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When she first told her mother, who still lives in Kingston, the Jamaican capital, that she was going to do an autobiographical play, her deeply religious mother became despondent.
“She went into deep depression and put me on every prayer line that you could think of,” said Ehrhardt, who trained and worked as a nurse for a decade before pursuing acting and writing. “She said, ‘Jamaicans don’t air dirty laundry.’ I said, ‘Mom, that’s not it.’ No matter where you come from, we’re all basically the same; we break down all these crazy invisible barriers. People can relate to my father’s alcoholism. They can see the struggles we’ve overcome, from being evicted many times because he didn’t pay rent. It really empowers us.”
When she was growing up, Ehrhardt’s most fervent wish was to live in the United States.
When she first landed, in Miami, she put herself through school and became a nurse, an esteemed but common goal for many Jamaicans. But she quit that job to chase her real goals.
She has performed the show all over the nation, and has drawn audiences well beyond the circuit of Caribbean expatriates.
She wrote the play about seven years ago. She hopes to make it into a film, and has had support from Tom Hanks’ production company.
“Jamaica, Farewell” is a story about a little girl with a big dream, she said.
When she does her play people often feel compelled to share their immigration stories.
“People from China, Korea, Vietnam, Libya, everyone comes up to me to tell me how they got to America,” she said. “For a lot of people, this is still the greatest country in the world.”
Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390