For the Reckord | The multitasking, multitalented Dahlia Harris
The large letters at the top of the flyer for Case of the EX, showing at Jamaica Shopping Club Theatre on Cargill Avenue, states that the play was written and directed by Dahlia Harris. But that's less than half of the story.
Harris is also one of the three-man cast; she and Conroy Wilson are responsible for the lyrics and arrangement of the songs; and her company, DMH Productions, produced the play. Added to that, she is also a regular host on early-morning television.
Clearly, she is not only multi-talented, but an expert in time management. She also seems to have the proverbial nerves of steel, because just half an hour before showtime last Saturday, she was calmly explaining to me how she does what she does.
For one thing, much of her writing in done between 11 p.m. and dawn. "It's quiet then,"
she explains, adding, not surprisingly, that she has too many distractions during the day to do any focused writing.
Ironically, she confessed that she didn't like the multitasking, and took on multiple jobs only because of the economics of the situation, and wanting specific things to happen in each production.
After years of being on stage as an actress, beginning with School Drama Festival while in sixth form at Wolmer's High School for Girls, she was forced to start writing commercially with her first play - the award-winning Judgement (2010), because two projects she'd been involved with (JamBiz International and Stages Productions) fell through, and she had bills to pay.
She also had to direct the play herself because the director she had hired had other commitments "which were getting in the way".
Now, 14 plays later, she states that it was important for each role - playwright, producer, director, actor - to be respected. In the same breath, she admits, "Sometimes the producer and the writer will fight." For example, she said, as producer, she wasn't happy with the huge cast she got to stage in Country Wedding, but the writer insisted that the play needed the numbers, and she prevailed.
With Case of the EX, though, the producer was proactive. Harris, as producer, set her 'writer self' the task of creating a play with only three characters, and one set which happened in real time (two hours) and so involved no costume changes. That was achieved; but the type of play the producer wanted - a romantic comedy - which is how the play is described on the flyer, is not what the writer delivered.
Harris explained, "The realism of the situation overruled me," and she ended up writing a realistic drama. She added, "Audiences don't seem to want to come out (to the theatre) unless it's a comedy, though when they watch dramas they seem to enjoy it."
As a drama, Case of the EX is certainly enjoyable. However, its premise begs for comedic treatment. It is about current girlfriend Dymond (Alexandra Gregory) and ex-girlfriend Cyattie (Harris) challenging each other over who gets to keep the man in the middle - DJ Cheetah (Kadeem Wilson). Even the names are comedic, but the conflict turns out to be full of bitterness, anger and tears, instead of wit, twists and laughter.
The acting is excellent, both from the veterans - Harris and Wilson, and Gregory, a newcomer to commercial theatre. She got her training from three superb tutors - Suzanne Beadle at Ardenne High, Fabian Thomas in Tribe Sankofa, and Rayon McLean in Quilt Performing Arts Company. The Case of the EX closes on Sunday.