Legendary Jamaican Playwright Trevor Rhone Dies

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Rhone… died of a heart attack yesterday.

I had the  opportunity to play the ‘busbwoy’ in Trevor Rhone’s play Smile Orange here in Los Angeles (directed by Jeffery Anderson Gunter) a couple years ago. It was a great opportunity and helped to get my name out in Hollywood as an upcoming actor. I was honored to be able to represent Jamaica through one of the greatest Jamaican plays ever written. Trevor helped to put Jamaican theater and film on the map by putting our country in front of the eyes of millions. Thank you Trevor you will be missed. Below is a clip of me (Jason Robinson) as the ‘busbwoy’, Jeffery Anderson Gunter as Ringo and Michael Ralph as Joe in the LA run of Smile Orange. The Jamaica Observer article on Trevor’s passing follows the clip…

Another legendary Jamaican has passed away. Trevor Rhone, actor, playwright, screenwriter, director and producer, died approximately 1:15 yesterday afternoon at the Medical Associates Hospital, from what family members said was a heart attack.

According to his niece, Jean Rhone, her uncle was in the best of health until yesterday morning when he started complaining of not feeling well.

“Monday he was quite fine. He went to Bella’s Gate in St Catherine where he is from. He visited the graves of his mother, father and aunt. He was quite pleased when he returned last night (Monday),” she recalled. “It was like a premonition.”

She said, however, yesterday he got up and complained of not feeling well. He tried driving himself to the doctor, but upon reaching the gate of his apartment, he was forced to ask the caretaker to take the wheel instead.

His best friend of 41 years, Guerney Beckford, in whose hands Rhone took his last breath while at the hospital, said while there, Rhone complained of not being able to breathe and soon lost consciousness.

“He called me almost everyday,” Beckford said sadly. “So yesterday he called and told me he was not feeling well and that he was at the hospital’s pharmacy filling a prescription. I rushed up there and he was attempting to leave. While he was going in the car, he became agitated and said he could not breathe. But he insisted that he wanted to go home to try the medications.” Instead, Rhone had to be rushed back inside the hospital and despite the doctors many attempts to resuscitate him, he passed away.

“He was really an icon,” Beckford said. “His contribution to theatre cannot be measured. He found Jamaica to be a stage and we were are all actors. He loved Jamaica. His other love was Bella’s Gate. He recently built a school and training centre there, and established a trust fund to run the institution. Another side to Trevor Rhone that people don’t know is that he helped a lot of people. He would help in small ways, maybe a school fee here, a weeks salary that could last a month there – no one that came to him with open arms would be turned away. But that story he never wanted told,” his best friend, also the godfather of two of Rhone’s three children said.

“It is indeed an irreplaceable loss,” he continued. “A deep, deep hurt. But I know that he knew how much I cared about him and he died in my arms, literally,” he said.

For actress Leonie Forbes, the loss is something she is still trying to come to terms with.

“He meant everything to me. He was more than a friend, he was family! We went to school together, we were in the first Pantomime together, studied in England together, when he started the Barn, we were there together. I am shattered into a million pieces right now. I am totally devastated. We know it is a part of life and these things do happen, but it is still very devastating.

For actress and broadcaster Fae Ellington, Rhone’s death was unexpected.

“Because it was an heart attack, it was unexpected. You weren’t prepared for it, because he wasn’t ill,” Ellington said. “He left quite a legacy from the 70’s and 80’s. Some of his plays are now a part of the CXC curriculum. Although he had become frustrated with play writing in Jamaica, he has left a legacy. He had become frustrated with things like the cost to put on a performance and he didn’t feel he was getting the backing from the private sector,” she explained.

On a lighter note, Ellington said Rhone had a great passion for expensive shoes though he did not treat them as such.
“He loved Bally, but regardless of how expensive they were, he would walk and break down the backs!” she recalled.

Actor Alwyn Scott, said the death of Rhone is a tremendous loss to the industry, since he represented excellence in theatre.

“It is difficult to quantify that loss,” he said in a sombre mood. “Rhone was just such a major figure in theatre. He has been an inspiration to at least two generations. He took writing to a level that was never seen before. He has managed to capture the voice, attitude and culture of so many Jamaicans.

According to Scott, it will be difficult for anyone to fill his shoes and will be up to those in the industry to try and live up to the standard set by Rhone.

Winston ‘Bello’ Bell, who has performed in two plays by Rhone, is sadden by the death of a man who for him is an icon.

“It is a sad passing for all of Jamaica, but especially for those in the theatre community, and especially those of us who saw him as an icon.”

Bell said he has had the pleasure of working with Rhone on two occasions. In 1988 on Pepper, which Rhone co-wrote with Lorna Goodison, and then again in Ole Story Time.

He died leaving wife Camilla, three children and one grandchild.

Jamaica Observer


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One Response

  1. I am happy they showed Smile Orange recently in Jamaica. He must have been happy about that.

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