AS a playwright for more than 40 years, writing dialogue is second nature for Basil Dawkins. Yet, he was speechless when the call came that he is to be a recipient of the Order of Distinction (OD), Jamaica's sixth-highest honour.
"Honestly, I am not sure it has sunk in yet. When my mind goes back to the call it's fuzzy and still feels unreal," he said. "It excites me, humbles me; I try to justify to myself with some difficulty that I am indeed worthy and deserving of this high honour."
His theatre colleagues would disagree. Since 1980 when he mounted Flat Mate, his first play at The Barn Theatre, Dawkins has reeled off a number of hit productions including Champagne & Sky Juice, Same Song Different Tune, What The Hell is Happening to us Dear? and Which Way is Out?
Hide Your Husband, his latest play, is scheduled to reopen on August 10 at the Little Little Theatre in Kingston.
Despite the many Actor Boy Awards he has won over the years, Dawkins says the most satisfying aspect of being a playwright transcends production.
"Simple things like being able to write 'THE END' on the last page of a new script. Watching pleased audiences walk out of the theatre here at home and overseas. Discovering a new theatre talent and helping him/her to rise in the industry is fulfilling too as getting someone who is approaching retirement or retired and getting them to go on a stage and perform and enjoy it," he told the Jamaica Observer. "Maybe most fulfilling after all the fulfilments is getting my daughter TK Dawkins to get involved in my work to add her flavour and young minds to the creative process."
TK Dawkins is director for Hide Your Husband which opened in April, but closed shortly after due to a resurgence in COVID-19 fear.
Basil Dawkins was born in Portland. He got involved in theatre during the late 1970s while attending The University of the West Indies' Mona campus; at the time, conventional writers like Trevor Rhone and Louis Marriott were on top, but the roots play was emerging through brash writer/directors such as Ginger Knight and Raplh Holness.
Although he notes the progress of Jamaican theatre in terms of writing, acting and production, Dawkins believes there is room for improvement.
"In some areas 'we have come a long way, baby'. In others, we have lagged, but we have a fairly reliable theatre audience in Kingston which we need to encourage and grow. We can have theatre six nights per week at various venues on any given night. We have to thank the trailblazers Trevor Rhone and Barn Theatre, Ed Wallace Productions, pantomime, Bim and Bam, Ralph Holness and a number of persons and entities who made theatre a viable part of the entertainment business landscape instead of being a pastime of a select few," he said. "We can't not pay tribute to Government institutions like the Jamaica Festival Organisation which has done its part in sensitising and bringing to the fore talents which would not have been known. The Edna Manley College and others."
Dawkins will receive his OD during the National Honours and Awards ceremony at King's House in October.