Other Side of the Game: An interview with Amanda Parris

03 Nov 2017

"I'm really passionate about telling Canadian stories, and telling them well and authentically," said Amanda Parris during our phone conversation about her play "Other Side of the Game," closing this weekend at Native Earth Theatre's Aki Studio in Regent Park. As demonstrated from the often audible reactions from the audience, the play certainly seems to have struck a chord and served that purpose. "It's been very moving for some people," she added.

The inspiration for "Other Side of the Game" came out of Amanda's multiple experiences visiting a friend who was, at the time, incarcerated at the Don Jail.

She was struck by the strange feeling of finding herself in an alternate universe. The prison system was, aesthetically and energetically, a cold and uninviting environment which imposed all these rules — not just for the inmates but for those visiting them as well. Most of the visitors she saw were women. They had to conform to very odd visiting ours — like Monday from 1-4 pm.

Strumming their pain with these scenes

Amanda Parris

“So, I began wondering what these visitors, mostly women, around me had to do with their days in order to get there. In order to be there did they have to take time off work? Did they have to arrange childcare?” she asked herself.

Amanda embarked on a journey to interview many of these "ride-or-die" women. However, she didn’t feel that the jail’s tense environment was the right and natural place to casually approach these women and probe them about their experiences. Instead, she anonymously interviewed people she knew who had supported loved ones that were incarcerated about their experiences and set about telling their lives with her words.

Thirteen interviews later, the result was a genuinely told story which has kept all the flavours, accents and vernacular of the local neighbourhoods they came from. "There's a lot of things that are mentioned in the play that people had not heard on stage before. Particular names and locations that are kind of dropped into the conversation; reference points, things like that," said Parris.

"I've often received some really beautiful messages from people who feel very emotional after seeing the play. I think part of that emotion definitely comes from the story. It's because the story is a reflection that they don't get to see very often," she added. 

Flipping the script: Embarrassed by the crowd

This first-time partnership between Cahoots and Obsidian also marks the professional playwriting debut for Amanda Parris. She has been best known as a writer, actor, educator and host of  Exhibitionists on CBC Television, Marvin’s Room on CBC Radio, and her weekly column for CBC Arts. When I asked her about how she managed the transition from showcasing the work of other artists to putting out her own voice out there, she said:

"It's a really lovely and wonderful thing I get to do in terms of having a platform to share other people's art. But when it's your own art you suddenly are reminded of how much courage it takes to put out these things that have existed inside of you. These ideas and possibilities are being manifested. And everybody gets to witness it, consume it, critique it and judge it. It's very scary," as she shared. Even after sitting in the audience multiple times it wasn't getting easier. "I was sweating and I had butterflies like it was opening night all over again."

Ryan Rosery, Virgilia Griffith, Shakura Dickson, Peter Bailey. photo by Dahlia Katz

Busting “the myth of the solitary creative genius,” Amanda makes it clear that she has been nurtured by a community of talented creators -- from her director, dramaturge, choreographer, actors and more. “I feel so lucky to have Nigel Shawn Williams as my director. I feel like I won the lottery with that. The vision he manifested for the play is beyond what I imagined," she said. Selected as part of the 2014-2015 Hot House playwright unit at Cahoots Theatre, Amanda also benefited from her years of working closely with her dramaturge Marjorie Chan.

“The script was a work in progress right up until opening night,” as Amanda revealed. “I think the team has been absolutely incredible; and when you're lucky enough to work with a group of geniuses it makes your job a lot easier,” she said.

There are still three chances to go see the play and listen for a while: Friday, November 3 at 8:00 PM, Saturday, November 4 at 8:00 PM and Sunday, November 5 at 2:00 PM.

 

Aki Studio, Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas Street East
Until November 5, 2017

Tickets $37 • Arts Worker & Students $25 includes all taxes and ticket fees
To purchase tickets please visit: nativeearth.ca/otherside or call 416.531.1402

For more information please visit
cahoots.ca | obsidiantheatre.com
#osotgTO

 

Latest Articles

Apr 24, 2018

FLOOR’D: Chronicling the legacy of black social dance

in Arts by Meres J. Weche
As we get ready to observe International Jazz Day on April 30, Natasha Powell,… Read more >>
Feb 13, 2018

Ryan O'Neil sprinkles Valentine's magic around downtown Toronto

in Books by AfroToronto.com Staff
Artist leaves romantic poems around Toronto in the days leading up to… Read more >>
Feb 13, 2018

A chat with Toronto Black Film Festival short film director, Dean Leon Anderson

in Movies by Meres J. Weche
The Toronto Black Film Festival, running from February 14 to 19, will be… Read more >>
Dec 23, 2017

A journal for black girls in love

in Books by Meres J. Weche
"In my quest to find love I have failed many times.... Yet recently I came to… Read more >>
Dec 23, 2017

A commitment to diversity at Deloitte Canada

in Careers & Workplace by Meres J. Weche
Deloitte LLP was listed last year in the Globe and Mail among Canada’s best… Read more >>

Search Site

Latest on Instagram

Featured Events

11 May 2018 20:00 – 13 May 2018 15:00
Fleck Dance Theatre
Dance

Find a Job

Copyright © 2005 - 2018 Culture Shox Media Inc. All rights reserved unless otherwise stated.

Privacy Policy

Our website is protected by DMC Firewall!

Join our mailing list!