Earle Brown's love affair with the arts
His career in acting may have come about purely by chance, but after performing with the National Dance Theatre Company as a singer for more than two decades, it's safe to say that Earle Brown is a lover of the performing arts.
In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, Brown spoke about this love affair with the arts, pointing out that although he enjoyed his day job at the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Commission, the performing arts was his true calling and he, like many of his colleagues in the industry, could not resist when destiny came knocking.
"I started out singing from way back. at 10 years old I was singing, and I considered myself a singer. It was way later like in the 70s, when I was working at Seprod that acting discovered me," he recalled.
"Ginger Knight and my boss at the time were friends, and he was visiting him, and my boss said, 'you don't have a play to put this young man in?' and I laughed. That's when he said, 'you know I have something I'm writing now', and he asked me if I was interested. I looked at him puzzled because I had never done this before. I don't know what happened, but I said yes, and he eventually got back to me. I went, did an audition, and got a part in the play. It was Underwriters Undercover by Ginger Knight, and this was 1978."
The rest, as they say, is history as Brown never looked back where acting was concerned. He continued to hone his skills, appearing in a number of other productions and building his own repertoire as an actor. Among the plays he has appeared in are Bedward, Lovey, Last of the Jokers, Amen Corner, and Puppy Love, working with a number of well-known playwrights including Basil Dawkins, Patrick Brown, and Louis Marriot.
Even though he was now making the rounds on the local theatre circuit, Brown said that he still considered himself a singer who did a little acting and said that it took sharing the stage with Leonie Forbes for him to realise that he was really good at acting.
"Basil Dawkins gave me a role in a play called Forbidden, and I had the opportunity to be on stage with people like Leonie Forbes, and that for me was one of the defining moments in my career," he said. "That was quite an experience because this is someone that you see and you just have the utmost respect for. You could say I was a little bit star-struck, but I was humbled and honoured most of all to have been able to get that opportunity as someone who had little experience in acting."
Brown tells The Sunday Gleaner that there were days when he had second thoughts about his decision to take up acting but explained that being on stage gave him a sense of belonging, and he especially loved the way people reacted to him bringing stories to life in front of their eyes.
"I had my moments when I stopped and asked myself, 'What am I doing? I'm no actor', but people would encourage me and say, 'no, man! you can do it', and so I stuck with it. I love the feedback I get when people see me on stage, when they say 'Yea, man. You did a good job'."
Having been in the business now for a number of years, Brown says that he believes the current theatre scene is healthy in terms of the number of productions being released each year and the quality of actors and actresses in the industry. With that said, Brown says that his only wish for the industry now is that more theatre spaces are identified.
"I think we need more theatre space, not just in Kingston, but in places like Trelawny, Ocho Rios, MoBay, etc. I want more houses and more productions. The theatre scene is healthy, but it tends to be just in Kingston," he said. "I want it to be as vibrant and as inclusive across the 14 parishes. We should be travelling across the island with our plays. So instead of people travelling to Kingston to see us, we could go to them, tour the island with our productions because the spaces are there."
He also wants the Government to do more for the Edna Manley School of the Performing Arts, pointing out that the institution plays an integral role in feeding the local talent pool and should be granted more funding to facilitate that process.
To aspiring actors, Browne says, "Stay true to the craft. Be serious about it. Put everything into it and don't short-change yourself. Believe in yourself and try to get to that space where you get the energy to do what you need to do to excel."