While Via Donovan opened jars of paint in front of two large canvases upstage, lengths of silk were lowered between the stage curtains. A dancer dressed in red then hoisted herself up the silk as actors stormed the stage waving signs protesting taxes.
They were performing an artistic representation of the 1853 Cattle Tax Riots, which involved three of the territory’s 10 recently named national heroes.
The performances, held Saturday evening at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, were designed to honour consequential Virgin Islanders from the “plantation era … to the 21st Century through poetry, monologue, dance, drama and art,” according to the playbill.
“Tonight we have a very special production,” Virgin Islands author Janice George-Harris said at the start of the show. “As you all know, we are in Culture Month, and tonight we’re going to be doing a presentation production on all of our national heroes. It asks us to reflect on [VI] national heroes and the contributions they made to the development of the British Virgin Islands and challenges us to keep their memory alive.”
The first performance featured Shelly Martin, who led an attempted rebellion in 1831.
Mr. Martin was represented by Errol Percival carrying a staff and reading an original poem to set a scene of Virgin Islanders’ struggle for freedom and representation.
Then, Rochelle Smith acted the part of Perreen Georges, a national hero who gave historic testimony that led to the 1811 hanging of Arthur Hodge for the murder of an enslaved man named Prosper.
“I was a free woman of colour who not only worked for Arthur Hodges’ wife but I managed the hot boiling house and his estate,” Ms. Smith said in a monologue.
‘Remember it well’
Still in character, she described being called to the stand when the court case reached its zenith.
“I answered every question with honesty and conviction,” she said as she acted the part of Ms. Georges. “Remember my name and remember it well. Don’t underestimate a hard-working BVI woman when she speaks about you and unjust systems.”
Ms. Georges is the only female national hero to be named so far.
Following Ms. Smith’s monologue, students from the Adagio School of Dance performed a ballet-like dance choreographed by Sasha Creque.
Then came the abstract skit on the 1853 Cattle Riots, which honoured Augustus McCleverty, Obadiah Dawson and Henry Garnet.
Another performance remembered Theodolph Faulkner, Isaac “Glanny” Fonseca and Carlton DeCastro, who led the Great March of 1949 that resulted in the restoration of the Legislative Council in 1950.
More recent heroes
Microphone problems hindered that skit and the next — a dramatisation about Noel Lloyd by the Elmore Stoutt High School junior theatre arts classes — but the show went on.
The final hero honoured was H. Lavity Stoutt, the territory’s first chief minister.
For that performance, the Bregado Flax Educational Centre junior theatre arts class performed a poem written by Salisha King.
Several more dances followed.
At the end of the show, attendees were asked to stand and recite the names of the ten national heroes.
Then they applauded the performances from throughout the night.