The Theatre Guild
December 11, 2006
THE $5M GT&T contribution towards the restoration of the Theatre Guild Playhouse in Kingston, Georgetown is something which is no doubt welcome news to those nostalgic about the old building and what it once represented.
The Theatre Guild Restoration Project is something which has been in the works for years now, and the continued dilapidated state is a testament to the success of those efforts.
The Ministry of Culture under Ms. Gail Teixeira had gone to the extent of actually establishing a multiparty committee to oversee the project. Despite the support of fairly ardent supporters, notably Mr. Vic Insanally, the project somehow foundered with little or no progress made since then.
A few months ago, the upper level classes of the School of the Nations – the privately run school located just opposite the building – held a staging of the Gilbert and Sullivan musical, "The Mikado" in aid of the building's restoration.
Whatever the revenue earned from that noble effort, it surely could not have been much more than a drop in the fairly impressive bucket of $76M which the project calls for.
GT&T is one of the larger firms in Guyana, and one of the more generous when it comes to cultural undertakings. Their sponsorship of the Dave Martins play, "All in Wan" for this year's Independence celebration comes to mind.
It is going to take at least 15 more corporate donations in the realm of GT&T's contribution to make this project a reality.
Corporate support of the Arts is obviously a good thing once it can be secured, but the trick is in securing it in the first place.
Outside of an established body geared specifically to raising and channelling funds into culturally related projects, however, the feasibility of funding schemes like the Theatre Guild Restoration Project through corporate support is going to continue to be poor.
Another option would be to pursue partial funding from international agencies. The Inter-American Development Bank has funds earmarked for cultural projects, as does the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO).
The importance of the Theatre Guild Playhouse within the context of our cultural history, and the benefits a restoration can bring to future generations can make compelling arguments in favour of some international support.
Finally, while a restoration for the Theatre Guild Playhouse would no doubt be welcome, what is going to be necessary for it to not be a wasted effort would be a similar or even higher investment in the people who are going to make it what it used to be.
The Theatre Guild to which the Playhouse owes its name is now long gone. Its membership over the years has gone through the stages of establishment, evolution and evaporation.
Though the actual players involved have been forgotten by subsequent generations, this restoration project is less about the physical building than it is about the recapturing of the spirit that these people once imbued this particular place with.
A restored building without the producers, playwrights, directors, players and musicians to occupy it would be defeating the entire purpose of the restoration project.