Victor Edwards is a name that is synonymous with theatre in Trinidad and Tobago. A writer and director, the Princes Town resident is known for directing classic plays such as John Steinbeck’s The Pearl and Sam Selvon’s A Brighter Sun.
Edwards was brought up on the Golconda Sugar Estate to which missionaries had journeyed to convert to Christianity the children of the labourers who worshipped in kutiyas (small temples made out of dirt). As a result, Edwards was sent to Sunday school where he first started acting in the Nativity plays.
Later on, when he attended the St Benedict’s College, known to be “a football school” at the time, Edwards felt somewhat lost until he joined the Drama Club. He disclosed to REC, “I had no idea why I was going to school, but becoming involved in drama touched something deep within me.” It was since then that young Edwards truly fell in love with drama and theatre. “Drama transformed my life. It taught me about discipline, community and stick-to-it-ive-ness. It gave me direction and brought about a profound change in my life.”
However, it was not until 1972 at the age of eighteen that Edwards got involved in theatre in a serious way. From that moment, there was no looking back for Edwards and he has worn several hats. In 1974, he joined the teaching service as an English Language and English Literature teacher at the Gandhi Tagore College. After teaching there for about one year, he was then appointed by the government and went to the Point Fortin Intermediate Roman Catholic School followed by the Corinth Teachers’ College and then Cowen Hamilton Secondary School. While at the latter, he was awarded the Wilbert Holder Memorial scholarship to study Theatre. Then, in 1997 he was awarded another scholarship to study Theatre in Education at UWI. A few years later, he got yet another to study Integration of the Arts and as a result of that, he became a Curriculum Facilitator of drama at primary schools. He later became a curriculum officer for Drama and Theatre at the Ministry of Education. In 2010, Edwards was appointed coordinator for Visual and Performing Arts at the Ministry of Education which afforded the opportunity to create and organise several Integration Arts, drama and theatre initiatives in both primary and secondary schools.
From 1987 to 2007 Edwards served as the president of the Secondary Schools’ Drama Association. During his stint as president, he founded the Caribbean Secondary Schools’ Drama Association (1994) with the aim of sensitizing the other Caribbean territories about the formalization of a Theatre Arts curriculum in secondary schools. In 2003, CXC Theatre Arts was formally introduced in the schools’ curriculum with three schools – Fyzabad Composite, Tranquility Government School and Cowen Hamilton Secondary. Today, there are more than 80 schools offering Theatre Arts at the CSEC level and eight schools offering Performing Arts at CAPE.
Edwards has also written two books; a book of plays – ‘Caribbean Drama for Secondary Schools’ and his MPhil thesis ‘Secondary Schools Drama Associations: Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean 1965 - 2007”. These are currently being used in schools at the CSEC and CAPE
Questioned on how he feels having heavily influenced and contributed to Theatre Arts in T&T and the Caribbean, the director and former teacher said, “I feel very proud because I played an integral part in the way the curriculum in Trinidad & Tobago was shaped and in sensitising the Caribbean on Theatre Arts.”
His work has not stopped. In 1990, Edwards established his very own company – Iere Theatre Productions Limited which is based in Iere Village, Princes Town. Edwards is committed to community development and as such, through Iere Theatre, he has been involved in the Princes Town re-enactment where the history of the people and the area are represented. Additionally, in 2016 and 2017 the company put on a three-night show for Divali involving the community of Princes Town. A firm believer in imparting his knowledge, the company has also successfully run a summer camp for pre-primary and primary level children in July 2018 and 2019.
The list of plays that Edwards has directed is endless, but popular ones are:
Sundar (written by Edwards)
A Brighter Sun
Nelson Island Re-enactment on Nelson Island (written by Edwards)
Eric, The Musical – Life story of Dr Eric Williams
Temple in the Sea – also commissioned by Carifesta 2019
Ten to One - the life story of The Mighty Sparrow
Takdir (written by Edwards)
What is Edwards’ vision for Theatre Arts in T&T and the Caribbean? He said, “That we can arrive at the point where we can understand the importance of our own stories. I also want for us to be able to tell those stories to our young people so that they can learn about themselves.”
Edwards explained that his dream is to see theatre weave itself into the fabric of society. “Theatre is not about all the niceties that we see. It is really about the people themselves and about them understanding who they truly are. Once we understand that as a people, we will understand ourselves better. I am afraid that two or three generations down the line will not know who they are. Theatre keeps people alive through the performance of ancestral memory.”
So does Victor Edwards plan on retiring from Theatre Arts? Posed with this question he responded by saying, “It is a part of me. Even if I don’t do this actively, I will involve myself in it somehow.”