Playwright, director and actor Ronald Amoroso credits his early influences in life growing up in South Trinidad and studying abroad with his later success in the theatre. The 81-year-old also studied as a civil engineer and told the audience at the Monday Night Theatre forum that he uses the techniques of the two disciplines interchangeably.
Amoroso was born in San Fernando and moved to Siparia when he was five. He lived within walking distance of a Portuguese rum shop where Shouter Baptists would congregate, a dancehall, a movie theatre, and Indian, Spanish and Chinese families. Amoroso’s first exposure to theatre came while he attended the Siparia Canadian Mission where the Arithmetic Teacher would write localized plays for the Headmistress’s yearly concert. He won an exhibition scholarship in 1945 to go to Queen’s Royal College (QRC), where he won a Mathematics Scholarship to Birmingham University in the UK, where he took every opportunity to go to the theatre in London. In the summers, he attended the ballet and the opera, and also hitchhiked across the Continent. Amoroso then attended M.I.T. in the United States from 1960 to 1962. He participated in a theatre program and did more traveling, including touring the Deep South of the US where he experienced segregation and overt racism.
Amoroso came back to Trinidad two days before Independence Celebrations in 1962, and began working at WASA. One of his first acts was to put on the satirical Russian play “The Inspector General,” about the comedy of errors which results when a corrupt government office is told there will be a surprise inspection. Amorosowas now able to do classes in acting and directing, where he met Errol Hill and joined the Company of Players, which he ended up directing in 1966. He performed in one of the first TV productions, “The Professor” and other plays such as “The Devils” and “Othello.”
In 1968, he became director and playwright of the QRC Drama Society. He put on “The Long, The Short and The Tall,” at the Secondary Schools Drama Festival in San Fernando, which he called the best play he ever directed. He remembers being followed home one night, because he was carrying guns in the trunk.
The following year, during the height of the Black Power Movement in 1970, Amoroso wrote “The Blood Clot” under the pseudonym Jim Grant. When it was performed at the Drama Festival, during the State of Emergency (SoE), the entire audience was doing the Black Power chant in the first five minutes, and Amoroso expected to be arrested when he got home. Luckily for him, that was the night the SoE was lifted. In 1971, Amoroso wrote “The Brothers Five” about the soldiers who had mutinied in the Teteron Barracks, which was a comedic satirical take on Black Power where the true motives of the players come out under hypnosis. While the play won first place, Amoroso said his Black Power friends were not amused.
He joined the Barataria Community Council in 1972, where he directed “The Doctor in Spite of Himself,” which came first in the Best Village competition. The following year, he converted Eutonn Jarvis’ short story “The Master of Carnival” into a play, which was a tremendous success. He also wrote one of his best known plays in 1973, “The Dry Season”, a full length play about the drama in the Black Power movement. The play took a look at how different levels of society reacted to the Black Power Movement and was very popular. He eventually rewrote it as a musical and a Best Village play. From 1976 to 2002, Amoroso worked with the Malick Folk Performers, which had evolved from Barataria Community Council and ended up competing against them. He was the recipient of a British Council Scholarship from 1975 to 1976 to go to London, which he said was one of the greatest years of his life.
Amoroso has written approximately 34 plays, mostly for Best Village, including The Stormers, Goodbye Pa, The Probe, Midnight Johnny, The Finals, Papa Brock, Sangre Grande by Two, Man Overboard, By the Hook or the Crook, D Contract, The Hall of Shame, The Honeycomb, Skins, Going Home, Creatures of the Night and the La Diablesse Chronicles. He also wrote a trio of plays on the steelband history, Blood and Steel, Pan Rising, and The Unknown Band. He draws his inspiration for plays from history, real life and current topics.
Amoroso helped to establish the National Drama Association of T&T and held several posts within the organization. He left WASA in 2002 and has been adjudicating plays in Tobago, rewriting scripts to be done by DMAD Company and is currently working on his autobiography.