Ten Re/defined

24 Feb 2006

Actor, director and playwright Christine Nicole Harris

An interview with Christine Nicole Harris, actor, director and playwright

It’s a lazy Saturday afternoon and the Tim Horton’s at the corner of Bedford and Bloor hosts a constant stream of eclectic customers lined up for their caffeine fix. I’m sipping a medium double double at a table by the window, hoping I’ll recognize Christine Nicole Harris, an emerging playwright at this year’s rock.paper.sistahz5 festival.

No need to worry. The tall, energetic, 25 year old spots me first, arms outstretched, smile wide, introductions rolling from her tongue. I can see why she started out in Public Relations, as I would later find out.

Born and raised in Toronto by Jamaican parents, Christine’s love of the arts began at the age of four with her introduction to ballet, and later classical piano. Her official acting debut would come in 2003 with Things Fall Apart, a stage adaptation for the Graduate Centre for Drama, at the University of Toronto. “This was my first professional show as an actor,” says Harris, “there was a sense I had that I could do this. I realized that I could and that I loved it.”

The call to pursue theatre was something she felt in her last year at U of T, while studying English and political science.

“Although I conceived I might go into law or some other such thing, I never really removed myself from the arts. It was really about me deciding this was the path I was going to take full force and not something I was going to do in the background, but would actively pursue.” She is currently writing full time but admits PR comes in handy when she needs to fall back on a day job.

Christine’s acting credits include performances in Anowa (African Theatre Ensemble), Recreating (Groundswell Festival), February (Summerworks), and Two Gun Mary (Hysteria Festival). She also made her singing debut in Hart House Theatre’s Hip Hop version of A Clockwork Orange.

As someone who loves to be immersed in the entire theatre process, Christine has stage managed and directed several works. Her latest challenge is her foray into writing. Ten Re/defined is her first performance piece as a playwright.

Directed by Sharon Lewis, a talented artist, director and playwright, Ten Re/defined follows a woman and her parts, particularly her mind and her body as they struggle through sickle cell anemia. “The body and mind are characters,” explains Harris. “The pain is also a character that speaks through music and sound.”

Her work is multidisciplinary, drawing from her experiences within music and poetry. “I would describe it as a melding of different art forms although I still adhere to some traditional types of storytelling. It’s exciting to go on this path because there isn’t something written on how to do it. I see it as free form,” says Harris.

The piece resonates on a personal level with Christine. She lives with sickle cell anemia. “I wanted to take a universal look at it, not really to educate, although certain truths are made known. I wanted to bring to the forefront the idea of when you are struggling with an issue what that internal battle is. Sometimes you can’t articulate it with words.”

The title Ten Re/defined comes from the typical doctor/patient visit where one is asked to rate one’s pain on a scale of one to ten. “How do you define a two from a ten?” asks Harris.

There is a lot more writing ahead for this young playwright. She is currently working on her first play Bent Blood, which will be workshopped at rock.paper.sistahz5 and further developed through Nightwood’s “Write from the Hip” program for novice playwrights. At the end of the program, the pieces will be staged at the Groundswell Festival in August.

Christine is passionate about theatre and credits her artistic development to bCurrent’s “r’Aiz’n the Sun” program and festivals such as rock.paper.sistahz.

“The nurturing and the collaborative environment have really been good for my own growth. I might not be doing it without festivals like this. I think the future is exciting. We are beginning to tell our own stories in our own voices. That’s something that’s exciting for me.”

Ten Re/defined is performed on April 12th and 14th as part of rock.paper.sistahz5 festival. For a complete schedule visit www.bcurrent.ca. For tickets contact Harbourfront Box Office: (416) 973-4000.

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