Bahamian playwright Gea Pierre has certainly made a name for herself, with three back to back hit plays, the latest, Crazy Love, taking home the 2016 Bahamian Icon Award for Best Live Ensemble, it is safe to say it will be a hard act to follow.
Believe it or not, Pierre started out writing poetry at the ripe age of 12. Three years later, local music producer, the late Frank Penn, called on her to write a play for a special Mother’s Day project. The timid teen pulled off the gargantuan task and produced, “A Tribute to Mother.” It was a smashing success and turned out to be her longest running play. She had discovered her calling.
“I loved it. I fell in love with creating characters and that sort of thing. The play climaxes in a dramatic way and when I saw the people outside in the lobby crying, I realized that through words, I could evoke emotions in people. I think it was in that moment I fell in love,” Pierre remembered.
That was 20 years ago and while writing and reciting her poems was what she was known best for, and requested at most functions to do, it eventually phased itself out. That suited Pierre just fine. It began to wear on her creative side and proved more of a task.
Hundreds of poems later, there are still those 40 or 50 popular ones like The Roach, Please Take Me To Abaco and Black People So Cheap that will undoubtedly stand the test of time.
“I think when you write poetry, its your natural way of expressing yourself and so when you feel angry or happy or sad or grief, you would express that through poetry; so you just write to get some emotion out. When people remember, they remember the funny ones.”
There are plans in the not too distant future to compile her poetry in a memoir as that chapter of her life warps into a new and more exciting one.
“I was happy it phased out and writing plays was kind of different because I had more time with it and so I could take my time and develop characters. Now people don’t even remember that I used to do poetry.” The thought of having an audience and being in the forefront was what intimidated her most, no matter how many times she stood at a podium. At least with her plays, she could morph into the background, watch her creation unfold on stage and whenever the cast bows, so does she.
Evolving from poet to playwright didn’t happen overnight. Pierre didn’t write another serious play after Tribute To Mother until she was in her early 20s when she produced Kinfolk, a political satire. This one was a risk taker for her, having been in the public eye since 12 years old, she was concerned about how the audience would receive the play and whether they would accept such adult material from a budding playwright, knowing that Bahamians were big on politics. She even considered using an alias, but in the end it was another successful production.
After 15 plays in her arsenal, including We Gatta Do Better, I Object, Perfect In Weakness and Crazy Love, Pierre had finally begun to feel like a playwright becoming more confident with each production, many of them staged at special events. The last two were written after she fell gravely ill in 2014 and had a compelling sense of urgency like never before to create her own entertainment brand, Out of the Ashes Entertainment.
As for how many more plays she has waiting to be birthed is left to be seen; one thing she is certain of is that her best play is always the one she is working on.
“I don’t know how many more I have in me, but after 2014 I said to myself, if this was my last work, I want it to be something good. So I can’t tell you how much more there is left but I know by far it hasn’t stopped.”
Pierre readily admits that her years with the Grand Bahama Players helped to shape and groom her craft and credits her success to the all-Grand Bahama cast whom she has had the good fortune of taking on the road.
“What’s unique about it is that I was with actors like Patrice Johnson and other famous actors that I admire so much as my mentors and now I’m in a position where I’m kind of the person in charge.”
No matter how many plays she has in her archives, she is in a constant state of nervousness every time the curtains are drawn. The stickler for perfection loves the excitement of live theatre and believes that if one person is in the room or a thousand, the quality of the show should be the same each time.
As for her last and most successful production, Pierre once said she would never write a love poem or play and then came Crazy Love – a new, young, fresh and lighthearted outlook on love, co-produced by actor Remardo Russell and directed by Johnson.
“It’s just what I have in me and hope people enjoy it. There is a new Bahamian kind of emerging and wanted to show that different culture on stage. Didn’t know if it was going to work, I was very afraid. I was never so afraid about a play since Kinfolk when society would allow me to grow up. I didn’t know if they would allow me to talk about sex and divorce and all the good, juicy stuff, but they did. They accepted it and it went well.”
No doubt, the pressure is always on to put on a production that tops her last, the 36-year-old playwright humbly believes that as long as she is alive she will have life experiences to draw from.
Winning the Bahamian Icon award in July after being nominated with veteran playwright James Catlyn, Phillip Burrows and Nicolette Bethel was truly rewarding experience to be able to share with her cast and crew – one that she does not take for granted.
“Because I’m young, 36 years old, people always think that you’re the young person in the industry. I’m not. There are not too many people who have been writing plays for more thank 20 years; very few of them. So it would mean to me that finally you’ve realized that I’m here and I’m standing in a certain place. It’s the nod you need to know that it’s ok.”