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Varia Williams – Actress, activist, attorney
By Alyson Holder
Varia Williams is a woman of many trades. Legal attorney, actress, director and teacher, she’s managed to integrate her skills and talents to bring a depth to all that she’s a part of. Though accomplished in such an array of fields she maintains a humble demeanor, ever realizing that there is always more to be done.
Catching the eye of HELLO! this year as a judge for NIFCA, here is a little insight into this young woman who has done so much with her life to this point.
“My first public performance was in 1997 at a time when I was seriously questioning my life and wondering what to do and where to go. It was a production of Talk Tent at the Daphne Joseph Hackett Theatre. I fell in love with the stage and the craft. The rest is history”.
Her performance in ‘For Colored Girls’, made quite an impression on an already well entertained audience.
“I really enjoy the kind of theatre that allows me to perform various characters to the audience – rather than the kind of kitchen-sink dramas where the audience has the voyeuristic role of peeping past the fourth wall that the stage creates. I love when the actor acknowledges the audience and works with their very presence to create a story.
For her ‘Colored Girls’ was a great experience one where she allowed herself to experiment a bit with the character. “Working with Esiaba Irobi was refreshing”, the past tutor of the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination was known for the great energy he brought to the rehearsal room”.
“I love accents”, so much so she terms it a bit of a passion, in her eyes its not just how a person sounds when they speak but the way they move, their body language and their accent, they all come together to “ tell a tale about their personality and some characteristics that make people interesting”. As this is such an important fraction of her career as an actress, she trains her ear at every opportunity .
Though the actress has been a part of so many pivotal theatrical productions over the years, there is sincere difficulty in labeling any one as more important than the other”. Every production takes me another step towards honing my skills, loving the craft and understanding the human condition a little better”.
Sharing a bit more of her past Varia recounts her days in England at the ‘Guildford School of Acting’ an experience she describes as, ‘AMAZING’ and indescribable. Though she was surrounded by artists and other creative people on a constant basis, she found herself constantly inspired. ‘My brain grew during that time’.
“I was the only black person and certainly the only West Indian in my cast of 16”. She recounts that while it was great to be interesting and unique in that setting she was a bit concerned that she was rewarded roles based on her differences rather than her merits. To meet her goals of accomplishment she had to fight for roles which were relevant and useful to her career. In the school’s last production ‘Absolute Turkey’ she won the lead role of Lucienne, an aristocratic French woman, based solely on her performance.
“It was a good note to leave the school of acting on because it really left me with the skills and confidence to think I can play any part”.
Upon returning home ‘Vagina Monologues’ was about to be produced, an experience Varia lists as ‘... by far the most fun I’ve ever had on stage’.
Speaking on behalf of the characters portrayed, she felt as if they were all created for her, an experience she calls ‘every actor's dream’. “ I was working with a cast of incredible women and telling stories of incredible women from around the world... it was advocacy and acting, two big components that help to define the woman I want to be.” The role in the Thom Cross directed production brought her and her talents to the full view of the Barbadian public.
Today Williams is the Managing Director and Principal Tutor for Mustardseed Productions, a Facilitator for the Youth Program with the Division of Youth Affairs and a Drama teacher at the St. Gabriels School, positions in which she’s
learned much from her charges.
“... Working with young people is... refreshing and inspiring. Every day is a good day when a child gets to explore its imagination. We live in a society that can suppress creative energy and active imagination. My job is to keep that spirit alive”.
Varia’s also known for her extensive work in human rights, particularly feminine and children’s rights. “My mother created a little activist when she herself was defending women’s rights in Barbados and I was 10”.
Though always interested, she never considered it a career path until she finished Law School and began to examine it as an avenue to be considered. She was soon hired at UNIFEM as a Programme Assistant working on strategies towards ending Violence Against Women and the United Nations Inter-Agency Campaign on Women’s Human Rights.
“In many ways it was a dream job because... it was real work that didn’t seem self indulgent and was about making a difference to the lives of all”.
Williams is also a part of CASH, the Coalition Against All Forms of Sexual Harassment, a group of women and men attempting to define and address the problem of Sexual Harassment in Barbados. "It is an unfortunate Caribbean reality and in Barbados , there is still no adequate legislation specifically addressing issues related to sexual harassment in the workplace”.
Varia Williams has committed herself to positive achievement and, so doing has inspired many actors, actresses and activists to step into their own and push the boundaries. We at HELLO! magazine congratulate her on her drive and accomplishments thus far. (Hello!)