By Francis Quamina Farrier
GUYANESE veteran communicator and actor of stage and screen, Ron Bobb-Semple, recently took his final bow on the stage of life, having lived the prescribed three scores and 10. He is yet another long-standing friend and colleague of mine who has died as a result of COVID-19 complications. In the Pepperpot Magazine of September 27, 2020, I wrote of losing other long-standing friends and colleagues, including veteran actor of stage, television and screen, Gordon Case, who was based in London, England. Billy Braithwaite and Jimmy Bacchus, two businessmen who were based in New York City and who had contracted the coronavirus in the early stages of its arrival, were featured in the first article of mine, which focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. They both were friends of mine for over 55 years.
Sadly, with the death of Ron Bobb-Semple, I must now add another long-standing friend and colleague to that list of COVID-19 fatal victims. Bobb-Semple was based in Tampa, Florida, in the USA for many years. However, he visited Guyana from time to time and was involved in theatre activities. On one occasion, he toured with his popular one-character play, “The Spirit of Marcus Garvey” which was staged at the Theatre Guild, Playhouse in Georgetown. He also performed the play in New Amsterdam. More recently, Bobb-Semple also played the title role in my play “The Slave and the Scroll,” which the Ministry of Education sponsored as part of Guyana’s Jubilee celebrations in 2020.
Before he migrated to the United States, Ron Bobb-Semple, a full member of the Theatre Guild, was also part of a fringe group of actors there. The group was named “The Dramatic Core” and was in no way a rebel group. In fact, it was a group of young, ambitious and talented actors who realised that they had an added role to play beyond the Playhouse on Parade Street in Georgetown. With the blessing of the committee of management, they gave themselves the task of taking quality theatre productions beyond the capital city and toured Anna Regina, Bartica, Buxton, Charity, McKenzie, New Amsterdam and to a few small venues across the coastland and hinterland.
The group became well-known and respected by the audiences beyond the city. Those audiences were somewhat different from those in Georgetown, as they were deeply involved in the plots of the plays and openly supported or showed their displeasure with the characters as the play unfolded. For example, there was a scene in a play staged at Buxton. A young female character was pleading with her lover who was going overseas to promise that he will return and marry her. It was an intense exchange of dialogue with pleading and promising by the two characters; so much so, that a mature female in the audience who couldn’t contain her emotions, shouted out to the male character, “Hi Jim, if yoh nah like de gal, tell am!”
Ron Bobb-Semple was a member of some of the teams which made those tours to rural and hinterland areas of the country. During that time, he showed a drive to perform to a variety of audiences in many areas of the country and was a dedicated team player and much fun. He also proved to be a terrific all-round performer on the stage of life, having given to others – his audiences – so much of his talents, and as such, increasing their quality of life. For every citizen who had the opportunity and joy to see Ron Bobb-Semple on stage whether in “Rogue’s Trial” at the Theatre Guild Playhouse decades ago, or his one-character play, “The Spirit of Marcus Garvey” which he toured to his homeland Guyana and to so many other countries including Ghana and Senegal in Africa, or in my play “The Slave and the Scroll” which was presented at the Guyana Jubilee celebrations not so long ago, it was always a memorable experience. Along with his mammoth body of work on stage, Ron Bobb-Semple will also be remembered for his appearances on screen. His film credits include his role in the movie “See You Yesterday,” which was directed by the legendary American film director and producer Spike Lee.
The recent passing of Ron Bobb-Semple was sudden and shocked all who knew him. “These people don’t come every day.” Zide Muhammad stated in a Facebook comment. And in another, Shaun Junor said, “Guyana has always had great talent.” No doubt there are many other similar comments about this iconic Guyanese celebrity of stage and screen.