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Dwayne Morgan discusses the inaugural Toronto Spoken Soul Fest

Created on Sunday, 11 August 2019   »Arts

The inaugural 3-day Toronto Spoken Soul Fest is taking place from August 16-18, 2019 at the 918 Bathurst Centre for Culture, Arts, Media and Education in Toronto. Created by the SpokenSoulTO Collective, comprised of multifaceted Toronto artists Dwayne Morgan, Paulina O'Kieffe-Anthony and Randelll Adjei, the festival aims to provide an annual platform for talented black poets, storytellers, musicians, and signers.

Podcast Ep. 6 — OCAD's Dori Tunstall on decolonizing design education

Created on Tuesday, 30 July 2019   »Podcast

Toronto is the most diverse city in the world. You cannot have a successful business designing for your audiences if you don’t have the cultural competency to understand the different ways in which they will resonate with your message. The only way in which you can confidently do that is if the diversity of your staffing reflects the diversity of the city itself.

"Everything that we design is tied to cultural values and cultural meaning that we build into the things that we make," said Dr. Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall as Dean of the Faculty of Design at OCAD University. She is the first black Dean of a Faculty of Design anywhere.

In this interview, she talks to AfroToronto.com about her work as a design anthropologist and on using her position to open doors for others.

Podcast Ep. 4 — Anne-Marie Woods: How Black History saved my life

Created on Monday, 18 February 2019   »Podcast

Toronto-based artist Anne-Marie Woods, aka Amani, speaks about her two current plays as well as her journey of self-learning and community outreach through the arts.

Bringing Nuit Blanche to Scarborough

Created on Tuesday, 08 January 2019   »Arts

Few people I've come across have mastered the art of the side hustle like Toronto-based creative director and art curator, Ashley McKenzie-Barnes. In fact, she's been so successful at simultaneously managing her established corporate career within Toronto's vibrant advertising agency world and her numerous passion projects — spanning well-know community initiatives such as The Remix Project, Manifesto and Honey Jam — that it's hard to see where the side hustle starts and ends.

"I'm literally split in half," as she told me. "I always say that I have a very unique bridge between that community work, that art and culture space and the corporate agencies."

"I'm lucky to say that a lot of the times they've supported each other, and the cross-over has been great. It has amounted to both spaces [bringing in] bigger and better work, from an expanded point of view," as she further shared.

One of those exciting projects on the horizon is the reason why I got in touch with her.

Repping Scarborough

McKenzie-Barnes has been selected as the curator for a city-produced exhibition of the all-night art festival, Nuit Blanche Toronto 2019, in Scarborough.

Her exhibition, entitled Queens and Kings in Scarborough, which is described as a theatrical playground that challenges the constructs of systematic social marginalization, will gravitate around Scarborough Town Center.

"If I'm going to do it anywhere it's going to be in Scarborough," McKenzie-Barnes said. Having grown up in Scarborough, she knows that it's a hotbed of culture that is unfortunately often overlooked.

"We've had some superstar talent come out of there like OVO and XO; we've had Doc McKinney coming out of there who's the producer of The Weeknd, and some of The Weeknd's crew; and 40 of OVO. It's just like, you know, you don't really ever credit Scarborough as an art and culture space — even though it's huge."

She kept referring to the theme of "bringing back history" through the Queens and Kings in Scarborough exhibit.

"The biggest thing for me is how am I telling the story of high art; how am I telling the story of a contemporary art space."


Telling a new story through art

In illustrating her point, McKenzie-Barnes refers to renowned artist Kehinde Wiley — who has been known to portray black males, rappers and celebrities within historical settings of white European art and aesthetics. 

"I went to an art high school when I was younger, and I remember studying art history. At the time, you don't really think too much of it. But as you get older, you realize [that] your textbooks [have] zero reference to any people of colour — as artists or any black art; or [even] other art [apart from] white European art. That's what I grew up studying. ... Opera, the Renaissance, and the [top Italian and Spanish artists.]"

"So I wanted to do [the Nuit Blanche exhibit] in a theatrical theme — where I [would be] referencing the people's court, the royal rotunda, the amphitheatre, ancient Greek and Western European art spaces; but doing it in a first and second generation influenced and inhabited space."

"Doing it with high art which was solely focused on black, South Asian, Arab and native artists. So it completely flips everything. That's where the theme comes from."

McKenzie-Barnes' goal for Nuit Blanche 2019 Scarborough is to bring on people who have some messages to share which place the patrons, the people of the community, at the center of the artistic experience. While the exhibit will feature Scarborough natives, the idea is to expand the conversation by featuring diverse artists from across the country and even the world.

Among them will be Canadian indigenous artists like Kent Monkman and Jordan Bennett. She also looks forward to bringing in Jamaican artist Ebony G. Patterson — whom McKenzie-Barnes credits for doing incredible work right now in the contemporary art space.

"Our West Indian community is thriving in Scarborough," as she points out. A large portion of the community is unaware that we have these highly influential contemporary artists.

"[These artists are usually being] seen at OCAD downtown or in Art Toronto. These [are often] unattainable and unreachable places for the community. They don't go to these places."

"So when you think of where Ebony G. Patterson has been placed in our city ... there's a disconnect."

"A lot of that was in the forethought when putting in my pitch to the city. That's why I came up with Queens and Kings in Scarborough."

The power of representation

McKenzie-Barnes is only too aware of the power of representation. As a young woman, she remembers being immensely inspired by seeing Sway Magazine, the African-Canadian-focused glossy magazine formerly published by Torstar, in the green boxes on the streets of the city. 

As a graphic design student at the time, her goal was to work for the magazine.

"That was the only space, as a young person, where I ever saw a reflection of myself. I saw this as something that I could look to. [It had] meaning to me as a young person of colour," as she recounted.

She eventually reached her goal of working for the magazine.

"Sway Magazine was that one publication where I got to bang out work that was a reflection of myself and where I saw myself fit."

Breaking down creative doors

"Outside of [Sway], every other job I got agency-wise — graphic design jobs, in-house design jobs — [had] very minimal reflections of myself within the work and within my peers. You kind of learn to navigate in it because "it is" a job. As a young black person, you cannot allow that to be a hindrance if this is your chosen field."

Having gained nine years of experience in the corporate agency world, McKenzie-Barnes has gone on to work as a creative strategist and creative director on large international campaigns such as the Scotiabank Pride marketing initiative. She's currently the Director of Creative Operations at FleishmanHillard HighRoad.

She acknowledges that it's been a challenge at times not to see herself reflected through her corporate career. In comparison to her work as an independent curator, her experiences in the agency world have been starkly divergent.

"There's a significant difference in the people that I see. It's always been like that. I've never entered into an agency space where it's any different," said McKenzie-Barnes.

"For me, it's been about the work. ... I was very adamant about understanding that space doesn't have a lot of myself in it; so, therefore, I need to make space in it so that I'm breaking down that door."

"As it stands, you may have to break down that door and be that person for somebody else if you're not seeing it yourself."

This is why McKenzie-Barnes aims to make effective use of her position, both as an industry leader and educator, to help build bridges — which are currently sorely lacking — between young black creatives in the city and the corporate agency world.

"I've been working with young designers of colour and I take them with me where I go. I work with them on a freelance level. I'm here to be that mentor for them. To let them know [they] do have people to look into as female creative directors — nevermind male — female black creative directors that are in this job — even though [they] don't necessarily see it."


Podcast Ep. 3 — A conversation with Ashley McKenzie-Barnes

Created on Tuesday, 08 January 2019   »Podcast

Mary Poppins with a twist: An interview with Thom Allison

Created on Saturday, 29 December 2018   »Arts

Young People's Theatre's holidays production of the Mary Poppins musical, based on the stories penned by P.L. Travers and the 1964 Disney film, has broken all YPT sales records in the its 53-year history since it hit the company's main stage in early November. The show, featuring 14 cast members and 90 costumes, can still be seen until January 6.

I recently caught up with the show's director, Thom Allison, and immediately delved into the impact of staging a multiethnic cast, including a black Mary Poppins, played by the award-winning Vanessa Sears, for a young audience.

Allison highlighted that cultural diversity has always been part and parcel of Young People's Theatre's mandate. "They were really adamant. They really wanted the production to have as much diversity as possible," as Allison explained. "The casting process was amazing. We knew we wanted it to be very mixed racially and to have everyone in there. We wanted the kids in the audience to see the diversity of Toronto and really reflect it."

As I joked with Thom, this is not the Mary Poppins I remember growing up in the seventies!

The YPT production has kept the familiar story line and the unforgettable songs like Chim Chim Cher-ee and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but the Edwardian characteristics of the Banks family have certainly been spiced up. 

Sharing an interesting anecdote about this, Allison says:

"One of the things I love about the show is that, we managed to get Jewelle Blackman — who is playing Mrs. Banks. She's an old pal of mine for years. She came in, and she said, 'I've never done an English accent before.' And I said, 'Well, you know, try it.' She tried, and it was fine.

Then I said: 'What other accents do you do?' She goes: 'Oh my god, it's my mother.' Her mother is from Trinidad. I said: “Go, for it!” So she read the scenes with a Trinidadian accent. The choreographer and I were like, "Oh my god, that's it!” That's opened the whole play up."

So it turned out that Mr. Banks, played by Shane Carty, a white actor, is married to a fabulous, black Trinidadian woman. "This gives a whole different level to the kind of man that he is," as Allison added. In addition, the son of the Banks family, Michael, is played by Hailey Lewis — a black actress. 

"So the whole family is mixed."

"It's been a really wonderful and joyous thing to have the diversity that the kids are seeing on stage; and see them experience that, knowing that they recognize their own families. ... There's no boundaries for them."



Young People's Theatre – Mary Poppins
Until January 6

Mainstage (Susan Rubes) Theatre 
165 Front Street East 
Toronto ON M5A 3Z4

$10-$54. Recommended for ages 5 and up.


Djanet Sears on "for colored girls"

Created on Sunday, 28 October 2018   »Arts

Over the past weekend, we learned the sad news of the passing of pioneering playwright, poet and novelist Ntozake Shange. Her landmark choreopoem, “for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf,” has profoundly touched, and spoken to, generations of black women.

Shange died in her sleep, on the morning of October 27, 2018, at the assisted living facility where she resided in Bowie, MD after having previously suffered multiple strokes. Her sister, Ifa Bayeza, was quoted as saying: “It’s a huge loss for the world. I don’t think there’s a day on the planet when there’s not a young woman who discovers herself through the words of my sister.”

Earlier this year, AfroToronto.com caught up with renowned African-Canadian thespian and theatre director, Djanet Sears. We discussed her work directing Soulpepper Theatre's staging of "for colored girls" last year at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, on the occasion of her Outstanding Direction nomination at the 39th Annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards.

Sears recalls seeing the original production of "for colored girls" on Broadway as a university student. It was an incredibly fulfilling time for her as, within a period of a few years, she had read and seen the two most successful Broadway productions by African-American women at the time -- namely: Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” (the first black play that Sears had ever read; which debuted on Broadway in 1959) and Ntozake Shange's “for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf” (premiering on Broadway's Booth Theatre in 1976).

"It just struck me. "for colored girls" was a production that really struck me to the very core," as Sears shared. 

"It spoke about black women's experiences from a range of perspectives. It wasn't that black women were one thing, a monolith, and we all experienced the same thing. These stories that the play tells were being told from the very soul of the writer. Because of the quality of the writing, and the poetry of the writing, the stories reached across the stage into the audience and just penetrated the hearts of the audience."

Indeed, at the time that this play was first produced, and first written, this kind of work was very rarely done. Its multi-narrative format was thought extravagant. The play told many stories, 20 in total, in the form of a series of poems complemented by choreographed movement and set to a musical background.

It's a choreopoem. A story being told through movement and sound.

Seven nameless black women, only identified by their assigned colours (lady in red, lady in orange, lady in yellow, lady in green, lady in blue, lady in brown, and lady in purple) spoke of powerful themes like sexual and domestic violence, abortion and abandonment.

On staging the show in Toronto and its continued relevance

When Sears got the call in the autumn of 2016 from Soulpepper Theatre's then artistic director, suggesting to work together on staging the play in Toronto, Sears did not hesitate.

"Even though the play premiered over 40 years ago, we're still just scratching the surface," said Sears.

While she's a believer that the arc of history bends toward justice, and this bend might be long, Sears points out that "we have to stay committed to it."

"Things change, and some things have changed, but then they move back. It's often one step forward and two steps back. ... I also think that what's a bit different nowadays is that I believe more men are joining the women in supporting their stories, their rights to have those stories, and to tell those stories."

"Still, systemic barriers to full access continue to exist which prevent women from telling their own truths and to be believed. How may women directors are there? How many women producers? How many women are executives?"

Despite these challenges, Sears is optimistic about the future of inclusive storytelling. "I think there are more talented theatre creatives and actors and of colour than ever before," she said. "What I worry about is the gatekeepers who are in control of the arts sector."

What's needed is the establishment of a policy that ensures constant access for creatives of colour.

"What happens is, it often depends on who's there. If they're inclusionary, we'll be included. If they're not, that's a decade lost to us participating in that theatre. We need proper policy that's people-resistant."

"We are fully integrated in society and we want to be fully integrated in society as reflected in our arts. We also have cultural nuances that are beautiful."

Restoration & AfroChic

Created on Tuesday, 31 July 2018   »Entertainment

Celebrating community as a restorative act

So full disclosure though AfroChic has been around for awhile. I had no idea what to expect, but, the buzz about it in Toronto these last few weeks had me curious. Happy to report not only was AfroChic about entertainment, it also focused on healing, mind, body, soul & finances! Below are the top 5 Things we loved most about AfroChic 2018.

1. Aurora

High times in the Aurora VIP lounge, this by far was the most relaxing and surprising part of the weekend.

If you haven’t heard of AURORA, look them up and educate yourself.

They’re a medicinal cannabis company, and a major player in this growing space. They’re presence was felt through out the weekend -- friendly faces, cool gift bags, exotic vegetation and calming elixirs tied in well with the AfroChic themes of wellness and self-care.

2. Up Beauty

UPBeauty is in the business of making our souls feel better. I sat down for one of the VIP perks - a hand scrub and massage, and walked away with so much clarity. I literally felt my molecules changing and shifting. I’m not awe struck by much these days, but my experience with the team at UP left me deeply moved. Cola’s (the owner of UPbeauty) story is literally an example of lifting beauty from ashes. She tragically lost her young son 4 years ago, but decided to channel her pain and perform acts of service to others. She started with massages and producing skin care. Her love for her son has blossomed into UPbeauty, this business certainly honour ’s his memory. My hands as well as my heart are better, softer and stronger as a result of UPbeauty. Visit their website and support everything they’re doing.

3. Shantea Kombucha

Good energy is the only way to describe the Shantea Kombucha experience. I sampled the Ginger lemon tea and was hooked, if you enjoy a good ginger beer, you’ll enjoy this drink. Matthew, the owner of Shantea is also a yoga instructor. He plans to host a few yoga retreats this year. Needless to say visit their Instagram page @shanteakombucha and get your soul right.

4. Women’s Health In Women’s Hands

I was drawn to their booth because of their lovely smiles and positive messaging. I met Majoirie and Hella, who explained a bit of the organization’s history. The team at Women’s Health In Women’s Hands community Health Centre describe themselves as African Caribbean and black community ambassadors. They promote HIV and STI awareness and also serve women that have no Canadian immigration status. Give these ladies a hand and support this worthwhile initiative. Visit http://www.whiwh.com for more information about their services.

5. DJ LORETTA BROWN aka Erykah Badu

This is the 21st anniversary of Baduizm, let that sink in, and given our decades long relationship with Ms. Badu, we know her to be one of a kind, but she’s also magical.

She cast her spell for two days in Toronto. Closing day one of AfroChic, with a DJ set that left the audience yearning for more, she ended the set with a call for women to know their strength.

Day two of AfroChic Ms. Badu extolled the virtues of confidence and following your heart.

"Follow your heart, it doesn’t always get you what want but it’ll get you what you need.”

Food for thought and food for the soul. Black girl Magic is as strong as ever.


Honouring our theatrical classics

Created on Tuesday, 29 May 2018   »Arts

An interview with Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu, the director of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom at Soulpepper Theatre

Soulpepper Theatre's currently running production of August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom has been receiving great reviews and, by popular demand, was extended to Saturday, June 9th, 2018. AfroToronto caught up with the show's director, Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu, to discuss the significance and timeliness of remounting this play, set in 1920's Chicago, for the first time in Canada since Ma Rainey's role was performed by Canadian jazz legend Jackie Richardson back in the mid-1980's -- shortly after the play premiered on Broadway in 1984.

"For me it’s hugely important because you have this powerful black woman in the centre who is running her own band and who is fighting to have agency against every pushback that she is getting from the bigger world around her; and from inside this white recording studio," said Mumbi.

Born in 1882, Gertrude Pridgett, "Ma" Rainey, earned her reputation as the "Mother of the Blues." She was part of the first generation of blues singers to record with a major label. The nascent blues scene of Chicago at the dawn of the last century was born out of the northward migration of African-Americans fleeing the oppression of the Post-Reconstruction-era Deep South.

Chicago was seen as the promised land but many obstacles and challenges would also await this new generation of formerly enslaved people. They brought the blues, which originated in the southern plantations, along with them up into the north. The popularity of the black music genre was not left unnoticed by record companies in Chicago.


Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, set inside a recording studio, explores the still-relevant problems of cultural exploitation, racial inequalities and economic empowerment. The studio can in fact be seen as a microcosm of the real-world realities faced by people of African-descent in their fight for agency.

"I think that in terms of looking at how radical that was in the 1920’s for a woman like Ma Rainey to do what she was doing. And now you look at what does it mean in the context of the women’s rights movement, what is the black female’s experience within that," said Mumbi.

There are also unmistakable parallels with today's music industry.

"For me, because I grew up listening to hip hop, I think there’s a lot of parallels between Ma Rainey and black female MC’s today and how they have to fight for power and for agency and also what that means in the context of the larger black community and the larger Western community. That for me is big," as Mumbi added.

Ownership of cultural legacy

One of the main questions is: How is it possible to maintain one's culture when our culture becomes profitable? How do black artists retain control of their collective cultural identity as they create and operate within an industrialized, capitalist society?

"What is the cost of participating in the marketing of your own culture? And how do you still hold on to who you are and what you’re about as you kind of do this dance as all artists have to do," as Mumbi further asks. These are important considerations in a context where it's suddenly cool to be black, or when black culture is selling.

Within the universe of August Wilson's play, the only one set in Chicago as part of his ten-play-series, The Pittsburgh Cycle, the blues is the foundation of that black cultural experience post-slavery.

"It’s very much the same, nothing has changed. That’s what make it so incredible and shocking. August Wilson was writing this in the 1980’s and he was saying we can’t understand our current situation without looking at where we came from," said Mumbi.

Reviving the classics at Soulpepper

Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu has been running her own theatre company for a few years, doing a lot of new work and creating new stories with people from her community. The opportunity of working with Soulpepper gave her a chance to look into the classics of drama. She particularly looked forward to investigating and developing her craft by not only looking at classics from the Western canon but to also delve into those classics about the black experience.

"It was a really huge privilege to work with Djanet Sears on For Coloured Girls and to now be given an opportunity to direct this play by August Wilson. Because, again, it was those writers who are so seminal to modern drama; but they’re coming from investigating what it means to be a black person in the Western world," as Mumbi expressed.

"We so rarely get to tell stories that are great classics about our cultural experience. Everyone in the Ma Rainey's Black Bottom cast is so invested in the story. Everyone is bringing their all to it. All the music is live and so there’s just a lot of commitment to bringing every aspects of this story alive," she added.


Catch Ma Rainey's Black Bottom until June 9 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane.

Show info and tickets

Young, queer, black and free in foreign

Created on Saturday, 05 May 2018   »Arts

An interview with emerging artist daniel jelani ellis about his show speaking of sneaking

One of the central characteristics of the immigrant experience is the need to define one's place in a new land, and new culture, while finding the best way of incorporating, or not, one's own cultural roots into a new narrative. In his play speaking of sneaking, Jamaican-born and raised emerging artist daniel jelani ellis, who has immigrated to Canada in 2004, explores those themes -- also incorporating his queer identity. Playing at the Theatre Centre until May 11, as part Why Not Theatre's The RISER Project 2018, speaking of sneaking investigates the complex relationship between immigration and displacement, yard and foreign, home and abroad. The play is directed by d’bi.young anitafrika and choreographed by Brian Solomon.

Speaking to AfroToronto recently, daniel took us back through the evolution of the play. I learned that working on speaking of sneaking gave him an outlet to stay grounded in his culture at times when he felt disconnected from home.

"It was an outlet where I could be Jamaican on my own terms," as he shared.

When Buddies in Bad Time Theatre artistic director Evalyn Parry asked daniel at the genesis of his journey to come up with a central question he wished to explore, at the time it was: "What is the language of an uprooted black queer body."

This exploration would essentially delve into specifically verbal language and daniel's ability, as well as the character’s ability, to code switch from speaking Jamaican nation language, to English with a Jamaican accent, to English with a Canadian accent.

"Those are still things that I’m fascinated by and exploring in this piece but I expanded it to include physical vocabulary and movement. But looking at same ways that code switching occurs. What happens to your body? How to you switch up … how the choreography plays into it," he said.

Finding his voice and artistic identity

The journey which ultimately led to speaking of sneaking, in its current form, began when daniel successfully applied to be part of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre's Emerging Creators Unit in 2012. Selected to be one of only four participants, each paired with a director, he was tasked to write a 25-minute show for the Rhubarb Festival. Previous to that, he had taken part in PrideCab, a program for queer youth at Buddies, where he was able to examine how his own queer identity fit within the collective queer history. He described these formative experience at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre as "a really useful, healing and awesome space for me."

As an associate director for Black Boys and Dark Love at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, he also admittedly faced his own misconceptions and prejudices about blackness.

"A whole important aspect of what Black Boys was exploring was that blackness is not a monolith. I was realizing that, yeah, some of my ideas about blackness is aligned with that. ... I think the Caribbean queer identity is a bit of a unique identity."

"It’s been a tough thing to reconcile. I don’t think it’s fully reconciled. It’s a constant negotiation," as he acknowledges.

Even after moving to Canada, it would be an illusion to believe that homophobia would not be an issue anymore. Racism is another form of oppression that is encountered. How can blackness and queerness coexist? "Apparently not in foreign," he said.

"In my experience, it's a matter of finding your own community and taking up the space. At first it may seem pretty isolating and that there is no space but it's there. It takes initiative but there is a community," as he expressed.

Finding meaning and purpose as "the other"

Following his experience at the Emerging Creators Unit, daniel felt more determined than ever to pursue and hone his craft. He felt that if he were to be taken seriously he needed to get proper training. He had previously dropped out of a theatre studies program at UofT after two years because of the lack of hands-on and practical experience he was getting. Since he ultimately did obtain that experience at Buddies, he felt he was ready to pursue his studies at the National Theatre School in Montreal.

While at NTS, the intensive nature of the program (six days a week and twelve-hour days) allowed him only to work on speaking of sneaking during his down time. Nevertheless, it was a necessary thing for him to continue pursuing. "I was feeling very disconnected from my home and my culture," as he recalled.

It was a way to force himself to go outside of the NTS community bubble and forge friendships with people outside of that overwhelmingly white space and mingle with diverse and queer people. Describing his experience as the only black member of his NTS class, daniel recounts:

"It was really challenging. I was finding that it’s either I was the authority on all things black, on all things Caribbean and all things Jamaican. As the only black person in my class I was looked upon to speak on those things. But then, in the same breath, I was also asked to leave all that at the door at the same time."

"There are expectations that there’s a general way that we’re all going to be trained and there’s no room for any analysis of your intersecting identities. They don’t want to hear that I’m a Jamaican who had just been living here for eight years and a queer person. They didn’t want to hear any of that. Unless we were reading a play that featured black people and then they were looking to me to speak to it."

"It was a very complex time for me and a source of lots of anxiety. And this is where speaking of sneaking was an outlet for me."

An opportunity to revisit the story

After graduating from the National Theatre School, daniel heard about a call out from the festival director at Rhubarb, Mel Hague, for a new program she was mounting called The Rhubarb Haunted House. It was a space for old works that had premiered at Rhubarb, a festival highlighting new works, to be revisited.

It was a great opportunity for daniel to pick up speaking of sneaking from where he had left off.

“So I was working on it and from a new place after having trained at NTS and spent more time as a Canadian, as a theatre artist, I found that my experiences were different,” daniel said.

He submitted an application and was invited to be part of the installation.

"I rediscovered my interest and my excitement for it. I continued to expand it because it was only twenty-five minutes at the time." 

He feels honoured to have this latest incarnation of speaking of sneaking being directed by d'bi.young anitafrika. “It is awesome, it is truly truly a dream come true,” as he expressed. Just a few months after moving to Canada, he recalls seeing d'bi perform on stage in early 2005 as part of Da Kink in My Hair.

“It was a landmark moment for me. I saw d’bi on stage; she was a standout in that production and ever since that moment I drew inspiration from her, aspired to her incredible artistry," he said.

After following her ever since, he finally had a chance to perform with d'bi in her show Lukumi: A Dub Opera. "That was another landmark moment. I could see her work on a thing she had created. So yes, now it feels like another level in terms of sharing a space with her. What I’m most grateful for and aspire to is her integrity, her artistry and her humanity. They are all wrapped up."

An important aspect of the dramaturgy and their collaboration is the use the Anitafrika Method in the crafting of the piece. “This is a system that she also uses for life coaching to help people in self-actualization so they can really realize the full potential of themselves,” as daniel explained.

"It’s not entertainment done for entertainment’s sake. Yes it going to be entertaining; but it’s also going to be really reflective and introspective and a bit antagonizing in the sense that it will hopefully cause me to want to be agitated about things that we’re identifying. All this I credit to d’bi."


speaking of sneaking
created and performed by daniel jelani ellis
directed by d’bi.young anitafrika | choreographed by Brian Solomon
May 2-11, 2018
an sos collective production

All Tickets Pay What You Can Afford $5 – $20 – $35 – $60*
To purchase tickets, call 416.538.0988 or visit tickets.theatrecentre.org



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