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James Lee Wah

Local dramatic arts director, actor and promoter James Lee Wah has died.

Lee Wah, who was born in San Fernando, passed away on Saturday at the age of 89.

The father of three received his secondary education at Naparima College, where, as a pupil of the late Ralph Laltoo, his love of literature was ignited.

According to information on the UTT website, Lee Wah was one of the first people to graduate with an Honours Degree in English at the University of the West Indies’ Mona Campus. As a student, he was influenced by Errol Hill, a pioneer of West Indian literature and former head of UWI’s Extra-Mural Department at Mona. The UTT said it was there the University Players, a group of theatre enthusiasts who worked assiduously to propel the theatre movement forward, took flight. Noble Laureate Derek Walcott was also part of that group.

Upon his return to T&T, Lee Wah assumed leadership of the San Fernando Drama Guild in 1956, becoming its artistic director in 1976. In 1969, he founded the San Fernando Arts Council and in 1976 co-founded the San Fernando Theatre Workshop.

Lee Wah was also a Naparima College vice-principal and his vision led to the establishment of the National Drama Festival, Secondary Schools’ Drama Association and the National Drama Association of T&T.

The UTT noted that Lee Wah was instrumental in jump-starting the careers of several reputable T&T dramatists, including Ralph Maraj, Errol Setahal, Dennis Hall, Anthony Hall and Sullivan Walker to name a few.

His wife Mavis, a Jamaican-born actor who was a teacher and principal at the Naparima Girls’ High, died in 2018.