- Category: Arts
- Written by Meres J. Weche
Raven Dauda has been dazzling Toronto’s theatre circuit since the original stage production of Da Kink In My Hair at Theatre Passe Muraille in 2003. The actress, named in Now Magazine’s top ten theatre artists in 2008, has an impressive resume spanning television, the stage and film. She could be seen as early as 1997 playing a waitress in Wesley Snipe’s thriller, Murder at 1600. On the small screen, she has appeared in the fondly remembered Soul Food, amongst others, and has more recently appeared in a few episodes of Da Kink In My Hair on Global.
Currently, Raven Dauda can be seen on stage in the CanStage production of the award-winning play by John Patrick Shanley entitled Doubt, A Parable. The play runs until May 30th at the Bluma Appel theatre (27 Front East). Originally premiered in New York city’s Manhattan Theatre Club in 2004, Doubt is set in 1964 and tells the story of a priest suspected of abuse at a school where he teaches in the Bronx.
Dauda plays the role of Mrs Muller, the mother of the child caught in the middle of the abuse probe. Donald Muller is the only African-American student in the school and Mrs Muller desperately wants, almost at all cost, to see her son graduate from the school.
Donald previously had problems at a public school. He also suffers from daily psychological abuse at home from his father.
The story is set at the dawn of the Civil Rights era and Donald’s mother is adamant that this private Catholic school is her son’s ticket to a better life. When she is called to the school by Sister Aloysius (played by Seanna McKenna) to be told of the latter’s suspicions that her son was being sexually molested by Father Flynn (played by David Storch), Mrs Muller seems unwilling to confront the problem.
Speaking to AfroToronto.com recently, Raven Dauda talked about her character’s motivations and moral dilemmas. “Basically my child needs to graduate from this school or else his future is in great jeopardy” says Dauda. In a chilling scene in the play, Ms Muller puts on mental blinders and even suggests that her son may have invited the priest’s sexual advances because of what she perceives as his homosexual tendencies.
“People would think that her choices are not the best [and that] she is an unfit mother. ... But really she’s looking at the bigger picture. She’s had such a hard life; her whole family has. She sort of like [is willing to accept] short term suffering for long term gain. It’s not the most ideal of situations and she totally understands that but life will still be a lot worse if her son doesn’t graduate. ...
Mrs Muller is a fighter so she makes the best of every situation. And so that’s what she’s instilled in her son. I try to convince the sister that he’ll be okay. I’ve taught him how to take care of himself. And it maybe it’s not all bad. I may not agree with my son’s choices and who he is but I love him.”
The play leaves the audience to decide whether or not the priest is guilty of the abuse and the motivations of Mrs Muller are left to debate. The controversy certainly leaves a lot more to be delved into. But perhaps that’s perhaps another play.
This is a theme that can be found in the immigrant experience where the “us against them” mentality is prevalent. Having to prove yourself and work so much harder, perhaps at questionable costs. “Mrs Muller doesn’t want to rock the boat any more. Her hands are so tied by her circumstances that she really wants her son to just make it through” adds Dauda.
Doubt, A Parable is one of two plays in which Raven Dauda graces the stage on the current CanStage season. She will be back in her critically acclaimed role of Esther Mills in Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel between Feb. 8th and Mar. 6, 2010, also at the Bluma Appel theatre.
For the CanStage upcoming production of Intimate Apparel, Dauda will be reunited with Director Philip Akin. Speaking to AfroToronto.com about revisiting the play, she says:
“The first time through I didn’t really know what to expect. It was my first time headlining a play like that. I’ve gotten leads in plays before but this was like running around and not having a minute to breathe. So I made the strongest choices I could in such a limited time and I’m looking forward to going back because now I’ll be able to breathe a bit more in the character.”
Raven Dauda is really excited about revisiting this play. She adds that while she looks forward to lightly digging deeper into her character, “a lot of it is going to be the same because if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
DOUBT, A PARABLE by John Patrick Shanley, directed by Marti Maraden (Canadian Stage). At the Bluma Appel (27 Front East). Runs to May 30, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday 1:30 pm, Saturday 2 pm. $20-$90, limited rush and Mon pwyc. 416-368-3110, canstage.com.