The History

The Ward Theatre was built in 1912 by Charles James Ward, Custos of Kingston, who presented it to the Mayor and Council of the City of Kingston on December 16 of the same year. Charles James Ward is the “nephew” in the company J.Wray and Nephew which provided the enabling funds. It is the third Theatre to stand on the same site since 1775. The first was the Kingston Theatre which was destroyed by fire and the second was the Theatre Royal which was destroyed in the 1907 earthquake.

In 1982 the owners, the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation, closed the Theatre for structural repairs. In 1986 the Ward Theatre Foundation was formed and a lease agreement signed with the Corporation to operate and manage the Theatre for twenty-five years. Since that time the Foundation has raised funds, primarily from private sector companies, to carry out an ongoing refurbishing programme.

The Theatre

The Auditorium is on three levels, (Parquette, Dress Circle and Gallery) with many entrances and exits. The Parquette (ground) floor slopes down to an orchestra pit at the base of a wooden stage 1.52m high, 10.36m wide and 10.07m deep. The Proscenium Arch stands at a height of 7.32m (24ft) and the fly tower is 14.63m (48ft) high.

The right wing is 6.10m wide, 10.36m deep (20ft by 34ft); left wing 3.58m wide, 9.75m deep (11ft by 9" by 32ft) and stage door 2.16m high by 2.44m wide (7ft by 8ft).

Four tab and drop curtains, cyclorama, risers, stage weights and braces, matching flats and legs are among the facilities. Backstage are 12 dressing rooms with appropriate facilities for up to 60 artistes.

The Theatre is centrally airconditioned. The stage is lit by an 80-channel Rand Strand dimmer console, the lighting of which is now only 40% operational. The power supply is 220v and 110v. In additional there is a 120v Japanese lighting system.

Front-of-house facilities include restrooms, cafeteria, box office and public parking lot.

The facilities are used for all aspects of the performing arts and civic events.

The Theatre has 830 seats. Over 100,000 persons attend the Ward Theatre annually, that is to say, one out of every twenty-six persons in Jamaica.

Local theatre production began in earnest in the 1990's and the Ward has been the major centre for the development of all Jamaican theatrical activity since 1912. From 1941 the National Pantomime opened there every Boxing Day, December 26, except in 1950 when the theatre was closed for repairs. The Pantomime has stopped playing at the Ward since 2002 because of the poor state of the facility and the surroundings. The Theatre has provided a setting for civic events such as state visits and national celebrations and both major political parties were launched on its stage - the PNP in 1938 and the JLP in 1943.

Throughout the years touring companies from Europe and the Americas have performed at the Ward.

Many international stars have performed there: among them Marian Anderson, Paul Robeson, Alicia Markova, Anton Dolin, Charles Laughton, Arthur Rubinstein and Jamaica's own Willard White.

Famous groups have included the Australian National Ballet, the European Community Chamber Orchestra, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Garth Fagan Dance Company and the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NDTC).

The Ward Theatre stands as a Jamaican landmark and a showcase for the nation's culture.

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