STANDING majestically in the heart of downtown, Kingston, painted a cool powder blue, this week we profile the historical icon that is the Ward Theatre.
The beautiful building was constructed in 1912 by Colonel Charles James Ward, custos of Kingston, who presented it as a gift to the mayor and Council of the City of Kingston on December 16 .
It is the third Theatre to stand on the same site since 1775.
The first was the Kingston Theatre, which was destroyed by fire, and the second was the Theatre Royal which was destroyed in the 1907 earthquake. The Ward Theatre was built at a time when the City of Kingston was recuperating from the devastating 1907 earthquake.
Like many such buildings in the tropics, it is made of concrete and steel, answering the need for practicality in ventilation and acoustics while maintaining an air of formality. The Ward Theatre speaks to the ingenuity and depth of local talent.
Declared a national monument in January 7, 2000, the Ward Theatre has a long history circumscribing the nation's social, cultural and political lives. Its productions are markers of social history, and it has functioned as the national stage for the festival movement.
The Ward is the only theatre of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean.
Colonel Ward envisioned the space being used for enjoyment and educational purposes that ushered in the era of local theatre production that began in earnest in the 1900s.
Throughout the years, touring companies from Europe and the Americas have performed at the Ward. International stars such as Marian Anderson, Paul Robeson, Alicia Markova, Anton Dolin, Charles Laughton, Arthur Rubinstein, and Jamaica's own Willard White have also performed. Also famous groups such as the Australian National Ballet, the European Community Chamber Orchestra, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Garth Fagan Dance Company and the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NDTC) have graced the Ward's stage.
Pantomime has been associated with the Ward for over 60 years, with pantomimes from 1941 to 2002 debuting at the Ward on every Boxing Day, with the exception of one year in the 1950s. The Pantomime moved to the Little Theatre in 2002 because of the poor state of the facility.
The Ward Theatre is a testament to Jamaican architecture and philanthropy, it has influenced this nation in every way and has added to the enrichment of our Jamaican culture.