Hill, Errol Gaston 1921-2003
HILL, Errol Gaston 1921-2003
See index for CA sketch: Born August 5, 1921, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; died of cancer September 15, 2003, in Hanover, NH. Educator and author. A highly respected authority on African American and Caribbean theater, Hill was also a playwright, director, and longtime drama professor at Dartmouth College. Originally, he entertained the thought of becoming a professional singer, but when the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in England offered him a scholarship he switched to theater. Earning a diploma in drama from the University of London and a graduate diploma from the Royal Academy, both in 1951, he worked as an actor and broadcast announcer in London for a year before moving to Jamaica, where he acted with the Caribbean Thespians in Kingston. From 1953 to 1958 he found work as a creative arts tutor in Port-of-Spain. Returning to school, he enrolled at Yale University, where he earned a bachelor's degree and M.F.A. in 1962. Back in Port-of-Spain, he picked up his tutoring work before once again attending Yale to receive a doctorate in fine arts in 1966. During this time, Hill also was a teaching fellow at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria for a year. After completing his degree, he joined the faculty at Richmond College of the City University of New York as an associate professor of drama; in 1968, Hill became an associate professor at Dartmouth. Promoted to full professor the next year and to John D. Willard Professor of Drama and Oratory in 1979, he was the first black American—having become a naturalized U.S. citizen—to obtain tenure at Dartmouth. While at Dartmouth, he headed the theater department in the early 1970s and was director of the theatre for summer repertory programs for several years. He also wrote eleven of his own plays, including Square Peg (1949), Dilemma (1953), Strictly Matrimony (1959), Man Better Man (1960), Dimanche Gras Carnival Show (1963), Whistling Charlie and the Monster (1964), and Dance Bongo (1965). Hill's original work was praised for its innovative use of the vernacular and other cultural aspects, such as music, of the Caribbean. He was also a busy director, organizing plays not only at Dartmouth but all over the world, including England, Nigeria, and the West Indies. Concerned about the general lack of knowledge of African American and black Caribbean playwrights, he produced a number of influential books on the subject, editing such publications as The Theatre of Black Americans: A Collection of Critical Essays (1980) and Black Heroes: Seven Plays (1989), and writing Shakespeare in Sable: A History of Black Shakespearean Actors (1984), The Jamaican Stage, 1655-1900: Profile of a Colonial Theatre (1992), and others. His most recent books include The Cambridge Guide to African and Caribbean Theater (1994) and A History of African American Theater (2003), which he wrote with James V. Hatch. Retiring from Dartmouth in 1989, Hill received numerous awards for his contributions to theater, including the 1973 Hummingbird Gold Medal from Trinidad and Tobago, the 1985 Bertram Joseph Award for Shakespeare studies from Queens College, the 1991 Presidential Medal from Dartmouth, and the 1996 Robert Lewis Medal for Lifetime Achievement from Kent State University.
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 40, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2003.
Contemporary Dramatists, sixth edition, St. James (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Boston Globe, September 18, 2003, p. C13.
Los Angeles Times, September 17, 2003, p. B11.
Washington Post, October 2, 2003, p. B7.