Fleurette Harris, the comeback girl

Observer senior writer

Sunday, May 26, 2019

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For fans of Jamaican theatre during the 1980s, Fleurette Harris was among the actors earmarked as 'one to watch'. Though living up to that promise by performing in quality productions, she gave up the stage 10 years ago for different interests.

This year, the Portland-born Harris made a comeback in remounts of Against His Will and The Rope And The Cross, both directed by David Heron. On May 26, she continues that second coming as Agatha “Mama” Rochester in playwright Karl O'Brian Williams' Not About Eve, also directed by Heron.

The play takes place at the New Vibe Lounge in Long Island, New York.

Harris took a break from acting to study and establish herself as a doctor of Oriental medicine in New York. At the urging of Heron, she returned to the stage.

“I have to say…you know that you belong, when you have been away for a while and when you come back it's as if you had not left at all. That's how it feels for me to be back on stage…It's like I am back at home, like I had not left at all,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

In Not About Eve, Harris shares the stage with Marsha-Ann Hay, who plays her daughter Katherine, and Gabrielle C Archer who has the role of Kimberley, her granddaughter. The drama was first staged in 2006, and won an Actor Boy Award the following year for Best New Jamaican Play.

Unlike the multi-cast Against His Will and The Rope And The Cross, Harris will play off two characters in Not About Eve. That suits her fine.

“With a small cast you are likely to have more lines to learn and invariably more responsibility in the role you play. You are therefore required to be more present, more focused and, of course, your interactions on stage at any given time are more highlighted,” she explained. “I like that, because I love the spotlight and it gives me the opportunity to sink my teeth into a role and truly bring a character to life.”

A graduate of the National School of Drama (now the Edna Manley College of the Performing Arts) in Kingston, Harris has been acting since age 14 when she was a student at Titchfield High School in Portland.

She cut her teeth in school plays before moving to drama school, and snaring minor roles in movies like Club Paradise (1986) and Kla$h (1995). On television, she appeared in Royal Palm Estate, Great Junction, Oliver at Large, and Lime Tree Lane.

One of Harris' contemporaries is Heron with whom she worked in Ecstasy, his 1995 hit play. She said collaborating with him on Against His Will and The Rope And The Cross has reignited her passion for acting.

“Ironically enough, the real challenge I face now is in staying interested and focused on my day to day role as a doctor of Oriental medicine. Now that I have my feet back on stage, all I want to do is act, but hey, the bills must be paid,” she stressed. “It is quite a paradox and such a vicious cycle. Still, like most, I dream of a full-time career in theatre, and of that great role that will be my bread and butter.”

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