PRIVATE LIVES: Cunningham and costar Munair Zacca in a plaintive moment from Lotto Money.
Few would believe that Dorothy Cunningham still gets nervous before a performance after forty years of main-stage appearances. But by her own admission, the nerves help to keep her on her toes. "I still get nervous, and I'm glad for that because when I don't feel nervous that usually means trouble," she tells TALLAWAH. "I need what they call the adrenaline rush."
For such a legendary and prolific thespian, it's a confession that reminds us of the fact that, in spite of the superwoman qualities she consistently brings to every role, Dorothy Cunningham is still, at the end of the day, very much like the rest of us.
We are happy to report, too, that age (she's well into her 60s) has not diminished her capacity for delivering comedic and/or dramatic gold for her audiences, as she does, quite endearingly, in her latest role as the beleaguered wife Alzira (opposite Munair Zacca and Peter Heslop) in Pablo Hoilett's Lotto Money, which just debuted at the Theatre Place in New Kingston. "I'm not bored with theatre; at least not yet," she says, half joking. "Anything that comes my way usually has its own challenges because that's life, so you expect them."
Last seen on stage over a year ago playing the formidable Miss Aggie in Trevor Rhone's seminal classic Old Story Time, Cunningham (forever immortalized in small-screen history as the tireless Miss Zella on Lime Tree Lane) has seen her acting career traverse the peaks and valleys of success. But what has impressively stayed constant is that unwavering passion for giving of her best self once the curtains open. "I think I have been blessed. I've worked with some of the greats over the years, and it can be an interesting learning process," says the grandmother of three, seated in the theatre lobby after a solid opening-night showing on Friday night.
"It's been forty years now since I've been in the business, and I'm grateful that producers think I'm still relevant," she notes. Needless to say, Miss Cunningham has every intention of continuing her work in the industry for as long as "I can walk in a straight line," she laughs. "I respect my audience. I always want to give of my best. I've learned that regardless of what life throws at you, you have to be true to your work and your individual creativity. I think God created actors for a special purpose. We are the ones who hold up a mirror to the society."