Saturday, 15 October 2016

THIS WOMAN'S WORK: Woman Tongue producer Scarlette Beharie takes her final bow

THAT FACE: "[Scarlette] was devoted to the performing arts," actress Dorothy Cunningham says of the wonder woman, pictured below with Woman Tongue star Hilary Nicholson.

The local theatre community has lost a cherished friend with the passing of Scarlette Beharie, who ended her courageous battle with cancer earlier this week. Beharie, a workhorse who championed the growth of the industry, was in her mid-40s. A past president of the Jamaica Association of Dramatic Artists (JADA), she used her considerable clout and tirelessness to advance the careers of several of her peers, especially up-and-coming actors who looked up to her as a beloved auntie.

Though acting wasn’t her calling, she performed in a number of shows in her day. But working behind the scenes is where she shone brightest, that’s where her gifts truly resided. Stage management (for the likes of Basil Dawkins), public relations (for such clients as Oliver Mair and her close girlfriend Tanya Batson-Savage) and breathing new life into all-important endeavours like spearheading the ‘rehabilitation’ of the Actor Boy Awards, giving it new sparkle and getting it endorsed by the International Theatre Institute (ITI).

Most recently though, Beharie perhaps made her biggest leap, with the launching of Scarlette Beharie Productions, which mounted acclaimed shows like Samson & De Liar (with Tony Hendricks and Ricky Rowe) in 2015 and this year’s Woman Tongue, written by Batson-Savage and directed by Eugene Williams, one of her go-to experts on all things histrionic.

The news of Beharie’s death met with an outpouring of condolences that swept across social media on Friday, with the likes of former Miss Jamaica World Yendi Phillipps and members of Beharie’s Facebook family expressing deep sadness.

Theatre icon Dorothy Cunningham, whose new play, Boiling Point, is on at the Theatre Place, says Beharie’s legacy is undoubtedly the tireless work she put into the industry, the enormous difference she made. “She contributed a lot. She was devoted to the performing arts. Whatever she was doing, she gave 150 percent,” Cunningham tells TALLAWAH. “I remember working with her, especially around the time of the first ITI meeting, with her and Christine Bell. They were pivotal in Jamaica becoming a chapter of the ITI. Scarlette preferred to be behind the scenes but you felt her presence.”

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