The Jamaican essence emanates energetically throughout Toronto, emerging and replenishing relentlessly within the hearts of many Jamaican Canadians.
Marcia Brown, a Toronto based Producer and Playwright has tapped into this ever-flowing source. Although Marcia currently resides in Toronto, she was born in St. Ann’s, grew up in the parish of Trelawny, and eventually moved to St. Catherine’s before establishing her current family home in Ensom City.
For her Canadian audience, Brown has produced several plays portraying Jamaican lifestyle and culture, the most current of which being Common Law opening Saturday June 14th at the Jamaican Canadian Centre. “The largely comedic/dramatic production chronicles a couple’s decline against the backdrop of a uniquely Jamaican brand of working- class society.” The play captures major issues affecting couples such as, cohabitation, commitment, and marriage. Patsy, one of the main characters, is eager to marry her long-term, live-in boyfriend, until it is revealed that he intends to marry another woman.
This production depicts the struggles many women face today and Patsy’s story is one that Marcia is all too familiar with. While not married herself, Marcia knows many women like Patsy, who have devoted time into relationships in the hopes of marriage, only to meet with disappointment. Brown rarely gives advice when it comes to love, because she knows that it is a very sensitive area, but the issues highlighted in the production of Common Law incites an important question; how do we improve our relationships? Marcia advises women to get to know the person they are with and to communicate with honesty and maturity.
“Look out for the warning signs. Great relationships aren’t formed overnight.”
The play, Common Law is written by Ashton Cooke, one of Jamaica’s leading playwrights who Marcia has worked with before. Cooke launched Brown’s production career in 2000 when he approached her with a script and they produced Country Duppy. Brown’s unique eye for selecting plays spawns from her belief that a play should be relatable to the audience and comedic in nature. Brown receives many scripts from a variety of different writers but she is selective. Brown looks for substance and is not afraid to politely decline an offer if the script is unable to grab her attention by the first scene. Marcia has also written her own play, I Need to Know my Father which has been her most popular play running since 2011 until now.
Keeping the essence alive, connecting with her roots, and engaging with her Jamaican/Canadian counterparts is integral for Brown. As a Jamaican woman living abroad, Marcia finds it extremely important to stay connected with her cultural roots. With the new slangs and sayings changing everyday, maintaining friendships and connections abroad make a world of difference. In addition, Brown’s work with Jamaican writers currently living in Jamaica, like Sam Cooke, help ensure the representation of Jamaica in her productions is as current and real as possible.
“The dynamic in Jamaica changes everyday. It is important for me to keep up with the language and the fashions.”
Marcia’s incredible talent and drive is by no means an accident, as she has been inspired by many important figures. She gives homage to Leonie Forbes, renowned Jamaican actress and broadcaster who she admired while working backstage in Jamaica. Marcia would watch Forbes and the other actors from the wings and recite the lines again and again until she knew all of the words by heart. By sheer chance, on a day of scheduled performance, one of the lead actors fell ill and Marcia was called to the stage to fill the role. Thrust into the opportunity, she held her own, and it was this experience that accelerated her transition into the theatre. Marcia soon found herself performing at LTM Pantomime, Jamaica’s longest surviving theatre company.
A dear friend and Jamaican actor/comedian Oliver Samuels, has also been a big inspiration to Marcia. Samuels has been supportive of her career from the very beginning and they have been friends for over thirty years. In fact, Marcia recalls a fond memory of Samuels. He had heard about an audition in which Marcia was criticized for being timid. He called her straight away to find out what had happened. Brown remembers his friendly scolding, “Why you want back back for?” and still appreciates how he encouraged her to stand firm and be confident.
Some of Marcia’s other notable inspirations are Sam Cooke and Amah Harris. Marcia will be the first person to tell you that she didn’t get to where she is by herself.
“Never feel like you can’t learn from people.”
Despite Marcia’s success in producing and writing plays, she still faces a number of challenges such as financing and outreach. Marcia manages and operates her own production company known as Marcia Brown Productions and in doing so she assumes all of the financial responsibility and does not receive any external funding. With little resources, there have been times when she has had to settle for less than she would have liked. In order to put money into her productions and help balance the books, Marcia also works a full-time job and has to juggle her time accordingly. Marcia has had to keep a keen eye on where her resources go and on what projects to undertake. “You can’t be everywhere because even when you are everywhere you are not touching everybody.”
“People always tell you what you’re not doing but they don’t know how hard it is.”
Even while still growing as a producer and writer, Marcia recognizes the need to help young children develop their talents. Marcia helps to encourage children with her annual event, Pickney Sinting; a performance showcase for children ages 3 – 18. All funds raised from Pickney Sinting go back into scholarships. In addition to this event, for the past seven years, Marcia has personally been giving scholarships to the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) and disadvantaged students. Guidelines, selection criteria, and scholarship applications can be found here. Marcia also supports the United Achiever’s Community Service (UACS).
Marcia Brown’s work is truly a reflection of Jamaica’s hardworking and creative essence and she embodies this essence by doing great things to support and foster the Jamaican community. With an already busy year ahead, Marcia plans to write and produce Part 2 of I Need To Know My Father by Father’s day 2015.