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No stopping Mandiela

05 Jun 2005

AfroToronto.com columnist Pamella Bailey meets with Two Can Play's director ahdri zhina mandiela

Ahdri zhina mandiela

Ahdri zhina mandiela, is a multi talented Jamaican born sistah, dub poet, and founder and artistic director of b current, a Toronto based performance company.  She is currently directing the Caribbean comedy, Two Can Play written by Trevor Rhone.  Sitting in the courtyard at the Berkeley Street Theatre on a sunny afternoon, she reflects thoughtfully on her current project.

“I saw the premier production in Jamaica in the early 80’s.  I was blown away. I hadn’t seen a firm Jamaican comedy with such weight. I was very excited to work on this project,” says mandiela.  “Toronto is the perfect spot to do this period piece. It happens in the late 70’s. I wanted to bring in events of the period through clothing and design of the furniture.  It’s a nostalgia that means something.“

In addition to her work on Two Can Play, mandiela will be directing The Burglary by Anthony Winkler, staged by Gamut Productions. It’s a comical farce about an expatriate couple who have lived in southern United States for 35 years. They have saved their money, had a good life and finally return home to the islands, to a nice secure house.  It is immediately broken into on their first night home by a thief, the quintessential balancer of the haves and have nots. The play is about the couple’s first night dealing with this thief.

Mandiela is passionate about the theatre.  “I love the collaborative effort. There’s an ensemble of workers that make the project happen. That’s what theatre is all about.”

She is also passionate about mentoring young, emerging artists through rAiz’n the sun, a b current program which trains young artists with a serious desire to learn theatre. Trey Anthony and d’bi young are just some of the artists that have come through the program and have gone on to achieve success.

Celebrating its 15 th anniversary this year, b current is known for its rock paper sistahz festival. Mandiela was proud to showcase the work of one of her young protégés at this year’s festival.

“I love where the Toronto black theatre scene is at. So many young folks are interested in creating work and doing other people’s work, not just acting. Nothing wrong with acting but you need stories,” says mandiela.  “There aren’t enough parts for us in mainstream theatre.  We need to re-engage the masses of creators and performers so we can create our own stories.”

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