The Jamaican Stage, 1655-1900: Profile of a Colonial Theatre
A distinguished scholar here offers a thorough lively account of the Jamaican stage, arguably the most prominent theatre of its kind in the British colonies through 1900. Errol Hill discusses the struggle to maintain viable playhouses, the fortunes of visiting professional troupes, and the emergence of an indigenous theatre. He documents the plays written and produced through the end of the nineteenth century, presenting them against the background of a society emerging in the 1830s from a slave-holding system. He also explores the rituals, festivals, and other forms of entertainment enjoyed by the broad underclass of Jamaicans, most of whom were slaves or slave descendants, and who today number over 90 percent of the island's population. By examining the record of theatrical production on the one hand, and the variety of indigenous performance on the other, Hill shows how a synthesis of native and foreign elements has occurred. He calls particular attention to the use of the Creole language, new performance patterns, and the integration of music, dance, mime, and masking. In the Epilogue, he extends his discussion to the anglophone Caribbean which has become politically independent of Britain.
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