Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Ross Petty's Sleeping Beauty BFFs: Meet Alexandra Beaton & Taveeta Szymanowicz

Fall/winter theatre favourite Ross Petty Productions is back with another fairy-tale pantomime! This year's treat is Sleeping Beauty-The Deliriously Dreamy Family Musical. The beauty is Kinky Boots star, AJ Bridal and playing her best pals are Alexandra Beaton and Taveeta Szymanowicz of Family Channel's The Next Steps. Taveeta and Alexandra were in rehearsals but took time out to share some insights into their roles.

Alexandra Beaton & Taveeta Szymanowicz
photo credit: Bruce Zinger

donna g: Were either of you familiar with pantomime before being cast in Ross Petty's version of Sleeping Beauty?

Taveeta: Yes! I saw Ross's production of Peter Pan when I was in Elementary school. I remember having such a lovely time. I was thus very excited when I was cast in Ross's 2015/16 production of Peter Pan in Wonderland last year. I was thrilled to be cast again this year! 

Alexandra: Of course! Growing up in Toronto, going to the Panto at Christmas  time was a tradition for a lot of my friends. I even saw a few myself.

donna g: You both play Beauty's BFF guardian angels. Could tell us a bit about your characters?

Taveeta: I play Gabriella aka "Gabby" the Charm. She is one of 3 Charms that protect Sleeping Beauty aka the heroine "Rose"! She's really fierce and fun and super protective. It is a really fun role to play as one of my dream roles has always been a spy, and this role has similar sneaky but kicking type qualities! I wouldn't mess with Gabby ;) 

Alexandra: Being a Charm is so much fun! Fee is strong and independent but takes her job of protecting Rose very seriously. It is her mission to keep Rose safe and happy. Fee, and her "sisters", move as a unit and because of that are the best of friends as well as being the ultimate team. 

donna g: How have you have had to adapt from acting in front of the camera to acting in such an exaggerated form of theatre?

Taveeta: I started my career on a stage as a dancer and so being on a stage in front of a live audience feels very natural to me! It hasn't been that difficult to adapt. 
AlexandraActing on TV and in theatre are two totally different mediums and have to be treated as such. What works on the screen will rarely work on the stage. Both are their own craft and deserve to be treated as such. Luckily, both are so much fun to do. So yes, there has been some adapting.

donna g: We know from your roles in The Next Step that you can both dance; how much dancing can audiences expect from you to in this production? Can you share any tidbits without giving too much away?

Taveeta: There are some awesome musical numbers in the show this year! All I can say is that you will for sure be singing and dancing along to some of your favourite songs in your seats.
Alexandra: The Charms dance quite a bit in this production! Primarily, I am an actor so getting back in to the dancing groove has been a fun challenge for me! One thing you should know is that the charms are literally born protectors so all their dancing has a bit of a fighting side to it.   

donna g: Could you describe your respective costumes? Did you have any input into the design or were they dance-perfect from the get go?

Taveeta: The Charms get to wear these fabulous tight, spy-like gold sequin costumes! It's the perfect balance of spy-like attire meets the brightness and sparkles that is the Panto! They are beautiful, and very comfortable!

Alexandra: Our costume department is so good they did not need any input! They came up with an amazing design of gold jumpsuits that are designed to fit each of the charms individual personality. 
donna g: What are you each looking forward to on Opening Night, or the run of the show, if that's the case?

Taveeta: This show is such a great production to be a part of during the Holiday Season! I am really looking forward to having fun on stage with such humble and talented people- most of all I'm excited to see all of the fans! 

Alexandra: All of it! Each audience is different and each show has a different energy. I know opening night will be amazing but I think just being part of the Panto is pretty exciting as well.

Ross Petty Productions proudly presents the all-star Canadian cast of
SLEEPING BEAUTY – The Deliriously Dreamy Family Musical,
the 21st annual fractured fairytale at the Elgin Theatre,
November 25, 2016 – January 7, 2017

Guest Star Hilary Farr ( HGTV’s Love it or List It)
Featuring AJ Bridel, Paul Constable, James Daly, Eddie Glen
With Alexandra Beaton, Lisa Horner, Laurie Murdoch and Taveeta Szymanowicz

         For a complete performance schedule visit        

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Festival Founder/Director Marcelle Lean Welcomes All to Cinéfranco 2016!

Cinéfranco International Festival opens tomorrow and runs until Nov. 1st, and Founder/Artistic Director, Marcelle Lean couldn't be more excited to welcome you to the Francophone festival!

donna g: Cinéfranco (CF) is celebrating its 19th year, but it hasn't been an easy ride with funding. You could have given up. What keeps you going?

Marcelle Lean
What keeps me going is my passion for cinema as well as my joy to share the films with other film lovers. I could not give up because when Cinéfranco was rejected for a major Ontario grant and had to cancel its general spring festival, people took the time to write letters to newspapers, to phone Francophone radio stations, to send emails. Over 300 people signed a petition spurred by an activist film lover. I felt energized by so much positivity and sincere emotions.

donna g: The screenings are at Spadina Theatre inside Alliance française de Toronto. What prompted the move to have screenings at this location?

Marcelle: I had been working with Alliance française de Toronto for a while now especially presenting films at the Spadina Theatre for the Thursday night screenings. More recently the Special Quebec edition took place at Spadina Theatre that was a full house for most of the screenings. AFT and Cinéfranco wanted to renew the experience.

donna g: With the #oscarsowhite hashtags pointing out the lack of diversity in films audiences are rightfully demanding that films include rather than exclude. How is Cinéfranco addressing this issue in its programming?

Marcelle: There is no such thing as a Francophone community in Toronto. We have to say it is fragmented into communities of diverse origins. As a Francophone festival that wants to federate all of these communities, it is important to reflect it in the film selection. As a programmer I have to be sensitive to all Francophones to project a vision of themselves and of what binds us all: the use of French language as a means of self-expression, a cultural and linguistic identity. This year the program centres around the theme of the identity in crisis and human rights in France, Quebec, Belgium, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, where the films come from…

If we look at 2 of Quebec films, Montréal la blanche /Montreal, White City deals with two Algerian immigrants roaming Montreal on Christmas Eve during Ramadan. They reflect on their past, on their values quite different from their new home where they feel excluded. They open up the wounds of most immigrants trying to fit in yet unable to let go of their past. In Avant les rues /Before the Streets filmmaker Chloé Leriche delves into the tragedy of First Nations youth through a story of crime. Acted by remarkable non-professional actors, the film depicts the loss of roots that brings self-loathing, the joblessness that brings boredom and apathy. This is the first film in Atikamekw language and French.

Films from France focus on its internal fractures and clashes. Jihadists trying to destroy the fabric of French society by placing a bomb on the Champs Elysées (Made in France by Nicolas Boukhrief) or Certifiée Halal/Certified Halal that starts with a French North African woman revolting against virginity certificates required from a woman before getting married. Both films ran into sad obstacles: Made in France deemed prophetic after the Bataclan terrorist attacks of November 2015, was not allowed to open in commercial theatres. Certifiée Halal/Certified Halal, a hilarious comedy, came right after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks, which made it impossible for the film to play in Parisian theatres.

Chocolat by Roschdy Zem shows the intrinsic racism of the French society in the 1900s Belle époque. Footit (James Thiérrée), the White clown, does not hide the fact that he is exploiting Chocolat (Omar Sy) because he is black and looks like a “savage”. This film is not without reminding me of French director Abdellatif Kechiche’s film Vénus noire, the true, brutal story of Saartjie Baartman  who followed her “owner” to Europe to find fame and fortune.

Exile from Iran and immigration to France put an Iranian family centre stage in Nous trois ou rienAll Three of Us. It proves that immigrants fleeing dictatorship are capable of positively contributing to the society at large.

These are a few examples that illustrate the diversity of the Francophone diaspora against the grain of #oscarsowhite hashtags.

donna g: A francophone film festival may not be at the forefront of many youth even though many of them take French in school. What does CF have to offer them this year in terms of seeing themselves on screen?

Marcelle: This edition of Cinéfranco is not particularly dedicated to youth as is our Youth Film Festival. However, a few films in the program centre around the struggles of youth trying to fulfil their aspirations in a hostile environment. The dilemmas are intense as these youth are not happy with what the society they live in, offers. In Made in France for instance the young men forming the jihadist cells dream of an ideal world, but they have to commit evil violent acts before reaching their goals. But each of them has his interpretation of what he can or cannot do. The Quebecois film Avant les rues/Before the Streets deals in depth with the malaise of First Nations youth.

In Insoumise/Rebellious Girl, the same theme of youth refusing to accept injustice pops up in the relationships between seasonal workers and their bosses. Again the film portrays a will to fight unlike the previous generations working without any protests against the unjust exploitation of their labour.

With Certifiée Halal/Certified Halal Kenza Boukamache incites her “sisters” to reject the humiliating practice of showing a certificate of virginity before getting married. As a young woman, she fights the male dominated culture she is raised in. Kenza affirms her identity as a free woman like any French young woman.

In the closing film, As I Open My Eyes, the dictatorship of Ben Ali has spies everywhere to control and crush. Young Farah leaves school to enter a universe where she thinks she is free to sing her provocative songs. She does not realize that her “Music becomes a dangerous weapon”. This poignant story of the rude awakening of a muzzled youth symbolized by Farah emphasizes the clash of generations: those who know the consequences and those who may risk their lives for their ideals. Director Leyla Bouzid catches Tunisian society in 2010 at the eve of the Jasmine Revolution otherwise known as the Arab Spring. Her film received multiple awards from international festivals. It captures the will of a freedom hungry youth ready to sacrifice their lives.  On December 17, 2010, news from all over the world, reported the desperate act of 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi who, by setting himself on fire, triggered the revolt.

 In all instances of films portraying youth, the message seems to encourage young people to express themselves, to find their roots that are so essential to their identities to fight alienation from the political, religious and societal environment.

More specifically to youth, from February 21st to March 7th, Cinéfranco organizes its annual youth Festival. Its angle is to inspire teachers to motivate their students to write reviews, to discuss about topics relevant to their lives. We offer the teachers an educational kit that covers a large range of topics, language exercises, themes for research and discussion. We also encourage the students to write a review of the film they screened. We give out prizes with gifts (books, cinema tickets, DVDs of French films, etc.) and certificates of merit for all who do not win a prize.

donna g: Thanks to CF, I've had the pleasure of seeing the work of Gustave Kervern and Benoît Delépine. Could you please introduce this duo to my readers?

Marcelle: The famous Isabelle Adjani once called Gustave Kervern and Benoît Delépine “cosmic twins”. They are satirists, actors, scriptwriters and filmmakers. Their work reflects their sense of poetry, nuttiness and offbeat humour. This creative pair shot zany films like the road movie Mammuth (Cinéfranco 2011showed it to a full house) with Gérard Depardieu or Le Grand soir with Benoît Poelvoorde and Albert Dupontel.
I love the way Gustave Kervern and Benoît Delépine blend humour with gravity in their deep observation of life and society. As you see their films you cannot help laughing at what appears to be absurd then when you think of it, you appreciate the truthfulness of their approach.

Gérard Depardieu defined them best. He said “Kervern is an actor, Delépine a lampoonist; their films, a kind of comic strip that is more cartoonish than realistic (…) Their pains and vulnerability hold them together. And that suffering belongs to the French society today where we are less and less uncertain of things to come. In Saint Amour few people know what to do, few people have goals in their lives. “Life is a field, you have to plough a furrow” that’s just what my character, a farmer, says. Benoît and Gustave have a prophetic sense of social realities. Their films feel real. They consist of stories never of “scenes”

Don't be shy about your high school French, or lack of French because all films are subtitled in English, so pick a genre you like in your first language and explore the Francophone world through film! Discover more films on the website.
Tickets: $10/$8 for students and seniors (60+) with ID
Venue: Spadina Theatre, 24 Spadina Road

Photos courtesy of Cinéfranco

Monday, 12 September 2016

TIFF16 Day 5: Lion, (re)ASSIGNMENT, Julieta and a monk

Five days into TIFF16 and I'm exhausted. Its a happy tired for most of us who cover the festival, because we love film and we want others to love film too, which is why we share what we've been up to. We want to communicate the passion that is in the air around the central hub at King and John streets, the cinemas, and the stages that show the films and host the conversations.

Yesterday, I began my morning standing in the rush line on Queen Street, around the corner from the Elgin Theatre (called the Visa Screening Room during TIFF) waiting to see if I could get into the public screening of Lion, starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. I was number 78 in the line but I got in and had a bird's eye view of the screen from my lovely single seat next to a column in the balcony.

I rarely cry at the movies, but Lion got me in end. Upon sharing this shocking news on social media some friends of mine quickly let me know that they teared up too. This from a feel good movie where we know the ending! The film is based on the true story of Saroo Brierley, an Indian boy adopted by  a Tasmanian couple after being lost at  a train station. Years later the man searches for and finds his home using Google Earth. What makes the film so engaging is the continual connection between the young Saroo played heart-touching innocence by Sunny Pawar (Satyajit Ray would have loved him!) and the anguished, guilt-ridden man he becomes (played by  Dev Patel). Later today, I'll be speaking with composers Dustin O'Halloran and Hauschka about the film's music.

After a bite and a glimpse of the winning Jays'  game at the Friar and Firkin (where I discovered that I get a discount on food with my TICF membership card--woohoo), I headed up the now-working escalators ( a drama for another time) at the Scotiabank Theatre to stand in line for the  press and industry screening of Walter Hill's (re)ASSIGNMENT. I was cautious about this one because its a revenge story about a hitman who wakes up a woman after he is operated by an insane doctor: firstly, Michelle Rodrigues,a non-trans actor plays the lead role of Frank and secondly, I wondered if there would be running jokes about the trans experience. If there are protest that the Frank role wasn't cast by a trans actor, I understand, but I must tell you that Michelle does an excellent job of retaining the mental masculine identity despite the gender switch forced upon him by scientist and self-proclaimed artist, Dr. Rachel Ray, played with clinical dispassion by Sigourney Weaver. Rounding out the main trio of actors is Tony Shaloub, as the psychiatrist who is charged with determining Ray's fitness for parole. The exchanges between Weaver and Shaloub is like a chess match between a computer and a human, with the computer taunting its opponent on its inability to ever be as smart as it.

A quick streetcar ride and back to the Elgin Theatre for the North American première of Julieta, directed by Pedro Almodovar. Its such a pleasure to watch a  film by a sure-handed director. Adapted from three short stories by award-winning writer, Alice Munro, Julieta is a mother-daughter tale that deals with the theme of loss and guilt. The film is presented in flashbacks and forwards with the role of young Julieta being played by newcomer, Adriana Ugarte and middle-aged Julieta by Emma Suarez. In the small but pivotal role of housekeeper for Julieta and her husband Xion, is Almadovor regular, Rossey De Palma. De Palma and Ugarte were both present for the intro and Q & A session, and what delight they both were. They love Toronto and intend to buy Alice Munro books in Canada.

I loved this film, the acting, the locations (from coastal waters to urban Madrid), and the miser-en-scene, so vital in an Almodovar film. I think someone needs to market " Almodovar red". Other palettes in the film include the joyful and sorrowful blue and restrained white. In form and to a certain extent content, this film reminded me most of All About My Mother. Julieta is a fine film worthy of multiple viewings: you're guaranteed to see something new every time.

Photo Credit: All stills courtesy of TIFF

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Happy First Day of TIFF16: Are You Ready?

TIFF 2016 kicks off today and if you're a regular at the festival you know it's like back to school for film lovers: we meet up with other regulars, some of whom we only see once a year, and we make new friends who we will see next September. Sometimes we chat in line, on the street, and sometimes it's a quick "hi" and "bye" as we dash off to the next film. 

If you're not a regular, then visit for tickets and answers to some Frequently Asked Questions. If you have the patience, then call 416-599-TIFF (8433) of 1-888-599-8433, but please have your information ready: title of film, date, time, venue, number of tickets. If you can't get your first choice, then have your second choice ready to go. Have your credit card ready. TIFF is also using Ticketmaster as an online option:

TIFF is a large festival and it's expensive ($25 - $49 before services charges). Don't stress the customer service reps when buying tickets over the phone or in person: they have nothing to do with the prices, especially TIFF's new demand pricing, which raises the price of a film if it's selling out fast. To counter this, TIFF is offering some free films (Guillermo del Toro's Pan Labyrinth, for example), and Festival Street is back on King Street, with streets closed between Simcoe to Peter Street for pedestrian-friendly activities--get the selfie sticks out!

Friday, 12 August 2016

A Moment of Silence--Lost in Translation?

by Mohammad Yaghoubi
Nowadays Theatre
Playing at SummerWorks 2016

Shiva wakes up to find she has been asleep for three years. In that time, the world around her has changed drastically. Her friends and family seem different. Strangers act oddly. It’s Iran in 1980 and she has just slept through the Islamic Revolution. For the next ten years, Shiva continues to fall asleep for years at a time. Each time she wakes up there’s a new change she has to try to grasp: the war with Iraq, a series of murders of dissident artists  as well as transformations in her own family. Meanwhile, the playwright creating Shiva’s story begins to receive phone calls threatening his life.

"A Moment of Silence" is written by the award-winning, playwright, director and screenwriter, Mohammad Yaghoubi, and has been translated and performed in several languages. The play makes its Canadian debut at SummerWorks 2016 and is the first English-language of Nowadays Theatre. I haven't read the text, but considering its accolades on the international theatre scene, I think there must be something lost in translation because the production I saw recently failed on several levels.

The use of surtitles for an English-Language play baffled me. As the captions were stage directions, I assumed that they were a deconstructionist tool used to reference the act of writing, but their use was inconsistent throughout the performance. At one point, there is even a captioned footnote about a writer who died in Canada. Why? I don't know. The best use of the surtitles was in letting us know what year it is when Shiva wakes up, but even then, the titles didn't appear for the last year.

I'm sure that in the original work, Shiva must come across as confused and angry at her circumstances. For better or ill, life is roiling by her, and she has no way of determining her fate; she can't live her life, only react to her situation upon waking. Each time she awoke, I hoped for some connection to her plight, and each time the actor let down me down. The anger was there, but where was the despair, the loneliness, the frustration and fear? This production offered a strident, one-note Shiva who bored instead of engaged me.

The programme description (above) indicates that the playwright is male, but here, the character is female (Shirin) married to Jimmy, a taxi driver. This adds to the play's references about the changing social restrictions imposed upon women after the Revolution (from short skirts to mandatory hijabs; justification for driving with no male relative in the car), but does little else. I should have empathized strongly with the female writer's initial defiance and eventual fear of the terrorizing phone calls she receives over the years, but again, the emotions just weren't there. Firstly, the actors have no chemistry as a couple in a long-term relationship and, secondly, the voice acting on the telephone calls wasn't convincingly menacing.

"A Moment of Silence" should have resonated with the importance of its subject matter; instead I ( and other theatregoers) couldn't leave the theatre fast enough. I am always recommending Iranian films to my friends and readers/listeners, and had hoped to do the same with this play. Sadly, frustratingly, I cannot. I will, however, seek out the text so that I can compare what I have seen to what is intended. It's a play in high regard, after all!

If you've already bought a ticket, please do leave a comment about your experience. If you haven't purchased a ticket, please support another SummerWorks performance instead.

If You Must...
Factory Theatre Mainspace
125 Bathurst Street (south of Queen, north of King)

Saturday, August 13, 3:30 pm
Sunday, August 14, 2:45 pm
$15 General Admission, no latecomers

Images Source

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

d'bi.young anitafrika on BLEEDERS at Summerworks

d'bi.young anitafrika, mother to moon and phoenix,
dub poet, playwright, actor, director, educator
My chat with d'bi.young anitafrika about the final part of the Orisha Trilogy, SummerWorks and running The Watah Theatre.

donna g: What has it meant for you to return to SummerWorks?

d'bi:  SummerWorks has always been my festival of choice because of the love and solidarity that the team puts into the process of curating the festival. It is an accessible space that welcomes all villages to witness and participate in the story. It is a festival by the people, for the people. It is supportive. It is fun. The quality of work presented is deep. Being a part of the magic again this year has been a dream come true. I believe that storytelling is for the healing of the people. That philosophy methodology is evidenced in the theatre festival and it is an honor to be associated with SummerWorks. 

donna g: In watching bleeders, some might say that this final work in your Orisha Trilogy doesn't quite fit. It is, after all, a futuristic dub opera. What's your response to this perception?

d'bi: My committment is to create 3 pieces of storytelling that are stylistically very different. It excites me to see that Esu Crossing The Middle Passage, which featured three storytellers on stage, and She Mami Wata & The Pussy WitchHunt , which featured two performers on stage are so very different from Bleeders which features thirteen performers on  stage. The subject matter however is deeply interconnected through all three pieces of work as I attempt to create a deeply intertwined triptych. The Orisha Trilogy as a body of work explores Black identity and it's complex expressions of divinity, gender, sexuality, and the erotic. Each play is set in a different landscape. Esu Crossing is set in the past aboard a slave ship in The Atlantic Ocean, She Mami Wata is set in present-day Jamaica in a strip club and church and Bleeders is set in future Ontario in the core of the earth. The landscapes reinterpret the triangular journey of Black folks, voyaging from Africa to the Caribbean to North America under the influence and protection of The Orishas. Bleeders specifically deals with environmental issues, while Esu Crossing and She Mami Wata deal with Racism and Homophobia respectiveley. However the entire trilogy is drawing attention to the intersectionality of all issues of oppression. It makes complete sense to me that my work grows not only in complexity but also in size and aesthetic. I have always envisioned that I would create large scale political dub opera theatre, as that was what I witnessed as a child growing up in Jamaica. I feel like I have wet my feet with Bleeders and the intention is to continue growing in that direction.

donna g:Yo ur cast includes members of the Watah Theatre, but also a couple of actors who have only been with the company for three weeks! The acting is seamless. What methods did you use to achieve such unity?

d'bi:In all my work I use the Anitafrika Method with the Sorplusi Principles. The Method is a ground-breaking self-actualization, creativity, and leadership process for artists, instigators, educators and change-makers from all walks of life. Sorplusi was inspired by the seminal dub theory work of my mother Anita Stewart and the dub theatre work of my mentor ahdri zhina mandiela. The method provides an intersectional anti-oppressive framework, rooted in creative discovery for self and collective empowerment. The acronym S.O.R.P.L.U.S.I represents the principles of Self-Knowledge, Orality, Rhythm, Political Content &Context, Language, Urgency, Sacredness and Integrity which the practitioner explores through their five bodies: the Physical, the Mental, the Emotional, the Creative and the Spiritual. During Sorplusi sessions practitioners are challenged to uncover their deepest integrities and are invited to continually ask the questions Who am I? How am I? What is my purpose? Supported by the method through a range of meditations, regression exercises, physical, theatrical, literary and leadership activities, each practitioner is guided through a sacred process of uncovering their own empathetic eco-system of accountability and responsibility existing between them and the society they mirror; developing a unique critical-analytical, self-reflective, oppression-aware life-lens. 

donna g:Playing animals can come off as comic rather than dramatic, but everyone did a credible job of bringing us into their world. What made you select those particular animals for the story?--or were the animals selected based on each actors strength?

d'bi: I chose eight animals who are superstars in the mythological; animals who are celebrated in indigenous traditions globally and who have so much to teach us about our own humanity. Anansi the Spider, Coyote the trickster, Snake the feminine and the phallic, Monkey the signifier, Lion the powerful, Buffalo the keeper of life and death, Crow the storyteller and Elephant the wise. The actors chose the animals they felt most drawn to. Additionally each actor was given an Orisha as well as a Sorplusi Principle and Sorplusi body to explore. These elements formed the basis of their characters. The actors were encouraged to research mythologies that featured both their animals and Orishas and to bring that knowledge into their character work. After so much homework, I was absolutely innerwhelmed at the way they brought these creatures to life. 

donna g: Once again, you're collaborating with the phenomenal Waleed Abdulhamid. How would you describe the creative process that has developed between the two of you over the years?

d'bi: Simply put, I love Waleed.  He is the embodiment of mentorship. He is gentle and direct. He is compassionate and empathetic. He is disciplined and passionate. He is brilliant and genius. And he is humble. Through him I learn everyday how to be an artist and a human being. Each project, moment that we spend together deepens my understanding of his own creative process and its impact on my own developing ethos. He demands so much of me creatively, intellectually, politically, and spiritually; he asks that I grow constantly and sometimes I resist, the way a little sister resists being taught how to ride a bike by he elder brother. Sometimes I throw tantrums, partly because I know he will be patient with me through them and partly because he spoils me a bit. I am so deeply greatful to the ancestors for arranging this meeting in this lifetime. I am working with a master artist who mirrors the deep humanity that I am working towards. Our creative process is wrapped up in everything that we are and we work together like water in the oceans. Waleed has made it possible for me to grow in the direction of Dub Opera. I describe this new work as a Dub Opera, a term I did not coin, but which I am (re)defining as a new threatrical genre representing a meeting place of Jamaican Pantomime, Dub Poetry, and Opera. Dub Opera is large scale theatrical/political spectacle with mythology and magick at its core, ridding Reggae riddims while telling a story through music.

donna g: After the performance you mentioned the difficulty of The Watah Theatre in obtaining sustainable funding. Could you expand on this? 

d'bi:  I am a child of the village of Toronto. I am so humbled by the fact that my own personal work as an artist receives an incredible amount of support. In fact I have been able to run The Watah Theatre from what I earn as an artist because my work gets such incredible support from the people. I think it is important to note however, that the kind of support The Watah Theatre is not getting, is institutional support. Institutional support is very different from the ongoing solidarity we experience from the community. The community is and has always been with us. But I must share with you that the pervasiveness of deeply institutionalized systems of racial discrimination makes it so that First Nations, Black and POC arts initiatives and companies like The Watah Theatre routinely receive disproportionately less or no funding resulting in a shorter life-span and forced closure. This reality makes building and sustaining an institution for Black people very very very very very very very difficult! Of about fifteen grants, we have been successful with three. However, I am not about to give up! My expectation is that there are members of our community who will support developing strategies for Watah to not only survive but thrive because they believe deeply in what we represent and in the work that we produce. There are people amongst us who are moneyed and who also have a great heart. Until the institutions change and open up access, we will continue to work on self-sustaining strategies. A project like Bleeders, I do believe will take care of itself, because it provides an immediate sense of gratification through its storytelling and people will support the project for this reason.  

donna g: You have also stated that charging tuition is not an option. Why?

d'bi: The Watah Theatre providing tution-free artist residencies to Black artists is my attempt at supporting artists who have something crucial to share with our world. So far we have had over 100 artists come through our doors in the Distillery District yet our funding has been sparce. We are currently running a funding campaign to help secure our home and to continue to contribute to the cultural landcape that so desperately needs the voices of Black artists.

BLEEDERS (Orisha Trilogy 3) A Dub Opera
by d'bi.young anitafrika
Presented by: The Watah Theatre

The Theatre Centre Mainspace
1115 Queen Street West (just east of Dovercourt)
Tickets: $15
Wed. August 10th9:15 PM - 10:45 PM
Friday August 12th7:45 PM - 9:15 PM
Sunday August 14th3:15 PM - 4:45 PM

Photo Credits: The Watah Theatre, and Dee Kofri|

I was reviewing past coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and realized that as good as it is to use social media, I m...