IT has been seven years since Debra Ehrhardt launched her one-woman show Jamaica Farewell. But she says there are still flutters each time she takes the stage.
"I get extremely nervous before every show because every audience is different, so I'm always surprised and grateful that I'm still performing. I greatly appreciate the support of the viewers more than anything as this has been my dream and it continues to feel like a dream," Ehrhardt told the Sunday Observer from her Los Angeles home.
Jamaica Farewell's latest stop is the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center in South Florida this evening. It is based on her family's decision to leave Jamaica in the 1970s, a time of political turmoil in the country.
Ehrhardt has performed in major cities across the United States, Canada, Bermuda, Costa Rica and Mexico.
Jamaica Farewell has also been viewed by Hollywood celebrity. Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson saw the play three years ago and met Ehrhardt after the show.
She said Wilson suggested bringing in director Joel Zwick (of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame) to strengthen her production. Ehrhardt says she was sceptical at first.
"I must admit I was very nervous and worried that they would try to change my piece and it would be unrecognisable, as that happens a lot in Hollywood.
"Thank God, my fabulous director only made it better," she said.
The Kingston-born Ehrhardt experienced scepticism when she started out in theatre nearly 30 years ago in the US.
Producers were not taken with her Caribbean accent and encouraged her to work with a coach who would help develop an American accent.
In Jamaica Farewell, Ehrhardt, a divorced mother of two, gets to show her roots. The production has earned praise from respected publications like the Los Angeles Times which described it as "effortlessly entertaining".
Four years ago, Jamaica Farewell played in Kingston, Mandeville and Montego Bay. It was nominated for Actor Boy Awards for Best Drama and Best Play.
"That was the icing on the cake," said Ehrhardt.
Following its South Florida date, Jamaica Farewell moves on to the Cayman Islands. It is scheduled for a month-long stint in Scotland this summer.
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