ROLE PLAY: Kerr and costar Shantol Jackson in a scene from Brown Water.
Noelle Kerr's performance in In The Red and Brown Water, at New Kingston's Pantry Playhouse through March 24, is one of luminous brilliance. Kerr and the likes of Shanique Brown, Susie Braham and Sean Andrew Bennett star in this adaptation of Tarell Alvin McCraney's sharp and provocative play about urban dwellers in a mythological house project in the American South who grapple with issues ranging from domestic strife to dreams deferred.
After the show last Saturday night, I popped in to the actors' modest dressing room backstage, where Kerr, except for the face paint still in place, had already changed out of costume into a light top and shorts. As she tells TALLAWAH, the play has gifted her yet another challenging and eye-opening tread across the boards. "I always walk away from these experiences a better actor, I think," she says, flashing her megawatt smile. "I like the challenge of [the play] being set in a different place, and just the challenge of delivering stage directions as well as the dialogue. So it's been a great experience."
Kerr, who portrays a kind of "the other woman" in the show, is quick to reveal that she's managd to avoid such a potentially scandalous scenario in real life. "Fortunately, not yet so far. I'm hoping that I just choose wisely," says the 31-year-old actress, who always conveys a sense of dignity in her performances, even when taking on the sassy types that seem to populate the works of Afro-American playwrights like McCraney. "On the surface, [Brown Water] is a show people might think they will not enjoy, but if you look at what it's talking about, it could be someone's story here. It could be anyone's story."
In interviews, Kerr (an Actor Boy winner for 2010's White Witch) is candid and emotionally generous. But once you broach the subject of her personal life, her more reserved side comes out. "I am a quiet one, I like to keep the two personas separate," she explains. "There's the stage Noelle and then there's the quiet Noelle, who doesn't like to talk about her private life," she adds. laughing.
Like so many in her field, however, she'll thoroughly engage you on matters concerning her craft and her constant yen to become a better artist. "Acting essentially is my life. If I didn't haveit I'd be a considerably less happy person," she tells me. "As frustrating as living in Jamaica can be, the fact that I have that, and getting to work with Fabian and other great directors, is a godsend for me."
Where does she see herself in the next half-a-decade? "My five-year plan is that I hope to go away, because if I'm really and genuinely gonna make a go of it, I kinda need to step outside of Jamaica," says Kerr, who freelances during the day as a production co-ordinator. "But my hope is that I'll be able to step outside of Jamaica, so that I can step back in and share with the younger people coming up who also have this dream."