(CNS) – The Washington-based Institute for Caribbean Studies (ICS) says it will bestow the Marcus Garvey Lifetime Achievement Award on Jamaican comedian, actor and playwright Oliver Samuels during its 25th Caribbean-American Heritage Awards Gala, on November 16.
“For his outstanding body of work and for bringing ‘Brand Jamaica’ to the performing arts locally and internationally, Samuels will be awarded the Marcus Garvey Lifetime Achievement Award at the Caribbean American Heritage Awards Gala, which has as its theme, ‘A Celebration of Excellence and Service,’” said Dr. Claire Nelson, ICS’ Jamaican-born founder and president.
She said Samuels is “widely considered to be one of Jamaica’s thespian luminaries.”
Born on November 4, 1948, in Harmony Hall, St. Mary, Jamaica, Nelson said Samuels grew up on a banana plantation, where his father worked as a casual laborer and his mother sold items on the estate.
“His involvement in drama began at the age of seven, when he and the other children on the plantation would sing and recite poetry on Friday nights,” she said. “It was to be the beginning of a lifetime love for all things dramatic for the poor boy who made good by adopting his mother’s belief that with hard work he could make it out of poverty.”
Trained at the Jamaica Theatre School from 1971 to 1973 where he participated in various productions, Samuels has appeared in no fewer than 13 national pantomimes, playing major roles, Nelson said.
She said his pantomime credits include “Music Boy”, “Queenie’s Daughter”, “Dickance for Fippance”, “Hail Columbus”, “The Witch,”“Johnny Reggae”, “Ginneral B”, “The Pirate Princess”, “Trash”, “The Hon. All Purpose” and “The Dancing Princess”.
Samuels has also appeared in 20 other productions, including “The Fight Against Slavery”, the British Broadcasting Corporation’s television series, which aired in 1974.
“More success and accolades followed when he was given his own television series, including ‘Oliver’, ‘Oliver at Large’ and ‘Large and in Charge,’” Nelson said.
She said an album with the well-known single “Oliver Yu Large” was also produced “and has done well on the local and overseas market.”
Nelson said Samuels’ more recent acting roles include the soap opera “Royal Palm Estate” in which he played “Son-Son”.
He has also appeared in Canadian, Italian and German films.
Currently, Samuels is dedicating his time writing his own theatrical material.
“His latest piece, ‘56 East Avenue’ opened in Miramar , Florida, on September 1 to very enthusiastic response,” Nelson said.