Carroll Dawes, legendary theatre director, scholar and teacher, who is generally recognised as one of the most influential and innovative theatre directors Jamaica has produced, died early on Monday, 8th February, 2016, (the eve of her 84th birthday) at her home in London, England, after a long illness.
This shocking news was contained in an email message sent to the Nigerian Theatre Forum (NTF), firstname.lastname@example.org, by Dr. Dani Lyndersay, which also stated that Carroll Dawes’ only daughter, Gwyneth Dawes, was by her side at the time of her passing ‘on to the land beyond.’
According to Lyndersay, Dawes, one of the early directors of studies at the Jamaica School of Drama, oversaw the building of the School of Drama at its present location, produced its first curriculum, and formed its first student company, the National Festival Theatre of Jamaica.
A highly celebrated director of what are often cited as definitive stagings of some of the world’s greatest plays (from Shakespeare to Ibsen to Brecht) seen in Jamaica, Dawes directed critically acclaimed productions of plays by, among others, Derek Walcott, Dennis Scott, and Wole Soyinka; she left Jamaica in 1977 and relocated to Nigeria, where she taught at several universities, including Ibadan, Ile-Ife, and Calabar.
Dawes was born Carroll Cecily Morrison on 3rd February, 1932, in Hopewell, Hanover, to Cleveland Morrison, an education officer and former vice-president of the Jamaica Union of Teachers (now Jamaica Teachers’ Association), and Vivienne Maud Morrison, a teacher; she retired in 1992 and settled in England, where she lived until her passing.
After completing her education at the St. Hilda’s Diocesan High School in 1950, she won a scholarship to the then newly established University College of the West Indies; and in 1955, she married Jamaican poet and novelist, Neville Dawes, and they had a daughter, Gwyneth, before their divorce in 1957.
Lyndersay further informed that, Dawes would go on to secure her Master of Fine Arts in Directing and her Doctor of Fine Arts in Theatre History at the Yale School of Drama in 1971; and even before this, had built an enviable reputation as one of the most innovative and gifted theatre artistes in Jamaica from 1950 onwards; she was the recipient of the Institute of Jamaica’s Centenary Medal in Theatre Arts in 1980.
Meanwhile, members of the Nigerian Theatre Forum (NTF) have reacted to the shocking news, considering the fact that, “Carrol D,” as she was fondly called by her students in Nigeria, “the quintessential Theatre Director, Great Teacher and Mother Figure to a lot of us who were privileged to study her and under her,” as Longley Evru puts it.
Evru disclosed further: “Carrol Dawes supervised two directorial projects of mine… Birthdays Are Not for Dying and my final year project… Imaguero. I remember with a passion her radical approach to teaching in such odd places as the Staff Club with beer and Suya in tow and the UI Botanical Gardens. Rarely would you find such an Amazon, Mentor, Intellectual,
“As for Gwyneth how can one forget that permanent smile of hers; a true scion of her root… her dear mother, that is.
“May the gentle soul of Carrol Dawes find solace in the bosom of the Lord as we mourn her ICONIC contributions to the THEATRE WORLD even as we pray for deep comfort for Gwyneth,” he prayed.
Nico news commiserates with Gwyneth and members of the Nigerian Theatre Forum for the irreparable loss.
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