How long have you been involved in Theatre?
For 14 years but with a break of five years (when I was birthin’ and nursin’ mah chirren).
What inspired you to become involved?
In what capacity (ies) do you participate in Theatre?
As an actor, writer, director and dramatic arts instructor.
Can you list the productions that you have participated in over the years?
Local: The Most Massive Woman Wins (Dr. Fritz/Maria, Cel, telephone operators & other characters); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Helena); The Tempest (Miranda); Bahamian Macbeth (Ross); Death of Silence (Maritsa); Branch of the Blue Nile (Marylin)
Abroad: Pinocchio (Pinocchio); Erin/Jester (The Dark Castle); Sam/Gino/Teacher (Jeremy Snow); LAMDA: The Cherry Orchard (Varya); Duchess of Malfi (Duchess); The Country Wife (Dainty Fidget); Antony & Cleopatra (Cleopatra). University: Romeo & Juliet (the Nurse); A Streetcar Named Desire (Stella)
What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre?
When doing Restoration Comedy at drama school we had to self-direct a few scenes (our director had fallen ill) and one of them was an 18th century version of a verbal cat fight and the rhythm of the lines (like a ball being thrown backwards and forwards) was so spot on that the audience erupted in spontaneous applause in the middle of the scene. Hadn’t happened to me before and hasn’t happened since. It was some kind of magic!
When I was directing a school play, I ended up doing it all – filling in for a no-show actor, doing lights, sound, not to mention all the rehearsals and admin prior to the show. I realized then and there that a reliable team is essential when it comes to putting on a production.
When the lights went out during the middle of The Tempest and we all pulled together – breaking out flashlights from our cars; the actors carried on without missing a beat and the audience were breathless. Again it was all about teamwork – from both the backstage crew, the actors onstage and backstage and the audience themselves – and it worked!
How do you feel about Theatre in The Bahamas? What are its weak and strong points? How active is it? How can we make it better?
With the advent of Ringplay Productions’ Shakespeare in Paradise I think this marks a real turning point in the evolution of theatre in the Bahamas. I believe that theatre is reawakening in the Bahamas after a decade or more of slumber. Strong points: we have a lot of talent for a small country and we are starting to gather together into small groups which means more organisation and efficiency. Weak points: we lack training – I’d like to see this addressed through more workshops; we lack a professional base ie those participants in theatre who are recognised as professionals and are remunerated adequately for their jobs. Seeing performance art as a job means that the theatre arts will be taken more seriously by both audience members, sponsors and theatre participants.
What do you do to prepare for a part?
Well, read the play first off, highlight my lines. For classical theatre there is more research involved as the meanings of the lines are deeper and not as superficial as modern plays. For Shakespeare I use the iambic pentameter beats method ie the idea that English (especially Shakespearean English) has a rhythm of short/long/short/long repeating – 5 pairs of short/long for each line. For monologues the ‘telegram’ method can be very helpful. Also, I think about the character’s intentions in each scene and build a story in my head of the character’s life (even and especially those parts that are not in the actual play). Breathwork is necessary as it informs changes of mood and thought and determines the emotional life of the character. Bodywork and posture are also extremely important when portraying a character. Living with the lines is important – that is going over them daily as the time for performance nears.
Any advice for those who want to get involved in Theatre in any capacity?
Contact Ringplay Productions, Track Road Theatre, Peacock Theatre Company or any other theatre companies you know of and volunteer to see how you like it and to discover what areas you like most. Do you want the limelight? Then acting is for you. Do you prefer to be behind the scenes – a part of the camaraderie and preparation, ensuring the show runs smoothly? Are you technical? Then lighting and sound might be your forte. One thing I can say about theatre – it takes all kinds – so there is always something for everyone no matter what their talent.
Who were your mentors in Theatre?
Tamara Harvey and John Link – my first directors at university and at drama school. They were very encouraging of me and extremely professional.
How do you see your future in Bahamian Theatre?
I hope to continue to stretch myself as an actor – Most Massive Woman Wins was the first time I’d ever done any modern comedy or written any for that matter. I’d like to do more collaborative writing as Jules Carey and I did for our piece Every Woman. The process was very organic, with us changing our lines in every rehearsal (almost up until we opened) to suit the character, the flow. Changing all the time was part of the process – a combination of learned lines and improvisation. It’s scary but it tests your skills as an actor. I see myself taking more risks as an actor. Most Massive Woman Wins was a brave step in terms of its subject matter and the way it was portrayed – it could be offensive to some and funny to others but on the other hand it could also make people think – and I think not stretching my boundaries creatively – playing it safe – would be the wrong way to go.
I would like to see Peacock Theatre Company, in collaboration with other theatre companies, offering workshops to interested individuals and developing an annual repertory theatre which utilises a greater range of talent, performance genres – from modern to classical, serious to comedic – and venues. For instance we should be doing more outdoor theatre – our climate practically begs for it!
What is your favorite Bahamian play?
Woman Take Two. I just saw it last year at Shakespeare in Paradise 2010 and its themes are timeless and humorous, its relationships so real.
In your years as an actor, have you seen the government support the arts in a tangible way?
Personally, I don’t think the government is at all supportive of the theatre arts. I can’t speak for other spheres of the art world as I am not in the know. I do think that even if the government did not give money per se that its Ministries could give more support. In particular the Ministry of Tourism could get more involved in helping us expand our audience base. In addition, as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also a communicator of Bahamian culture around the globe we could expand our opportunities through their contacts which would include exposure, travel and grant applications.
What role, if any, should the government play in not just theatre but the arts as a whole?
The arts are often subsidised in other countries though to what extent this happens in the current economy I am not sure. I do think that the real thrust has to come from the people, that a combination of education and entertainment can turn a profit. In my opinion it is the private sector which will have to drive this resurrection of the theatre and hopefully once government realises how important this sector is we can then attract more funding. Pressure from the populace is what is needed and only when a larger group of people perceive the advantages of having a well-developed theatre arts industry will the tide turn in our favour in terms of both public and private funding. Realistically speaking, though, theatre has always struggled and survived despite low budgets with very few theatre companies becoming hugely profitable. The thing is we have a skewed vision as it is the success stories which are publicised. By way of example, in the U.K. the average actor in an average theatre company is making a very low wage. Having said that, it is a richly rewarding art form for those who are called to it. Once you are struck by theatre fever, you won’t be able to stop doing it!