Kingston, JAMAICA – When one hears the name Dahlia Harris, so many things come to mind. We could try the following: teacher, social commentator, scholar, broadcaster, theatre practitioner…whew, but there is more. Catch her on the volleyball or netball courts for about five minutes and you’d never guess. In other rounds, Dahlia epitomizes the term all-rounder.
The year so far has been a good one, but there are so many things that could have been done, but 2017, watch out!
The focus of this blog though is really to check in on Dahlia. Every now and again one has to stop and just wonder what will she do next. The latest project, Ring Games (on TVJ) has been a stunner and “so far, so good,” says Dahlia. We asked her a few questions which we think will give you a clear insight on what 2016 was like and the plans she has for 2017 & beyond. Here she shares some of her thoughts.
How was 2016 for you?
2016 was a real challenge with respect to achieving both personal and professional goals. It also reinforced that achievement should not only be measured by the end result, but also by the process undertaken. There were a number of things that I set out to do that never came to fruition. The process developed my capacity to successfully complete similar tasks in the future. Most importantly, 2016 helped me to realise that there’s a reason why we have roses…we need to stop and smell them more often.
Share some highlights of the year
Professionally the highlight for me was being able to star in my first feature film ‘It’s a Family Affair’ and to collaborate with TVJ on the production of the dramedy ‘Ring Games’. There’s a lot more that I want to do in film and television and I believe both productions were able to showcase my potential. Personally, it was a really challenging time for my mother with respect to her health. Watching her overcome that, and experiencing the way my family and friends rallied around her, made me realise how fortunate I am.
Jamaica’s theatre scene has been active this year, do you think it is making the impact it deserves
Until theatre is recognised for its developmental capacity and not just its entertainment value I don’t think it’s impact will ever be recognised. A lot of what we see happening in our society is a failure to effectively express ourselves, to voice our concerns, to discover culturally relevant ways to address our challenges. With 14 parishes and only two have fully functional theatre spaces. I don’t think I need to say more than that.
How can public/private sector help to fuel energy in theatre in Jamaica
There are a few organisations that are supportive of theatre. In some instances they purchase tickets for performances hosted by charitable organisations. There is still a lot about our private sector however that I don’t understand. We like to reference countries like Canada and places like London and other major cities and how their societies/people operate. One of the things that stands out in these places is the way in which their private sector invests in the Arts, performance spaces, museums, cultural activities, community programmes …the private sector takes ownership of cultural development. If we agree that Culture is a national state of being, then our private sector needs to decide on the kind of environment they wish to operate in.
We heard some news about use of the Ward Theatre, and of course we had to ask Dahlia what were her views on that special place downtown Kingston
Any views on the Ward Theatre?
I will continue to state that the Ward should represent what it did over a century ago. It was a contemporary relevant space on par with the world’s best. There is too much emphasis on preserving the physical building, we need to work on preserving the purpose of the space.
We could make it a regional model with respect to its technical capacity, including stage automation which among other things allows sets to move on and off seamlessly. Overseas producers could once again be courted to mount shows in order to assess their viability for a future on Broadway. Technical training and certification could also be a part of its sustainability. We could also activate a number of cultural agreements to offer specialised training….Russia for example could be approached to fund courses in ballet.
I know that there are plans to redevelop downtown Kingston, until that is done and security is improved, patrons will struggle to attend shows at the present location. Parking also hampers accessibility. I think it’s way past time for us to examine the possibility of relocating the Ward. For me, Heroes Park would make a prime location. It would still be within the environs of downtown Kingston, has more than adequate space for parking, and is more secure than the present location.
In part 2, we ask Dahlia about her work in sport and how can Portmore work better for Jamaica. Until then… #OneLove