Celebrating Our Story

THE WEEKLY GLEANER | FEBRUARY 16 - FEBRUARY 22, 2021 | www.jamaica-gleaner.com | I33 TD Bank Group is a proud supporter of Obsidian Theatre through its corporate citizenship plat-form, the TD Ready Commitment. TO Live is the Venue Production Partner for 21 Black Futures. By Sophia Findlay W hen Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu stepped into her new role as artistic director of the Obsidian Theatre, she knew she had to act quickly to keep it relevant during the pandemic. With all the programs of her predecessor postponed or cancelled, she had a decision to make about the future of the independent theatre, established 21 years ago to support the works of Black playwrights, producers and performers. “It was either choosing to wait out the pandemic or to adapt and create new programming that would be responsive to our times, in both the form, and the content that we were going to be creating,” she says. Tindyebwa Otu, a theatre director who was raised in Kenya and Victoria, B.C. and is now based in Toronto, has worked in varying capacities with a number of prestigious companies, including Stratford Festival, Canadian Stage and Soulpepper, and once held an apprenticeship at Obsidian. When she took over the position from long-time director Philip Akin in July, Black Lives Matter Movement had been amplified, the fight against racism was at its peak and theatres across the country were shut down the future of live perfor- mance uncertain. Against this backdrop, and dealing with her own self-isolation, Tindyebwa Otu, the mother of young twins, says she felt the need to connect to other Black artists across the country. She came up with the idea to commission 21 plays by Black writers of different generations and levels of experience. Called “21 Black Futures,” her debut project will be showcased digitally, in collaboration with CBC. The production, which is in part supported by TD Bank Group, and will stream during Black History Month, is an anthology of 21 filmed monodramas, each created by a Black play-wright, a Black director and a Black actor. Exploring the question “What is the Future of Blackness,” Tindyebwa Otu delves into answers to the most recent upsurgence of turmoil concerning Blacks in society today. “I was interested in new stories about imagined Black futures to counter the messaging that was suddenly everywhere about us but not from us,” she says. “I was interested in new words and language and what Black writers and thinkers had to say.” Obsidian Theatre Company is dedicated to bringing the Black voice, in its many artistic dialects, to Canada’s cultural forefront. It also provides artistic support, promoting the development work by Black theatre makers and offering training opportunities through mentoring and appren-tice- ship programs of emerging Black artists. According to Naki Osutei, TD’s Associate Vice President of Social Impact, “This February is not just another Black History Month.” “We are coming together at a time in which Black communities and allies around the globe are questioning whether the protests of last summer inspired moments or movements,” she says. “When we launched the TD Ready Commitment in 2018, our goal was to support the conditions necessary for a more equitable tomorrow.” TD’s year-round support for Obsidian Theatre shows its commitment to helping push progress forward for the Black colleagues,customers and communities it serves. “Programs such as 21 Black Futures are critical to changing the conversation on what kind of future we are all striving for,” adds Osutei. With a mandate of Obsidian to bring the Black voice to Canada’s cultural forefront and provide support to the development of works through training, mentoring and apprenticeships, it was important to Tindyebwa Otu to commission “21 Black Futures” to veteran artists who had been part of the theatre’s legacy, as well as emerging Black theatre artists. With the gaze of Institutions, individuals and politicians around the world turning sharply towards Black people, says Tindyebwa Otu, the production will offer “something communal, radical and unapologetically Black, with the Black gaze at its centre.” The three-part “21 Black Futures” will be broadcast on CBC Radio-Canada and streamed exclusively on the free CBC Gems on February 12, 19 and 26. 21 UP The 21 playwrights commissioned to write the filmed monodramas are illustrious and an exceptional line up of directors and performers. The 21 directors - luminaries from both film and stage are: Dorothy A Atabong, Leah-Simone Bowen, Katia Café-Febrissy, Lucius Dechausay, Alison Duke, Lisa Karen Cox, Alicia K. Harris, Jerome Kruin, ahdri zhina mandiela, Weyni Mengesha, Jay Northcott, Charles Officer, Ngozi Paul, Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu, Mike Payette, Kimberley Rampersad, Jamie Robinson, Tanisha Taitt, Sarah Waisvisz, Leighton Alexander Williams, and d’bi young anitafrika. The 21 performers of the dramas are Uche Ama, Akosua Amo-Adem, Prince Amponsah, Natasha “Courage” Bacchus, Lisa Berry, Adeline Bird, Amanda Cordner, Lovell Adams-Gray, Daniel Faraldo, Peter Fernandes, Avery Grant, Virgilia Griffith, Sheila Ingabire-Isaro, Dion Johnstone, Pablo Ogunlesi, Sabryn Rock, Chelsea Russell, Emerjade Simms, Ravyn Wngz and previous Obsidian Artistic Directors Philip Akin and Alison Sealy-Smith. The 21 playwrights commissioned under the project are Peace Akintade (Saskatchewan), Keshia Cheesman (Calgary), Lisa Codrington (Toronto), Miali-Elise Coley-Sudlovenick (Nunavut), K.P. Dennis (Victoria), Cheryl Foggo (Calgary), Shauntay Grant (Halifax), Lawrence Hill (Hamilton), Kaie Kellough (Montreal), Stephie Mazunya (Montreal), Tawiah Ben M’Carthy (Toronto), Motion (Toronto), Omari Newton (Vancouver), Amanda Parris (Toronto), Joseph Jomo Pierre (Toronto), Donna-Michelle St. Bernard (Hamilton), Jacob Sampson (Halifax), Djanet Sears (Toronto), Luke Reece (Toronto), Cherissa Richards (Manitoba), and Syrus Marcus Ware (Toronto). F BRUARY 16 - MARCH 15, 2021 | www.jamaica-gleaner.com | ADVERTISEMENT