December 9 – Boxing Day (December 26) can be declared Theatre Day in Jamaica. This is when the season officially opens. This season, producer, actor, director, Dahlia Harris is presenting SAME DIFFERENCE.
In between writing, rehearsing and doing a million other things, I managed to pin her down. Yes, believe me…
Carole: How did you come up with that name?
Dahlia: I like to play around with familiar sayings. We often use words and phrases but do we stop to think about what they really mean? I’ve heard SAME DIFFERENCE so many times and when I thought about what I wanted to explore in the show, I felt it adequately represented the idea both conceptually and contextually.
CB: Who are the main players in the play?
DH: In SAME DIFFERENCE the Goodmans have just moved into their lavish Chancery Hall dwelling after years of hard work and strategising. It’s a fresh start for Buster (Volier Johnson) while for his beautiful young wife Liv (Maylynne Lowe), it’s the final step up the long ladder of social eminence.
As they try to finally cement their place in society, a major obstacle presents itself in the form of their overly friendly neighbours the Barrs. Obviously wealthy, though we’re never sure how, Minnie Barr (Deon Silvera) is as bad at parenting her children – Candy (Shantol Jackson) and Ivor (Desmond Dennis) – as she is at respecting boundaries. When her tastes for the loud and vulgar clash constantly with the Goodmans’ desire for the quiet and refined, it is clear that someone has to be sent packing.
Secrets are revealed, old wounds are opened… as both families unleash a battle of epic proportions to be the last neighbour standing. In the end, what they find is that they have more in common than they dared to realise.
CB: Describe the theme of the play
DH: Jamaica has always been class-conscious but recently there has been more active debate about the implications of classism and how it affects individuals in our society. As a nation our motto offers that the essence of who we are rests in our ability to mold diverse backgrounds into a collective identity. Why then should social class be exempted from this process? SAME DIFFERENCE explores the concept that despite our differences at the core of it, as Jamaicans and more importantly as human, we are all the same.
CB: What should patrons expect?
DH: Since debuting JUDGEMENT in 2010, DMH Productions has earned the reputation of staging theatrical productions that are not only extremely entertaining but are always powerfully compelling. SAME DIFFERENCE brings as much laughter as it offers intrigue providing an experience for theatre lovers that lasts way beyond what happens on stage. Tickets are $1,500 with a special rate of $1,200 for groups of 10 or more.
CB: Give us a schedule of the run for the first three months:
DH: The show has an initial run at the Karram Speid Auditorium, Merl Grove High School from December 26-28 and then from Jan 1-3.
CB: How have rehearsals been?
DH: It’s always a great indication when the actors in a show are as entertained by the product as we expect audiences to be. Johnson readily imparts his knowledge from years of experience on stage, Silvera brings tons of energy, Lowe is super focused while Jackson and Dennis are youthfully exuberant. It’s hard work but we make it fun. Individually they bring so much life to each character while together they transform the story from paper to such impressive realism.
CB: Give us a typical time at rehearsal:
DH: We always start with discussion about character, relationships, what is it that we really want to say to our audience. We do this by looking at the script on a whole and then narrowing it down to the specific scene we’ll be working on for that rehearsal. It’s important that everyone understands and keeps focused on what we are aiming to achieve. We then break it down line by line, first looking at how we can say what we want through words and then without the words…because theatre is a visual medium as well. The story comes first so laughter is organic. If its not funny we don’t try to fake it.
CB: How do you think this will match up to your last three plays?
DH: I see each play as a different project otherwise the process becomes overwhelming. I go for a great story. That always works. I expect that this will continue in the tradition of excellent theatre.
CB: How difficult was it to get space to host?
DH: There are no spaces. I had to make a decision to go with this venue out of respect for my patrons and the need to maintain continuity. The continuation of the show is right now in limbo at best as I am still trying to secure a permanent space
What’s next for Dahlia?
DH: I want to expand my film and television work. I also am excited about radio drama. My vision is to impact audiences through as many media as possible.
ABOUT DAHLIA: Dahlia has been a sports/news/TV host for 20+ years and in between that she directs, produces, acts, sings and dances. Her accomplishments are too numerous to mention here, however her work in the cultural and creative industries has taken shape. Dahlia is quite the academic and is currently pursuing a Masters in Communication Studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona, having already done post and undergraduate work in English. Producing and hosting her own television show is a long-time dream.