Introducing Miesha Mortimer
Every office has a “Trina” – a nail-filing, gum-smacking, shoot-straight-from-the-hip, tell-it-like-it-is kind of person, a role that first-time actress Miesha Mortimer nailed to steal the show in the Gea Pierre play “Friends with Benefits”.
Mortimer balks at being saddled with the title “show/scene-stealer” despite the thunderous applause Trina received after each show in New Providence.
She was shocked, considering it was her first time on stage or doing anything remotely familiar.
“I never saw it,” she said. “It kind of hit me when I came to Nassau, kinda … sorta. I always told people I ain’t no star of no play – I just the loud one. I say you gone remember me cause I loud, so I always push it off like that, ‘cause I’m that one. But literally – my character … people are always talking about it.”
Mortimer, a math and computer teacher, was encouraged to audition for the play by her co-worker Tempestt Bullard, who plays Reese in the play.
“She was like, ‘Girl come go audition for the play.’ I was like I ain’t know about all that, I ain’t never do that. She was like ‘come, let’s go’. I was like fine, so I went in.”
When she saw a number of people who acted in “Crazy Love” at the auditions, she became nervous.
“I was like I can’t act – and these people have been doing this for a long time.”
But she didn’t chicken out. She took a deep breath and went in.
“I went in and just said, ‘Hiiiii!’ I introduced myself just like that.”
And then she read the lines she was given, but didn’t think she would get a role. As she awaited the outcome of the auditions, she said her anticipation soared, and when Pierre messaged that she got the role it took her by surprise.
“I was like oh, this is about to happen and I went from there into practices.”
The first-time actress said rehearsals were hard for her.
“I have a problem in that I don’t like to disappoint people, so if you tell me I have to do something I’m going to give it my all and I don’t want people to say, ‘I shouldn’t have given this part to her.’”
Through rehearsals, Pierre, along with director Patrice Johnson and producer Mark Gardiner, encouraged Mortimer to be herself. They felt she was the epitome of the Trina character.
So what people saw on stage over the weekend was kind of like Mortimer in her own reality as she delivered Pierre’s quick, snappy, witty lines.
After each well-received performance, she said she was always pleased, especially as she would be a bundle of nerves going in – to the point where she said she wanted to throw up every time.
“When I walked out every time my nerves were at a 10, and then at the middle of the show I’m at about a seven and that’s the lowest it gets. I’m nervous straight through until it’s over.”
She finds it amazing that people came out night after night, and at the end of every show they sought her out.
“They’re like ‘girl I want you to be my friend – everyone is a friend to Trina’, and I’m like did you not watch the two hours and couple minutes that we were on the stage – I am nobody’s friend. It just makes you see how people view you and how they enjoy seeing themselves on stage, because that’s my character. I’m that person in the office that says what you’re thinking while you’re sitting down watching the play. I’m in everybody’s business so I have to make that very extra for people to see it.”
After nine sold-out shows in Grand Bahama and four successful shows in New Providence, she said Johnson always tells her she doesn’t know what she’s done.
“Honestly, I don’t,” she said. “This (acting) isn’t my passion; I’m a teacher. I love teaching, that’s my passion.”
The first-timer was pleased with the fact that she contributed at least one line to her performance.
“When Daniel was sitting on the chair, we were just kind of talking about Pam, [and] I said boy don’t be cutting up with me, ‘cause I’m going to need some of that male attention too’. That was a little dead space, so we just filled it in with words.”
With her first stage play – and a successful one to her credit – whether or not she ascends the stage in a second production remains to be seen.
“Honestly, I could say yes, but I’ve been saying no the whole time. I’m like I’m never doing this again, but it’s fun.”
She said the fact that she had a great cast with her who became family made it easy for her introduction to the stage.
“I think that’s the problem too – we had a great cast. Gea did well in picking all of us, and me being the newbie coming in. Sometimes when you go into things with people who have already been doing things, they either don’t want to help you, or they don’t try to guide you – that’s not something I can say about this cast. They all were very helpful. Even on stage [they’ll] like go over or fix your mic … they’re looking out for you; or [they’ll suggest] ‘say your lines in the mirror – say them to yourself’ – giving you tips and tricks on how to get everything done properly; ‘call me later and I will help you study’ … They were very helpful and that made it very easy for me and not as much pressure.”
Preparing for her stage debut, she said she learnt that when you put in hard work you feel good about it and that she would not take anything like it for granted ever again.
“You look at people and say oh what they’re doing is easy – it’s not. It’s tireless, tireless nights of practicing and you still have to balance a job and different things. It taught me to take things one day at a time, and always to remain humble, because things don’t just happen. A lot of times you see the success of it, but a lot of work went into it behind the scenes.”
She hopes the audience took away the different messages and were able to relate to at least one of the characters, because every person on the stage had a story. And she said the play was so well-written.
“I hope that amidst the humor of it, that they actually don’t feel it’s a waste of time, or something funny. There were lines in that play that hit you very hard in your heart if you listen to them very well, because they’re hurtful. Whoever thought I would get with Calvin. I was playing hard to get the whole play. I just wanted a man. I just talk to any man, get them to bring me something to eat and I done. But at the end of the day you still have to care about people’s feelings or think that you’re good enough, because sometimes people don’t think that they’re good enough and there are people that actually want to be with them. You see Calvin leave his girlfriend for me – he liked me more.”
Mortimer has two more shows in Grand Bahama this weekend, and they’re hoping to have another run in New Providence in the future.
She’s also proud of herself for auditioning, snagging the role and for their successes – because she said it wasn’t something that was ever on her bucket list.
“I’m proud of everything I got accomplished, because I never thought I would have done it. I never thought I would have been who Gea those wanted me to be on the stage, and even the confidence to do it, because I was very scared. Every night before the show before I come out, I’d be standing at the door and my heart would be beating through my chest. I would always have to let Patrice feel it, so I could calm down and say to myself, okay Miesha you’ve done this … you’ve done this – so I was proud of myself.”
The New Providence native who grew up in Carmichael Road and has been a Grand Bahama transplant for the past two years, was also pleased her family was able to take in her debut stage performance at the University of The Bahamas Performing Arts Centre.
Her mom, Linda Cooper-Mortimer, and her dad, John Mortimer – whom she said she hadn’t spoken to since last year – both made an appearance at a Sunday show.
“I hadn’t spoken to him since last year, and he called me and [asked] what time’s the show. I’m looking at the phone going, what! And he was like, ‘I coming and I’m on my way now.’ I felt good about that.”
Everyone was there, including her 87-year-old grandmother, Kathryn Cooper – whom she describes as a “Christian gangster” – along with her cousins and her fiancé, Demetre Higgs, who took in three shows.
“I felt good [my grandmother] was able to see me on the stage,” she said.
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