Category Archives: Theatre
I have butterflies in my stomach right now. Why? Because in just a few hours Aneemah’s Spot will be opening at the Summerworks Festival. I will be playing Aneemah. The only other person on stage with me will be Araya Mengesha playing Wan. We will be telling a story written by Motion but one that belongs to the entire city of Toronto. Especially right now. The arch is so simple: two friends returning from the funeral of their brederin who was recently killed. Two friends spending an afternoon together. Two friends trying to figure out what are the next steps. Two friends wondering if the cycle will continue and if it doesn’t…what does that look like. Two friends trying to heal. So simple…but not. Especially right now. Right now when this is the conversation our city needs to be having…and in many ways is having – in official spaces with politicians and community workers and professors and ministers and lawyers and reporters….but so often we forget that this conversation has been going on in “stairways and back doors, rooftops and bottom floors, high-rise and town-homes.” Young people have been trying to figure out how to move forward for a long time…
Having more experience as an educator and a community worker than as an actor has made this play such a visceral experience of healing for me. No longer able to maintain the blocks and boundaries that enable me to move through each meeting, each e-mail and each class, I was challenged and pushed to break them down, break them down, break them down and feel what exists behind them. It was really scary. A lot of tears have been shed in rehearsal and outside of it. I don’t think I would have been able to get through this if it wasn’t happening with the team of people that have come together to tell this story. I feel so incredibly privileged that I was selected through auditions to be a part of it. Thank you to the folks who were not at every rehearsal but have been grinding none the less to build the energy around the story – L’Oqenz, Jade Lee Hoy, Amanda Nk, Jasmine Chen – you all hold us down. I am in awe of each of your skills, talents, passion and commitment to the end goal. You humble me in the reminder that the actor is just a small piece in a very big puzzle. But I have to give very special and individual shout-outs to those that attended most rehearsals because you all are now part of my creative family and I am so grateful to the universe for bringing each of you into my life:
Motion – without the words, none of this would be happening. You as playwright, you as author of this narrative, you as the one courageous enough to put pen to paper are the reason why we are all here. Storyteller to the bone, I am doing this play knowing that I want to honour every single monologue, every single sentence, every single word, every single syllable because you have spent so much time examining each and making sure they all have purpose and right of place. The strength of these words comes from the integrity and authenticity you put into each of them. I am honoured to carry your words forward.
Dian Marie Bridge – I said this before and I will say it again here. I feel as though the last few weeks have been acting workshops for me and it has been so necessarily humbling. You have pushed me and challenged me and asked me to go to places I fought against and the only reason I may come even close to realizing the potential you are asking of me is because I know that you will be there to support me with love. It has been such a blessing to work with a director who shows so much respect for the journey of your actors – how we feel, our comfort level, asking us to share what is in our gut – while at the same time pushing us to realize a vision that is larger than what I could always see. Thank you for your patience, your kindness, your smile, your cooking lessons(!) and your love.
Nan Shepherd – Thank you for keeping me in check! Lol. Nan you have obviously found your calling. Your attention to detail is incredible. I am in awe of your ability to allow a story to move and grow organically while keeping us on point. You are consistently checking in on the placement of props, the movement of bodies, the timing of events and even the energy of all those involved…reminding us when we need to take a breath…reminding us that it is ok to take a breath. Thank you for that. You helped me to maintain my calm, my focus and of course my sanity.
Cassy Walker – I am so proud of you. I am so happy that we are doing this together. I am so happy that you keep me and Araya in check. I really needed your energy many times and am thankful to the universe that you were there. Thank you for building up my confidence, thank you for being on point, thank you for having that amazing laugh that you have. Knowing that you will be backstage with us grounds me in a sense of safety and reassurance that everything is going to be ok. Love you Cass.
Araya Mengesha – The smile began as soon as I started typing your name. I’ve already told you, I hate doing things that everyone is doing and EVERYONE loves Araya (so annoying). I was trying to be the rebel and find something to hate on….but I couldn’t. Sigh. I’ve joined the fan club. I don’t even know what to say. Every day I get to know you more, I am more and more thankful that it is you I am doing this with. Your Wan is the only Wan that exists in my head now. Thank you for showing me the beauty of someone who respects and is in love with their craft without ego or pretence. Thank you for being so patient with me through my learning curves. Thank you for making me laugh so much my face hurt pretty much everyday we hang out. Thank you for giving me space when I needed but also knowing when I needed someone to sit beside me silently too and stare at clouds when the fear of where rehearsals were taking me set in. Thank you for making Aneemah and Wan’s connection feel real by building a really dope Amanda and Araya connection 🙂
Opening night…we are here.
I hope people come out to see this story. I hope people are moved by this story. I hope I do justice to this story. I hope…
ANEEMAH’S SPOT @ SummerWorks Festival written by Motion directed by Dian Marie Bridge starring Araya Mengesha & Amanda Parris
Lower Ossington Theatre :
100A Ossington Ave (north of Queen W), Toronto
■ Thu – Aug 9, 2012 05:00 PM
■ Sat – Aug 11, 2012 12:00 PM
■ Sun – Aug 12, 2012 05:00 PM
■ Tue – Aug 14, 2012 07:30 PM
■ Thu – Aug 16, 2012 10:00 PM
■ Sat – Aug 18, 2012 05:00 PM
Excerpts from “nOTES oF a cOLOURED gIRL: 32 sHORT rEASONS wHY i wRITE fOR tHE tHEATRE” by Djanet Sears
I have never formally met Djanet Sears. I have stared at her from a distance and smiled shyly at her…but I have not yet found the courage to approach and tell her how much her writing and her work have meant to me. I have not yet had the privilege of seeing her work on stage, but I have read Harlem Duet and Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God. I have few words to explain what those plays meant to me. At the end of reading both, I felt changed – something which I always seek but rarely find in artistic experiences. I also proudly own Volume II of the anthology she edited: Testifyin’: Contemporary African Canadian Drama, a collection which I searched for in vain at local bookstores and online (it was no longer in print) until coming across it one day when looking around a UofT bookstore under a Drama/English course that had it assigned (I have found so many out-of-print gems this way! Yes, yes I am a book nerd that spends hours searching shelves of bookstores looking for gems). Needless to say, I spent the rest of the day grinning to myself and feeling so excited to have this incredible collection in my possession. I still haven’t had much luck with Volume I, but I am sure it will come in due time…
These excerpts come from an introduction she did at the start of her published edition of Harlem Duet. Re-reading the play today, I was reminded of the sometimes irrational urge I feel to stifle my desire to write…why? I don’t know. Reading and writing are the only forms of therapy that I have ever remained committed to….the process of reading and writing affirms my sanity within this (in)sane world. It casts out the linear boxes that push me to the edge of cliffs and reminds me of circles and connectivity to deeper parts of self and soul. It grounds me past concrete to earth, root and spirit. In this introduction Ms. Sears’ reminds me of the urgency to follow this calling…
Excerpts from “nOTES oF a cOLOURED gIRL: 32 sHORT rEASONS wHY i wRITE fOR tHE tHEATRE” by Djanet Sears
7 She (djanet’s niece) must have access to a choir of African voices, chanting a multiplicity of African experiences. One voice does not a chorus make. And I will not wait. 8 I harbour deep within me tales that I’ve never seen told. 9 I too must become an organ and add my perspective, my lens, my stories, to the ever growing body of work by and about people of African descent.
12 An old West African proverb states that, as a people, we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. 13 Lorraine Hansberrry is my mother – in theatre – and she accompanies me wherever I go. 14 I have been known to drop her a few lines, now and then. 15 Yes, she responds. 16 As a woman of African descent, and a writer for the stage, I stand on her shoulders. They are a firm and formidable foundation on which to rest my large and awkward feet.
17 Acting is a craft that I have been called to by my nature. Writing is a craft that I have chosen to nurture. 18 As a young actor, I soon realized that a majority of the roles that I would be offered did not portray me in the way I saw myself, my family, or my friends, in life. I became consumed by my own complaining. 19 Complaining, imploring, and protesting only served to disperse my energy.
23 I have a dream. A dream that one day in the city where I live, at any given time of the year, I will be able to find at least one play that is filled with people who look like me, telling stories about me, my family, my friends, my community. For most people of European descent, this is a privilege they take for granted.
26 My good friend Clarissa Chandler, a business consultant, educator and motivational speaker, shared with me a process for using my nagging mind and raging heart, as a way to get back in touch with my innermost knowing and creative desires. She identified three steps of transformation that I could use like footprints leading me back home.
27 First: identify the place of complaint (This can sometimes be evident in the complaining we do in hiding, in conversation with friends and/or in the privacy of our own minds.) Second: Say it out loud. Create a mantra out of it. (Give it room in the world). Third: locate a creative point of expression for this mantra. 28 Paint it, dance it, sculpt it, or write about it. Why limit yourself?
30 For the many like me, black and female, it is imperative that our writing begin to recreate our histories and our myths, as well as integrate the most painful of experiences…Writing for me is a labour of love, probably not unlike the experience of giving birth. In a very deep way, I feel that I am in the process of giving birth to myself. Writing for the stage allows me a process to dream myself into existence.
31 In a recent clinical study at Duke University researchers found that racist comments can not only lead directly to an overworked heart, but the internal stress caused by racism was found to tear the lining of blood vessels. I must write to save my own life.
32 There are a great many times when I forget. I forget why I’m doing this. Days when the blues move from a deep cerulean to icy cold pale. So I have the following words by Langston Hughes from “Note on Commercial Theatre,” on my wall, just above my desk, for those times when I most need reminding:
STAND UP AND TALK ABOUT ME,
AND WRITE ABOUT ME –
BLACK AND BEAUTIFUL
AND SING ABOUT ME,
AND PUT ON PLAYS ABOUT ME!
I RECKON IT’LL BE
YES, IT’LL BE ME.