-African culture to local audiences.


Hibbert’s book of poetry, Anansi and Muntu, published in 1986, grew from free-form lyrics performed with musicians in Harlem and Los Angeles in the 1970s.  (67) The explosive mid-1970s reception of Jamaican singer-songwriter Bob Marley may have bolstered the appeal of Hibbert’s performance pieces.  (68) But the actor’s work had roots in the jazz poetry performed at Theatre 77 in Kingston, particularly Langston Hughes’ Ask Your Mama—Twelve moods for Jazz, which derived from the Harlem Renaissance. Hibbert writes that “Beyond the meaning of Caribbean words and their color is the rhythm of the language,” a kind of music. (69) He hoped to communicate, “clearly and succinctly, in short staccato sentences” pulsing “like the real jazz” with the “shouts of gospel” when it was “newborn, warm and supine, splendidly cathartic and holy.” (70) An especially notable poem, “A Requiem,” commemorates Paul Robeson’s death in January 1976. It begins, “Paul Robeson left today/With dignity,” and ends “Maybe you and I, small dedication/ Living best the Force we know/For another unsung prophet/ In this Black race, against Time.” Hibbert may have attended Robeson’s funeral held in Harlem at the AME Zion Church and was deeply moved by his life struggles. Another section, Somewhere a Third World, contains poems on South Africa. “Bloodbath: for Six High School Students Shot in Soweto,” decries police brutality in the Soweto riots that protested using only English or Afrikaans in all schools. From the Black point of view, this was the language of oppression. Hibbert writes, “Robbery of a people’s native right/Their chess game of securities and power/ And the UN didn’t even notice/ Black blood dripping/Between the fingers of corporate handshakes….” (71) In a section on going home, he reflects on his exile and identity: We climbed over fences to larger fields/And schoolhouse places relearning/Three-hundred years’ curriculum of self. And Britons, never, never, never shall be slaves.” (72) When Hibbert revisited his mother’s house after her death in 1984 he wrote, “Dreams come solid, incessant/ Through long nights remembering/ Where I keep my pain locked up/ Hollowing out my chest.” (73) Anansi and Muntu is a journal defining his Jamaican birthright and identity in the wider international world.


Teaching a Postcolonial discourse for future generations


Hibbert had personal experience of cultural imperialism in British control of educational curricula as a strategy for handling colonized subjugated people. Sub-par education for African Americans was also a significant problem in the United States. While earning a graduate teaching degree at Illinois State University, he directed the Black Fine Arts Festival. In an interview he said, “We have temporarily lost track of our true cultural heritage and one of the functions of this festival will be to help us reunite this lost past with our present.” (74) He displays a Postcolonial awareness of the need to educate and excavate the African American cultural heritage as an independent story that contradicts the traditional colonial narrative. 


Hibbert’s teaching embodied these principles in the 1970s. His first full-time teaching job was head of the newly formed Drama department at Rutgers University, Livingston campus. This was six years after the riots in Newark, New Jersey when Black protestors took to the streets to stand against the discrimination, lack of representation and working opportunities in the city. (75)  Though Rutgers had created new departments and curricula “to serve the needs of the multi-ethnic community,” Hibbert observed that Blacks had little place or input in a white power structure, which seemed to be less concerned with issues than appearances. (76) While at Rutgers, Hibbert ventured into the American South, lured by a visiting artist opportunity to play “King Lear” at a Virginia university. In this setting Hibbert experimented with delivering his lines in the rhythm and patterns of Jamaican patois (patwa). By this time a formidable teacher, white student cast members remember him “beating a drum and leading us around the room to changing rhythms while vocalizing to the movements.” (77) Rehearsals ended in discussions of how each actor’s movement synched with the lines. “It was an amazing piece of work,” writes the costumer. “Sydney would be speaking quietly and then, suddenly near the end of the play, would burst into an eloquent fury, ripping off the clothing I had put on his back.” (78) 


In 1983, Hibbert joined the faculty of the North Carolina School for the Arts in Winston-Salem. (79) As one of only three Black NCSA faculty members, Hibbert believed that minority students should be taught survival skills because they would go into the drama world as pioneers. (80) His efforts to get Black actors cast in the same roles as Whites were termed “heroic” in a Winston-Salem newspaper. (81) Hibbert’s approach to teaching was shown in a workshop he offered using an integrated approach to drama, dance, movement, music, poetry, and dramatic literature, while his “Putting Your Best Voice Forward” class dealt with voice production and speech as applied to the “extension of personality.” (82)

 

Hibbert also worked with the Winston-Salem based North Carolina Black Repertory Company, the first showcase for Black theatre professionals in the state and one of the first in the nation. (83) Founded in 1979 by entrepreneur/performer Larry Leon Hamlin and fueled by the same forces that had motivated Hibbert to travel from Jamaica to the United States, the missions of the organization were to “engage, enrich and entertain” with innovative programming of a high quality that “resonates across the community and challenges social perceptions,” to expose “diverse audiences to Black classics,” as well as to develop and produce new works.” (84) Of special importance to Hibbert, the company sought to sustain Black theatre internationally and provide a space in which theatre professionals could earn a living through their craft. (85) Hibbert brought broad experience to the NCBRC and the first Black Theatre Festival, where he performed well-received pieces from Anansi and Muntu and was a guest artist at an “Evening of Aesthetic Ambience,” organized to recognize officers and board members. (86) In the first year of the National Black Theatre Festival that established it as a national force, Hibbert was a special consultant to Hamlin, the artistic director of the company, helping to organize events and influencing the productions of Fugard’s The Island and Sizwe Bansi is Dead. (87) He was in contact with Maya Angelou, his previous director who became the first national chairperson for the Festival. In recognition of his work, Angelou presented him with the 1989 Conference Award for Outstanding Service. (88) 


After Hibbert’s death in 1990, commemorative articles refer to his accomplishments as an actor, director, writer, and theatrical entrepreneur. (89) His evocative poetry and prose as well as his “exuberance, and demanding nature as a teacher” are noted. (90) Students remember Hibbert’s voice carrying “the heavy flavor of his native accent” combined with his “rich sense of humor” reflecting “the joy he took in life” and “in the practice of his life’s work.” (91) Hamlin summarized Hibbert’s contributions saying, “Sydney believed that no matter the amount of adversity, there was always a way to overcome that. Not only could one dream the impossible dream, but one could make that dream a reality” adding, “One of the things I most liked about him was that his growing up in Jamaica had a lot to do with who he was and how he saw things.” (92) 


Sydney Hibbert, a man who grew from a rigid colonial education and culture as a child to a postcolonial theatre professional pushed against the racial and cultural barriers of his day, may have longed for respect for his homeland, his home culture, and himself. A choice to earn that respect for self and nation by showing the colonizer’s culture, writ large, that he could accomplish significant things on the field that those colonizers had created, is understandable. His experience surely led him to realize the value of teaching a younger generation to do better and his own Black students to be more empowered and aware. His anti-colonialist drive emerged in his powerful performances of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes, now re-envisioned, as much as in roles in Fugard’s plays that brought social and racial inequities and questions about humanity to the fore. The battle that Theatre 77/Barn colleagues fought at home and in Britain, he fought in the United States. 


Hibbert’s choice, however, seems to have meant walking a lonely path in a culture or society where he may never have felt completely at ease. In his poetry, he displayed a sense of anger and displacement or, as Homi Bhabha has termed it, “unhomeliness.” (93) Hibbert moved from Kingston, Jamaica, to London, to Washington, D. C., Harlem, Los Angeles, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but he never have found a physical space or social reality that was compatible with his Jamaican identity. As African American journalist Sam Fulwood III writes, animosity often clouds relationships between Caribbean immigrants and native-born African Americans citizens because of competition for jobs and differences in their dealings with whites.(94) In Hibbert’s lifetime people of West Indian descent, a minority within a minority, occupied lofty positions in American life and culture, including former United States Secretary of State Colin Powell, Harvard historical/cultural sociologist Orlando Patterson, Caribbean American writer Jamaica Kincaid, and entertainer Harry Belafonte among others. Though Hibbert’s career and life accomplishments are less well-known, attention is merited because of the breadth and quality of his work as well as his passion for changing the racial discourse in Jamaica and the United States. In an age of reclaiming the histories of People of Color and seeking to understand the experiences of people growing up in a colonial setting, this work reconstructs the life of a “Caribbean soul” who successfully negotiated the changes from Jamaican colonial life to a decolonized life in the United States.  

References

  1.  Sydney Hibbert, Anansi and Muntu: A Caribbean Soul in Exile, (Rural Hill, NC: Independent Publishing Company, 1986), 44. See also, Gerald McDermott, Anansi the Spider: a tale from the Ashanti, (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1972). Anansi is a folktale character in the shape of a spider, often considered a god of all knowledge and stories, a trickster, one of the most important characters of Caribbean folklore and the genesis of the later Brer Rabbit in the American South. Muntu embraces living and dead, ancestors and deified ancestors. 

  2.  The author wishes to thank Dennis C. Beck, Professor of Theatre: Theatre History/Dramatic Literature at James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA and Kathleen Giles Arthur, Professor emerita of Art History, for their invaluable assistance and editorial comments.

  3.  For general history, see Clinton V. Black, The History of Jamaica (Kingston, Jamaica: Longman Publishing & Collins Educational Press,1958); Errol G. Hill, The Jamaican Stage, 1655-1900: Profile of a Colonial Theatre, (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992); Philip Sherlock and Hazel Bennett, The Story of the Jamaican People (Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Rundle Publishers,1998); Tom Zoellner, Island on Fire: The Revolt that Ended Slavery in the British Empire (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2020). 

  4.  Sherlock and Bennett, Jamaican People, 77-98.

  5.  Sherlock and Bennett, Jamaican People, 116-127.

  6.  Rachel Manley, Drumblair: Memories of a Jamaican Childhood, (Key Porter Books, 2009), Prologue xi. For specific information on slavery and the processing of sugar see “Sugar’s Revolution” in Ada Ferrar, Cuba: An American History, (New York: Scribner, 2021), 69 -77.

  7.  Ferrar, Cuba pp. 73-74. Marlis Schweitzer calls these theatrical gatherings “sites that facilitated collective alignment with the “ideals and aesthetics of the ‘mother country,’” as quoted in Susan Valladares’ The Review of English Studies, Vol. 73, no. 309, April 2022, 322.

  8.  Hill, Jamaican Stage, p. 237, n. 2, also credits Richardson Wright, Revels in Jamaica, 1682-1838, (New York, Dodd, Mead & Co., 1937). 

  9.  By the early nineteenth century, segregation had become commonplace in the Kingston Theatre, though not many years later the “caste system,” white sailors and educated blacks, was “overriding racial lines.” Hill, Jamaican Stage,  36-37. As Eduardo Bonilla-Silva suggests in Racism Without Racists, “Since theatre is based in storytelling” and “its ability to lie in the realm of the given,” it can “help [spectators] make sense of the world but in ways that reinforce the status quo,” in Rowman & Littlefield, sixth edition, 96. 

  10.  Hundreds of people saw costumes that were identical to those used earlier at London's Savoy Theatre, in https://old.jamaica-gleaner.com/pages/history/story0010.html.

  11.  Yvonne Brewster, Vaulting Ambition: Jamaica’s Barn Theatre, 1966-2005, (Leeds, England: Peepal Tree Press Ltd., 2017), 23.

  12.  Wycliffe and Hazel Bennett, The Jamaican Theatre: Highlights of the Performing Arts in the Twentieth Century, (Jamaica: University of West Indies Press, 2011), 55-78.

  13.  Hill, Jamaican Stage, 272-289. On folk elements (dance and music) in African-Caribbean plays, see Osita Okagbue, Culture and Identity in African and Caribbean Theatre, (London: Adonis and Abbey Publishers, 2009), 191-201. 

  14.  Sherlock and Bennett, in Jamaican People, p. 368, hypothesize that rejection of Nazism at the end of World War II influenced Britain’s abandonment of concepts of Empire and trusteeship.

  15.  “Echoes Still Heard,” Hibbert, Anansi and Muntu, 16. He played on the spelling of suffrage to change its meaning to suffering. “Wid a(n) X” show the lines are written in Jamaican patois. 

  16.  Lil Thompson, “Sydney Hibbert: The Discipline Pays Off,” Winston-Salem Journal, July 31, 1986, 26.

  17.  They lived at 4 Hart Lane behind Lismore Street, running off of Old Hope Rd. See https://gleaner.newspaperarchive.com/kingston-gleaner/1934-06-05/page-5/

  18.  Hibbert, “The Lane, Tempo Mystique,” Anansi and Muntu, 9.

  19.  Hibbert, “Actor Boy,” Anansi and Muntu, 13.

  20.  Hibbert, “Morning Call,” Anansi and Muntu, 12.

  21.  Black, History of Jamaica, 137-140; A. Wesley Powell, The Excelsior-EXED Story, (Kingston: The Methodist Church in the Caribbean and Americas, Jamaica District), 1989.

  22.  Powell, 27-28, 41-47. Louise Bennett was awarded a British Council scholarship at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) in London, and returned to teach at Excelsior 1946-48. By writing in dialect, Bennett-Coverley was following in the footsteps of Jamaican poet Claude McKay.

  23.  https://www.caribbean-beat.com/issue-133/out-of-many. King said, “Here you have people from many national backgrounds: Chinese, Indians, so-called Negroes, and you can just go down the line, Europeans, and people from many, many nations. Do you know they all live there and they have a motto in Jamaica, “Out of many people, one people.” And they say, “Here in Jamaica we are not Chinese, we are not Japanese, we are not Indians, we are not Negroes, we are not Englishmen, we are not Canadians. But we are all one big family of Jamaicans.” 

  24.  Monique D.D. Kelly, “Examining Race in Jamaica: How Racial Category and Skin Color Structure Social Inequality,” The Journal of Race and Social Problems, Vol. 18 (2020), 300-312.

  25.  Hertice Altink, Public Secrets: Race and Skin Colour in Colonial and Independent Jamaica, (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2019). Hibbert, “Actor Boy,” 13. The term “high-brown” was used in Harlem in the 1920s and found in Black women’s face powder sold as “High Brown” by the Overton-Hygienic Company, Chicago. 

  26.  Sherlock and Bennet, Jamaican People, 292-315, 362-63.

  27.  Rupert Lewis, “Jamaican Black Power in the 1960s,” in Black Power in the Caribbean, ed., Kate Quinn, (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2014), 55-56.

  28.  Rex Nettleford, Identity, Race and Protest in Jamaica, (New York: William Morrow, 1973), 19-37.

  29.  Robert G.  Dryden, “John Gay's Polly: Unmasking Pirates and Fortune Hunters in the West Indies,” Eighteenth-Century Studies, Vol. 34, No. 4, (2001), 539-557.

  30.  Stoney Lloyd, “Local Dramatist Returns,” Daily Gleaner, August 4, 1965, 6. Besides those listed above, he played in the fifteenth-century morality play Everyman and Patrick Hamilton’s psychological drama The Duke in Darkness, and four separate characters in Dylan Thomas’s Under Milkwood. He produced Jean Anouilh’s Antigone and Chekov’s Uncle Vanya, which placed on the honor list of productions in the Student Repertory Theatre.

  31.  “Local Dramatist Returns,” Daily Gleaner. August 4, 1965, 7-8. Hibbert took acting classes from Kingston teacher, Violette de Barovier Riel at her Continental Academy workshop and acted with the Repertory Players, Caribbean Thespians, and the Coke Drama Group. He was married and his wife joined him. Gleaner, August 10, 1963, 19 and Gleaner, August 15, 1965, 20.

  32.  He portrayed what one reviewer called an elegant Thane of Cawdor in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Carol McGinnis Kay, “The Alabama Shakespeare Festival,” Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 2 (1979), 205-208.

  33.  J. H. Crouch, “The Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 21 (1970), 465-467. This critic used racial stereotypes that would be considered inappropriate today.

  34.  Kari Howard, Kaleidoscope, “Drama Review: Othello a Mellow Fellow,” September 29, 1983, University of North Carolina at Asheville, 7.

  35. “First Novel Wins Acclaim,” Daily Gleaner, August 9, 1962, p. 24. See Imani D. Owens, “Toward a Truly Indigenous Theatre: Sylvia Wynter Adapts Federico García Lorca,” Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, 4:1 (2017), 49-67.

  36.  The Morant Bay Rebellion broke out on October 11, 1865, when several hundred black people raided the police station and stole weapons stored there. Two planters were killed, and several others were threatened. With the disturbances spreading, the Jamaican authorities put down the rebellion so brutally that direct rule from London was established, which ended representative government in the island for decades.

  37.  Veronica M. Gregg, “Commemorations in Jamaica: A Brief History of Conflicts.” Caribbean Quarterly 56, no. 1/2 (2010): 23–67, especially 28-29. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40654952.

  38.  Carole Boyce Davies, “From Masquerade to Maskarade,” in Sylvia Winter, On Being Human as Praxis, ed. Katherine McKittrick, (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2015), 203-225

  39.  https://gleaner.newspaperarchive.com/kingston-gleaner/1966-03-02/page-7/; Members who had been involved in Ballad were Sydney Hibbert, Billy Woung, Trevor Rhone, Grace Lannaman, and Munair Zacca. 

  40. Bennett, The Jamaican Theatre, 90-94; Brewster, Vaulting Ambition, 16-20. Sydney was fresh from acting and

    management training in London. Trevor Rhone and Yvonne Brewster had studied at the Rose Bruford College in Kent. Rhone became a well-known playwright and was presented with the Institute of Jamaica Musgrave Gold Medal. Brewster founded the Talawa Theatre Company, London and, after a long career acting, directing and producing was awarded an Order of the British Empire.

  41.  Brewster, Vaulting Ambition, 16-17.

  42. https://gleaner.newspaperarchive.com/kingston-gleaner/1966-03-06/page-17/; As Brewster tells the story, there was no review. For the post mortem, see Trevor Rhone, Bellas Gate Boy, (Oxford, England: MacMillan Caribbean Writers, 2008), 29-32.

  43.  Brewster, Vaulting Ambition, 17-19.

  44.  Daily Gleaner, “Merry-go-round,” June 14, 1966, Brewster, Vaulting Ambition, 33.

  45.  George Carter had been a pioneer theatre director and lighting designer in Kingston since the 1940s. He was lighting designer for the musicals, pageants, dance and pantomimes in the Little Theatre Movement. In 1961 he received an Arts Council award to study in London at Sadler Wells Ballet and the Shakespeare Memorial theatre at Stratford.

  46.  Hibbert’s post-Theatre 77 lecturing and teaching activities in Jamaica were extensive, as documented in Daily Gleaner, “Trends in Theatre,” October 06, 1965, 26; “New Slants to Known History,” October 14, 1965; “Drama workshop opens today,” April 25, 1966, 16; “Jamaica Festival Kingston and Saint Andrew Training courses,” April 26, 1966, 5; “Continental Academy Drama Course,” April 8, 1967, 18; “Festival Seminar, Drama Seminars,” April 25-29,” 1967, 26; May 11, 1967, 26.

  47.  https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/2416/the-art-of-theatre-no-8-athol-fugard It toured to Cape town and other locations until June 1962. Soon after the show closed, laws were passed prohibiting racially mixed casts or audiences in South Africa.  

  48.  https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095512988 and https://www.angelfire.com/md2/timewarp/ fugard.html/. The Blood Knot starring J. D. Cannon as Morris and James Earl Jones as Zachariah at the Cricket Theatre in 1964, as noted in “Blood Knot' Lists American Premiere,” New York Times, Friday, January 31, 1964, 16.

  49.  Milner's most significant contribution to African-American letters was Black Drama Anthology (1972), the earliest and most respected anthology of Black plays. It included works by Milner, Amiri Baraka, Ed Bullins, and Langston Hughes  https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100158957)

  50.  Winston-Salem Chronicle, “Hibbert honored by LA drama critics,” March 27, 1986, A-12. The Drama-Logue newspaper, a weekly west-coast theatre trade publication, gave Drama-Logue Theatre Critics Awards for theatre work done in Los Angeles and Southern California. See https://www.abouttheartists.com/award_groups/184-drama-logue-awards/year/1988.

  51.  Lawrence Christon in “Stage Review: Playwright as Exorcist in Master Harold and the Boys' South Coast Repertory,” Los Angeles Times May 25, 1985, in https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1985-05-25 -ca-25 15632-story.html. 

  52.  Jeff Rubio, Santa Ana Orange County Register, May 24, 1985, 148.

  53.  Robin Barksdale, “Group bound by ‘Blood Knot’” in “Close-Up,” Chronicle, April 30, 1987, A6.

  54.  The Jamaican poet Claude McKay (1890-1948) settled in New York City in 1914 and wrote about Black life in Jamaica and challenges faced by Black Americans, often in the influential Pearson’s Magazine and Liberator. Marcus Garvey, founder of the UNIA, had lived in Harlem from 1916 until 1924.

  55.  See the excellent film with photos and interviews by the Community Works N.Y.C. and the New Heritage Theatre Group, (https://www.harlem-is.org/videos) at https://youtu.be/vGG0LMPlf_Y

  56.  Hibbert describes the whole Harlem scene, Ananzi, 30-31. See also James E. Smethurst, The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s, (Raleigh, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2005); Encyclopedia of the Black Arts Movement, Vernon D. Mitchell, Cynthia Davis, editors (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019).

  57.  African-Americans Pearl Bailey (Hello Dolly) and James Earl Jones (The Great White Hope) were playing starring roles on Broadway, but the Caribbean American Repertory Theatre (CART) was only founded in 1975. See Olivier Stephenson, Visions and Voices (Leeds: Peepal Press, 2013), and http://southernworldartsnews.blogspot.com/2015/03/caribbean-playwrights-converse-and.html

  58.  Hibbert, Ananzi, 49. Bennett-Coverley brought recognition to the Jamaican Creole dialect through her poetry and Jamaica Radio series “Mis Lou’s Views” that ran 1965-1982. 

  59.  William F. Rogers, Jr., “The Establishment of the Harlem School of the Arts,” Black Music Research Journal, Vol. 8 (1988), 223-236.

  60.  Negro Digest (later Black World), Vol. 18, August 1969, 50. Spelled two different ways in the same article. See Genevieve Fabre, “A Checklist of Plays, Pageants, Rituals and Musicals by Afro-American authors performed in the United States 1960-1973,” Black World/ Negro Digest, April 1974, 95. Afolabi Ajayi is recorded a as Nigerian recipient of a scholarship to Pomona College where he graduated in 1964; he was deceased by 1975. See https://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PDAAU440.pdf

  61.  Okeke-Agulu, Chika. “Rethinking Mbari Mbayo: Osogbo Workshops in the 1960s, Nigeria.” In African Art and Agency in the Workshop, edited by Sidney Littlefield Kasfir and Till Forster, 154–79. Indiana University Press, 2013. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt16gh6fp.11. This is a new discovery that needs to be explored.

  62.  Reported in “Studies in Caribbean and South American Literature: An Annual Annotated Bibliography, 1989.” Callaloo 13, no. 3 (1990): 564. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2931339. Anansi “is the ‘spiderman’ in Caribbean folktales who “survives by adopting a role” and “guarding his sense of humor that pricks pretension—especially his own,” whereas, “Muntu,” the Bantu word for soul, spirit or otherness, goes with Anansi on his journeys providing stability, an unshakable inner identity. He sees two worlds, past and present clearly though he often chooses to remain quiet and detached,” in Hibbert, Anansi “Introduction.”

  63.  The actor’s pointed observations are a long way from the “One Love!” sensibilities in Marley’s work. For more on Marley, see Timothy White, Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley, (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2000) and Roger Steffens, So Many Things to Say; the Oral History of Bob Marley, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017). 

  64.  Hibbert, Anansi “Introduction,” p. x.

  65.  Hibbert aspires to “taste, philosophize, and one day even write the answers clearly, succinctly in short staccato sentences” that will be “hailed as a new style,” pulsing “like the real jazz,” blooming with “the colors and textures of the blues,” and mounting “crescendos like the shouts of gospel when it was just newborn, warm and supine, splendidly cathartic and holy, in “Harlem Adagio,” Anansi, 29.

  66.  Hibbert, “Bloodbath,” Anansi, 61.

  67.  Hibbert, “For Those in Exile,” Anansi, 49.

  68.  Hibbert, “Visit ’84,” Anansi, 53.

  69.  “The Black Fine Arts Festival,” Illinois State University, The Vidette, Vol. 82, n. 54, April 17, 1970. The theme was “The Meaning of Blackness,” with films and prominent lecturers; The Vidette Vol. 83, no.47, March 9, 1971; Vol. 84, n.39, February 8, 1972; The Vidette, Vol. 84, n. 55, March 21, 1972.

  70.  The unrest from July 12-17, 1967 “came during a period when racial tensions were exploding into violent conflagrations across the country.” Over several days in Newark, “twenty-seven people were killed — many of them black residents, as well as a white firefighter and a white police detective — and more than 700 were injured,” Rick Rojas and Khorri Atkinson, “Fifty Years After the Uprising: Five Days of Unrest That Shaped, and Haunted, Newark,” New York Times, July 11, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/11/nyregion/newark-riots-50-years.html

  71.  Daily Gleaner, “Jamaican Dramatist Returns for a Visit,” May 23, 1973, 5. On the Rutgers/Livingston situation, see Paul G.E. Clemens, “The Early Years of Livingston College, 1964–1973: Revisiting The “College of Good Intentions” in The Journal of The Rutgers University Libraries, Vol. 6-7, 71-114, in http://dx.doi.org/10.14713/jrul.v68i2.1987.

  72.  Pat Woodson, “Hibbert Accepts Lead—First Reading Inspires Cast,” The Breeze, September 24, 1974, pp. 3, 6; Jeffrey Alan Dailey, Communication with author, August 2, 2021.

  73.  Pat Woodson, “Lear Costume Designs,” The Breeze, October 11, 1974, 3; Pamela Johnson, Communication with author, September 30, 2021.

  74.  According to the Winston-Salem Chronicle, December 6, 1990, B10, Hibbert had already lectured and done university-level workshops on the Los Angeles, Northridge and Pomona California State University campuses while performing in Southern California in the 1980s.

  75.  Robin Barksdale, “Group bound by ‘Blood Knot’” in “Close-Up,” Winston-Salem Chronicle, April 30, 1987, A-6.

  76.  Winston-Salem Chronicle, “The Actor as Instrument,” June 21, 1984,16, and Glenda E. Gill, “Schertzer racially biased,” in “Forum,” Chronicle, Thursday, January 21, 1988, A-5.

  77.  Winston-Salem Chronicle, “The Actor as Instrument,” June 21, 1984, 16; Winston-Salem Journal, December 22, 1985, 40.

  78.  These organizations included The Flonnie Anderson Theatrical Association and Nell Lite Productions, see Felecia Piggot McMillan, North Carolina Black Repertory Company—Twenty-five Marvtastic Years, (Greensboro: Open Hand Publishing, LLC,2005) 22.

  79.  McMillan, North Carolina Black Repertory, 5, “The black self-affirmation fueled by the Civil Rights Movement carried over to the Black Powers Movement and, consequently, to its cultural wing – the Black Arts Movement.”

  80.  Winston-Salem Chronicle “Looking Back on 1986,” “Sydney Hibbert performs a mixture of humor and pathos in his Anansi and Muntu,” Feb. 5, 1987, C-4; McMillan, North Carolina Black Repertory, 41, 61; Winston-Salem Chronicle, “Can We Talk?” September 24, 1987, A-8.

  81.  McMillan, 61; The Island and Sizwi Banzi is Dead written by Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona were originally performed in 1972 in Cape town, South Africa.

  82.  McMillan, North Carolina Black Repertory Company, 46-50. Other celebrities were Oprah Winfrey, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Lou Gossett, Cicely Tyson, James Earl Jones, and Roscoe Lee Brown.

  83.  Mabel Robinson, former NCBR Artistic Director, Winston-Salem Chronicle, December 6, 1990, B-9; Winston-Salem Chronicle, January 10, 1991, A-8. 

  84.  Daily Gleaner, Tuesday, January 15, 1991, 27.

  85.  Patricia Smith Deering, “Renowned local dramatist remembered,” Winston-Salem Chronicle, December 6, 1990,  25.

  86.  John Hoeffel, “Drama Professor Sydney Hibbert Dies of Cancer,” Winston-Salem Journal, November 30, 1990, 12; Nathan Ross Freeman wrote and directed a play based on Hibbert, Your Side Mine, that was performed at the Montage Showcase Ensemble in November 1997. See https://www.greensboro.com/ensemble-gives-playwrights-a-chance/article_68b7d190-97d4-5e5b-b6ea-891a97f0c19f.html

  87.  Homi Bhabha, “The World and the Home,” Social Text, 31/32 (1992), 141-153. Hibbert experienced the “unhomeliness” in the sense of his exile and itinerant life style. Though he became a US citizen in 1978, he was constantly moving from the East to West Coasts. In “Sermon in a Dream-Mass: Port Elizabeth, South Africa,” the lanes of Kingston where he grew up haunted his imagination becoming metaphors for danger and death.

  88.  Sam Fulwood III, “U.S. Blacks: A Divided Experience,” November 25,1995, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1995-11-25-mn-6855-story.html.

About The Authors

Thomas Arthur received his PhD in American Studies from Indiana University and is a Professor Emeritus of Theatre at James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He has written extensively on theatre performance and film practitioners and co-authored See You at the Movies, a book on Melvyn Douglas’s acting and political activities. Arthur has led acting workshops internationally, including in the townships of South Africa as apartheid ended.

JADT publishes thoughtful and innovative work by leading scholars on theatre, drama, and performance in the Americas – past and present. Provocative articles provide valuable insight and information on the heritage of American theatre, as well as its continuing contribution to world literature and the performing arts. Founded in 1989 and previously edited by Professors Vera Mowry Roberts, Jane Bowers, and David Savran, this widely acclaimed peer reviewed journal is now edited by Dr. Benjamin Gillespie and Dr. Bess Rowen.

Journal of American Drama and Theatre is a publication of the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center.

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