Moving up: Jamaican stage actor in historic Shakespeare production

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A report by Alexandra Simon for Caribbean Life.

Last month Jamaican theatre actor David Heron finished the closing of a production of “Romeo and Juliet” at the Shakespeare Festival in St. Louis, Missouri. It was the actor’s sixth appearance in a Shakespeare play, and the show was record-breaking attendance for the festival’s show ever, and it was awing moment for him.

“The run was amazing. I’ve done Shakespeare in front of thousands of people before, but never in a park with 3,000 to 4,000 people every night,” he said.

Every year in the city’s Forest Park, is a major festival celebrating the English writer’s work. In the play, Heron played Lord Montague. As a Shakespeare enthusiast, Heron is no stranger to the his plays. He has played in various Shakespeare productions playing the a variety of characters — from Octavius in “Julius Caesar,” Roderigo in “Othello,” Laertes in “Hamlet,” and several more.

He feels very connected to the late playwright’s work not only as an actor, but as a writer.

“I’m a big fan of Shakespeare,” said Heron. “I love how he structure his plays and I admire the sharp and clear characters that he creates. But the thing I admire the most about Shakespeare’s work is the beautiful language and the poetry — it’s wonderful.”

And being able to act in various productions from his training days to now as a season actor,

“I also love the timelessness of his plays,” he said. “We’re talking about plays he wrote 400 years ago, and whether one chooses to stage in traditional way, or modernize it — the subjects is still very contemporary whether you do and the characters are still so relevant.”

As one of the few visible Caribbean actors classically trained and performing Shakespeare, he says sometimes the realization is surreal.

“It’s very interesting when people say that got me,” said Heron. “There are very few Caribbean actors doing theater at a certain level, and it always take me a minute or two to digest that and what it means.”

But he knows his presence is steering the path for more Caribbean actors to find work in the years to come. Despite being in the acting industry as both an actor and a publicity representative, Heron says he’s been very keen on the swift changes within the industry — the good and the bad. He adds that while there are still fewer roles for actors of color, there is some improvement.

“I feel very good about people thinking I’m paving way, but I also have to say there’s a timing in my career very is important,” said Heron. “There were very few actors of color doing showbusiness in the ‘70’s and ‘80s, but by the time I got here in early 2000’s, people were really putting calls for multiracial casting, and now there’s a lot of color blind casting.”

When he is not acting, Heron is running his publicity company — Sure Thing Productions. As a firm representing actors, he services them by searching for casting calls and providing coaching for auditions. He says coming to the states to pursue his acting career, exposed him to many challenges and he wanted to assist other up and coming actors to deal with such challenges.

“What I try to do is use the experience I had as an actor, producer, and playwright to help other actors,” he said. “It’s been a very rewarding aspect of my career because when I came to New York, I didn’t have anyone to show me the ropes. I had to learn a lot through trial and error. But I want to help others avoid the pitfalls and share my experience with them.”

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