- Category: Arts
- Written by Pamella Bailey
Directed by Philip Akin and Written by Joseph Pierre
|“It’s the black man’s hustle…You have to keep pushing. But sometimes you don’t want to push anymore”|
In a darkened theatre, shouting is heard, a scuffle, then gunshots. It’s the Mainspace Stage at Theatre Passe Muraille and Born Ready has just begun. Written by playwright Joseph Pierre , who also plays the role of Blackman, three characters narrate their struggle for respect and acceptance.
Peggy Sue is an attractive woman who needs to feel desired by men. Played by actress Cara Ricketts whose previous acting credits include Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare Works) and Seamless Songs (Madhouse Theater), she sits on a couch, dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt and shares her story. She lacks parental love and is the object of jealousy by many girls. At the tender age of thirteen she is drawn to men who can make her feel secure. There is a constant stream of men who pass through her life but never stay, denying her the acceptance she desperately needs.
The spotlight shines on Joseph Pierre, a Scarborough raised, York University grad with a BFA in acting, who plays the role of Blackman. He speaks of the loss of both parents as a young child, forcing him to live with an aunt who worked “23 hours a day”. “All I saw was her back”, he says. Raised by his thirteen-year-old cousin, it is in her arms that he finds safety from the nightmares that torment him.
B-Side, played by Mike G. –Yohannes, who has worked with Reel World, CBC, and Obsidian, is an interesting character from the hood. He believes, “you live by the trigger and a prayer.” The hood he tells us, is used to cover one’s head so you can’t be seen. A symbol it seems, of his own struggle to be seen and respected. He wants to get out of the hood, yet realizes it is the only place where he feels important. To paraphrase a line from the play, he says, when a man has a little, he’s a man on the street to those who have none. But at least he’s a man.
Each character tells their story, sharing the spotlight in a give and take that allows one to see the similarities and struggles, which lead them to their ultimate fate. The stories are universal and it seems that the play could represent the streets of South Africa, New York or Toronto.
We’ve heard these stories before. Stories of growing up in a rough neighborhood so poor and hungry that your ribs stick together, of trying to find acceptance through the love of a man or in the arms of a woman, and of trying to find respect in the streets. “It’s the black man’s hustle,” says one of the characters. “You have to keep pushing. But sometimes you don’t want to push anymore,” says another.
Although familiar stories, they are presented in a fresh way through the staging of the characters. Particularly noteworthy is Cara Ricketts enactment of a street fight between two men in the hood, resulting in bloodshed. She gets into the minds of the two men, helping us understand what drives them to pull the trigger. She thoughtfully concludes that if they could hit pause for a moment, they would recognize themselves in each other’s eyes. Both demanding respect from the streets.
A credible, familiar story, Born Ready revisits the age-old struggle for power, respect and acceptance that is still very relevant today.
Born Ready is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille as part of the Stage 3 festival.