Actress Dorothy Cunningham during a tribute to Miss Lou, at the icon's birthday celebration at the Dennis Scott Studio Theatre, in the Edna Manley College, last year. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer
Andre Jebbinson, Staff Reporter
Playwright, actress, and president of the Jamaica Association of Dramatic Artistes, (JADA), Dorothy Cunningham is possibly best known for her role as Miss Zella in the Lime Tree Lane series. For approximately 10 years, Ms. Cunningham and the rest of the cast showed a part of Jamaican culture that was not crass or vulgar, but clean, wholesome and fun.
When the popular series ended in 1998, the actress disappeared from in front of the camera for a while.
"I wasn't through any decision of my own. This was a time when the writers were emphasising youth," she explained.
"It wasn't totally gone. I took the time to focus on writing scripts for radio drama. Plus when I am not on stage I always find something to do with my time."
In recent times though, writers have been finding Cunningham and supplying her with roles that only few can play. These roles include her portraying a superstitious villager in Country Duppy, a matriarch in the recently concluded Not About Eve and a role in Positive.
"Its good to be back out there. There is nothing like being out there on the stage," she said.
Her big comeback is not limited to the stage. Ms. Cunningham has taken on the role of an advocate in theatre circles, helping to tackle some of the issues theatre practitioners face in the industry.
Time for change
Quoting former committee member, the late Charles Hyatt, she said it was "time for actors to stop using bathrooms as changing rooms".
"The musicians have who to talk for them and we didn't. At the meeting there was a resounding yes that there was a need for a structure to represent the Jamaican theatre," Cunningham said.
JADA was formed in November, 2001 and offers membership at the full-time, associate and institutional levels. Enrolment at the associate level is for part-time actors, while the institutional level is for training institutions. According to Cunningham, there are over 100 practitioners on the books, but fewer paid up members.
"You have those who are just sitting back to see what we're doing before they become members, but we can't do anything without them," she said. "Some are thinking about how they can benefit, but the also need to think about what they can offer."
Members will also be more accessible to potential employees. The association is currently working on a data-base that will be accessible on their website. Ms. Cunningham is urging all practitioners to become a part of JADA.