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Tuesdays @ the Theatre: Large for the stage, small for the screen

Published:Monday | November 26, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer
Dorothy Cunningham (Mama) and Karen Harriott (Katherine) in a tense moment in the play Not About Eve.

Actress Karen Harriott, sums up the difference between performing for the stage and the screen in terms of size.

"Film is subtle, so the movement for film is much, much smaller (than for theatre). The screen is intimate, it is in your face, you can't make your movements big. If you make your movements big, it looks like you are overacting." She gives the example of being frightened, as the script requires. For the stage she would act frightened, but, for the screen, she says "you don't have to act frightened, just think about it." And the subtle signs would be enough for the camera.

After starting out in theatre, Harriott has moved easily between the stage and the screen. In June, she did Angela Jarrett's Something Fishy' at the Little Little Theatre; David Heron's 'Redemption' is on her credits, as are multiple productions with Oliver Samuels. And she trodded the boards before, 21 years on the Royal Palm television franchise, with other television shows Sarge in Charge, Oliver I Charge' and Win Some, Lose Some included in her silver screen stints. All these are in addition to the movie 'In Like Flynn'.

Harriott says making the adjustment from the stage to film is much easier if someone is there to give guidance and that person may not be the director, who is looking out for the overall picture.




She counts herself fortunate to have interacted with Trevor Johnson, who "cared so much about how I came across on camera. He used to whisper to me 'take it down a bit, it is too big'. If my collar was out of place he would say to someone 'fix her collar'."

However, Harriott says "stage is bigger you have the audience in front of you looking at you" and so there is the real-time gratification of a live response, unlike with film, where the performers have to wait until the post-production process is finished, and the film is released to see it in its entirely. On the other hand, the stage is unforgiving in its immediacy, while in film there can be multiple takes although, Harriott, says, unlike with a finished film, if she is dissatisfied with what she has done in a play one night, she can make adjustments for the following performance. In both cases, her process with the script is to have an overall grasp in order to understand themes, images and her place in relation to everything else that is happening. "Something may be happening in scene three which affects how I approach scene one," she said.

Whether on a stage or a film set, Harriott is thankful for her privileged vantage point. "As an actress I consider myself very, very fortunate in that I am able to live other people's lives on screen and stage without the consequences. I can play a policewoman and I go out on the street with them and see what they do, but my life is not in danger every day. There are not many people with the opportunity to see things through other people's eyes," she said.