Like most artistes in live entertainment, Desmond Dennis has a routine that helps loosen the proverbial knots in the stomach before showtime.
In the actor's case, it is reaching the theatre long before curtain call and basking in gospel music.
"I'd get to the theatre three hours before curtains and proceed with my warm-ups. After that, I'd put on a VaShawn Mitchell playlist. This calms me as I put the mask on. While doing the makeup I'd review the script, line by line, to remind myself of the story but also to [re]discover the part my character plays in its telling and map his emotional journey," Dennis told the Jamaica Observer.
Preparation is key for his role as Pinocchio in Anancy & Pinocchio, a Jambiz International production that also stars Glen Campbell, Courtney Wilson and Sharee Elise. It opened in December and is currently running at the Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston.
This is the Clarendon-born Dennis' first play for Jambiz International, a company with hit comedies going back to the 1990s.
He said the dynamics of Pinocchio make him his most challenging role to date.
"In a number of ways, the challenges are linked to the fact that I have had to balance several aspects of my personal life with the hustle and bustle that comes with theatre territory. But, generally, this role demands a certain degree of physicality for an authentic portrayal. It also requires that we continuously hold onto the natural curiosity of a developing mind," Dennis explained.
"When you add those two considerations to the fact that there is choreography and a whole sequence where we deejay — but I am neither a deejay nor a dancer — you better appreciate that this is quite the task. But I'm having so much fun!"
Previously, he was Ranny-Olo in Garvey: The Musical, TIGS in Maya Wilkinson's Heist (for which he won an Actor Boy Award) and Elegba/Houseboat Rayon Mclean's Re'Ashored.
Dennis first discovered acting at Race Course Primary School, in his home parish of Clarendon. As a boy, he started re-enacting radio commercials which was followed by entering Jamaica Cultural Development Commission contests while attending Glenmuir High School.
At The University of the West Indies, he joined the Dramatic Arts Society and performed in plays staged by Tallawah Tertiary Dramatic Arts Festival hosted by the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts.
There, he appeared in plays directed by McLean, Brian Heap, Michael Holgate and Dahlia Harris.
Dennis is aiming for the ultimate in acting.
"I want to go the whole way. I want to do for Jamaica's cultural landscape what Usain [Bolt] accomplished for track and field. I'm eyeing and working towards the EGOT [Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner]," he said.
Anancy & Pinocchio plays this evening, Saturdays and Sundays at 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm.