Thursday, 14 April 2016

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Prize-winning actress Makeda Solomon savours her artistic growth, looks ahead to what’s next

KINDRED SPIRITS: Solomon sharing a moment with childhood idol Sir Lenny Henry, who is currently in this island.

The name Makeda Solomon has become synonymous with critically acclaimed stage performances from Kingston to Montego Bay – a reputation that has solidified her place in the pantheon of Jamaica’s greatest living actresses. No performance has captured the depth of Solomon’s gifts better than her Actor Boy-winning turn as the doomed heroine in the one-woman masterpiece Who Will Sing for Lena? Directed by Fae Ellington, it’s due for a hot revival in September before heading overseas (Atlanta, Georgia) for a staging.

A woman who wears many hats, the forty-something Solomon is the Executive Director and Chief Marketing Officer at Kingston’s Sarifa Insurance Brokers Limited and dabbles in everything from psychotherapy to drama education. These days, she’s also lending her time and her voice to the fight against sexual violence against Jamaican young women. Here, she talks to TALLAWAH about art and life and making a difference.

TALLAWAH: You were one of the familiar faces adding some star power and emotional heft to the supporting cast in Destiny. What was that experience like?
Makeda Solomon: Working with the Grasshopper crew was great; they’re a very professional bunch. Mr. Whittaker and his team made it an easy process, so the experience was one I enjoyed. And playing Chris [Martin’s] sister was wonderful. He’s so talented, as an actor and, of course, his beautiful singing voice.

TALLAWAH: Being involved with the Nuh Guh Deh movement, benefitting young Jamaican victims of sexual abuse, is such a positive move. Why was it important for you to be a part of this initiative? 
M.S.: It’s something I feel very passionate about. First of all, I’m a woman, I was a girl, and I know there are so many young women in Jamaica who are dealing with this issue. So to me, as a therapist and as a woman, I stand in solidarity with what’s being done.
TALLAWAH: You’re a two-time winner at the Actor Boy Awards, which recently hosted its 2016 ceremony at the Jamaica Pegasus. How do you feel about how the awards show has evolved with the years?
M.S.: Production-wise it’s still excellent. But I don’t see much of the fraternity out at the ceremony as in past years. You’d usually see a wider cross-section of the theatre fraternity there, but it’s a bit narrowed down. But it’s still a pretty good show.

TALLAWAH: Between the accolades and the critical acclaim, you’ve been having an impressive run in local theatre. What do you make of your growth as a thespian?
M.S.: One of the realizations I’ve come to is that I am now in the camp of ‘senior’ actors, and it happened to me so suddenly! When I’m looking at the roles that are coming up, I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. I’m not 21 anymore!’ (Laughs). So there are certain roles that have been a change of pace for me. And I’m writing now as well.

TALLAWAH: That’s the spirit. Are there any particular subjects you’re hoping to explore with the pen?
M.S.: I’m interested in looking at the topic of Alzheimer’s because my mother passed away a few years ago from this ailment. So I have an idea and I’ve started to pen it, and I’m hoping to develop that.

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