By Jairo Rodrigues
For 58 years Ron Robinson has been active on stage, he knows the National Cultural Centre like no one else does and he practically lives in the Theatre Guild, but drama is not the only passion that fuels his blood.
Ron has been a radio broadcaster for the past 47 years; his most famous programme is ‘Ron’s Rendezvous’. He is a former chief scout but still an active member in the Scout Association of Guyana; a member of the Board of the Volunteer Youth Corps; a member of the Rotary Club of Georgetown Central; an advocate for peace; a voice for the helpless; a clergyman for the Anglican Church; a teacher and an icon.
He was born 66 years ago at the Georgetown Public Hospital. He grew up in Hadfield Street in the capital city and fondly remembers climbing trees and picking genips in Bent Street, defying the owner of the genip tree. The landowner’s son would be down on the ground watching Ron and his friend eagerly until they climbed down the tree, the minute they set foot on the ground they would receive a beating with genip tree twigs, before being turned over to his parents for some good discipline.
“Back then, everybody looked after everybody; it was like a neighbourhood family in those days. An older person could discipline any of the children in the neighbourhood without that child’s parents getting angry. Now we have lost that neighbourliness, that concern for each other as family and that I believe is the reason for the moral erosion of values,” he expressed.
He said there were so many childhood memories growing up, but none can be compared to a good game of cricket on the streets.
Ron grew up in a humble home with his three brothers and one sister. He said life was comfortably simple and his parents surrounded them with a home full of love and understanding. He described his family life to be like no other. “We were a very close knit family. Our parents were like our friends, our guides and our advisors – they were really close to their children.” Ron mentioned that he and his siblings learned respect from the womb and grew up in a Christian household with strict but loving parents who instilled morals and values. His father was the first Guyanese Engineering Chief of Telecommunications in this country, he was always seen as a disciplined man, who applied the same manner in his home. Ron said he never once laid a hand on their mother and he showed the greatest love and respect towards her, “something that would incur my father’s anger was disrespect to his wife,” he said.
Ron’s personal goal is to make an effort towards the eradication of domestic violence. In his own words: “It has grown into a monster, a scourge in society. Too many cowards are beating innocent women and children, any man that is violent against women and children is not even a man thus he should hang his head in shame. It worries me. We all need to get involved in order to stamp out this disease.”
After attending Smith’s Congregational Primary, he went on to Queen’s College where he attained five O-level passes and one A-level; including Art, Math and English. He enjoyed the Annual Drama Festivals Queen’s College had back in those days.
Ron has been acting since the age of eight – he would dress up like a clown and stick his head out a window performing for his peers, who would gather around cheering in view of his antics. Fifty-eight years of drama and he said he is still striving to do better. When asked what he considers to be his most accomplished, unforgettable piece to date, he simply replied, “Have not done it yet! Still looking for it and I know it will never come.” Ron said that each time he goes on stage he knows there is something waiting; a challenge to make him do something better.
Ron’s stage production company, The Theatre Company, is noted for putting on quality plays, but moreso for its annual trademark production, The Link Show.
“Drama is part of my life; it is the essential means of developing one’s character. The discipline of theatre is an asset to daily life and the enjoyment of portraying a playwright’s intention to an audience is very rewarding. Like any other field, I feel that one must have …a passion for whatever it is one puts one’s mind to. …You must enjoy what you do to the hilt.”
He said his passion for drama and his self-motivation is the drive that kept him going for years and will keep him going for many more. “I think anyone who wants to be successful has got to be is self-motivated; that makes the difference between success and moderate achievement.”
In the early years of his career, he said, his parents inspired him to be the best that he can be, but throughout his life it has always been God’s inspiration. In acting, every role that he has accepted was because something about the character lit inspiration in his heart.
From the many accolades and awards Ron Robinson has received throughout his life and the many dramatic awards that fill the cabinet in his home – the most outstanding award for him is the Golden Arrow of Achievement (AA) that was bestowed upon him by personal recommendation of President Desmond Hoyte in 1990. “I was very shocked when I was called and asked to accept the award because it was from the president’s recommendation, that in itself is very humbling and a great honour for your country to recognise something you have done – sterling contribution to broadcasting and theatre,” he said.
Ron Robinson, AA, was recently awarded ‘Best Actor in a Full Length Play’ at the National Drama Festival for his double role as ‘Styles’ and ‘Buntu’ in the award-winning play Sizwe Banzi is Dead. He said the play was very challenging and took months of preparation, but was one he had always wanted to do.
In his thank-you speech at the award ceremony, he urged the younger generation to continue the art of drama and keep the Guyanese industry strong. The Scene asked him to delve deeper into the subject, since he chose his recognition to highlight other dramatists. “…It is up to the younger generations to keep on… [we] pass the flag and we need them to build on that. The future of drama and theatre is highly dependent on the young ones.
It is only hoped they would apply themselves with dedication, passion and honesty to the arts,” he said.
Leaving a long trail of inspiration behind, Ron said, “I still am to do my best and I cherish all of them.”
Asked questions still unanswered by many dramatists – where does the future of drama and the other arts in Guyana lie given the impunity with which copyright is infringed here, and how can the national drama stage be improved – he replied, after a moment of contemplation: “It is a shame that we have been talking about this for years and that is all – just talk no walk. It is important that people’s property is protected by the law against piracy and plagiarism.
It is essential to establish copyright laws…”
He continued: “Another factor is that the National Drama Festival has to be reorganised because it has many flaws which have to be excised. We also need to reintroduce drama into the school curriculum.”
As a dramatist, Ron plans on continuing directing and acting in the future. He says he will continue to search for that one play which he knows he will never find; continue with Theatre Guild workshops and relaying his knowledge to the younger generation.
His keen intentions for the New Year is to be involved in eradicating Domestic Violence and mentoring children so that they will know someone cares and that they will have a better chance to become positive citizens of tomorrow.
He has two children, who reside overseas, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Only one grandchild resides in Guyana and Ron hopes that one day he will be able to meet his other relatives.