Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year End - 2011

                                         Stirling Jarvis, Yanna McIntosh. photo by Chris Gallow

This has been quite the end to 2011.

Both Ruined and Topdog Underdog have been mentioned in the Top Ten Lists and you can read about that in NOW, Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Sun. Huge thanks to our partners: Nghtwood Theatre {Ruined} and The Shaw Festival {Topdog Underdog}. What great artistic collaborations. One could not ask for any better creators to work with.

We had a very fine workshop reading of Shakespeare's Nigga by Joseph Jomo Pierre and NOW magazine said this.

It ha s also been a great year for me personally. I was able to direct two fabulous shows that are very dear to my heart and I have been publicly honoured by two organizations.

The Playwrights Guild of Canada's Women's Caucus awarded me the coveted Bra D'or .Every year, the Women's Caucus recognizes an individual for their efforts in supporting and promoting the work of Canadian women playwrights. And while I have the certificate up in my dining room as promised I was slightly disappointed that it was not in fact a real gold bra. Leanna Brodie, in her ever helpful way, did say that she would bronze one of her bra's for me if I really wanted one. The jury is still out on that.

And finally the Toronto Sun and John Coulbourn in particular named me The Performing Artist of the Year. Shocked and surprised would not even come close to how I felt on reading the article in the paper.

And it is pretty darn gratifying to see this much success both personally and for the company. But I would like to also give big props to the huge number of people who have worked with Obsidian in 2011 and worked to make each show a success. And I would be remiss if I didn't give a huge shout out to the Obsidian Founding Members who were all instrumental in making this Obsidian dream be realized.I would not have been able to succeed without this company at this time.

It is often said that we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors and right now I can feel how firm a foundation that truly is.

All the best for a grand 2012.


Kevin Hanchard, Nigel Shawn Williams photo by Emily/Michael Cooper

Monday, December 5, 2011

Joe Pierre on "Shakespeare's Nigga": The Blacker the Berry, the Deeper the Bruise

Photo by Adam Rankin

This Saturday at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace, Obsidian Theatre presents the first in our 2011/12 Season Development Series of plays in progress. Starting us off is Joseph Jomo Pierre’s fiery and imaginative new play Shakespeare’s Nigga, an exploration into the iconic Black characters in the Bard’s work. We wanted to talk to Joe about this play and his process so we asked Mel Hague, our resident dramaturg and Artist Development Coordinator to talk to him. She sat down with Joe to talk about Shakespeare, Aaron, and the “N” word.

Mel Hague: Tell me, why did you start writing Shakespeare’s Nigga?

Joseph Jomo Pierre: This speaks to why I been on this play for all these years. I made a pact with Aaron. I told that dude I was going to write his story, and I'm sick enough to wanna keep my word to a literary character. That's a bit cryptic but what happened was I got the role of Aaron at theatre school and was excited as hell to play the character. I asked a teacher for some advice on how to approach the character and he told me to play him as pure evil. It was a what the fuck moment for me, we were obviously connecting to this character on different levels. Right there I swore I would tell Aaron's story.

MH: Is Shakespeare your villain or hero?

JJP: Creating the piece I tried not to be limited by those terms. Those are always the sort of conclusions you leave for the audience to make. For me he served as a jump off to the questions I wanted to deal with. Those questions and how we deal with them are much richer to me than shitting on some dead white dude. Though I think some might see it as shitting on him a little.

MH: What’s your favourite Shakespearian quote?

JJP: I don't know about fave, but one that has stuck with me since writing this play is, "is black so base a hue?" That is some heavy shit for a black man to ask.  Cop pulls you over for no reason you ask him, Is black so base a hue. "I can't rent to you on this side of town", really, is black so base a hue. That’s some heavy shit to me.

MH: How about using the word ‘Nigga’ in your title?

JJP: There was and to a lesser degree still is an uproar over the word. Queen Oprah wrote it off, the NAACP buried it. I'm not for burying a word, because it’s been soaked in so much pain. But what is great to me is that my relationship to the word isn't static, I still sometimes question how I use it, how others use it. I am prone to squirm when I'm not cool with the context it is sometimes used in. But my character claims it and that opens the door for a discussion about language. I'm cool with that.

MH: Should people be afraid to say your title? 

JJP: You know what, that is part of the whole discovery. I mean, that is what it is called so they can say it, but what is telling and what is open to discovery is the ease with which they can do so. Their level of comfort or I should say discomfort can lead to some kind of personal reflection. Hell if I can have an audience that involved before they even hit the seats, I think this is a show that needs to be seen. Like seen, seen with a 4 week run and shit :P.

MH: What was the first Shakespeare play you ever acted in?

JJP: The first joint I did was Mid Summers I got to rock out to Oberon, thinking about it now. I guess I was Shakespeare's Nigga earlier than I thought, but at least I was the HNIC.

MH: How have you used Shakespearian language and poetry?

JJP: You know the integration of Shakespearean text was pretty natural for my style. When I do this sort of blending I always picture it as the DJ layering samples. However as it pertains to my writing voice in this piece it was never my goal to work with some faux Shakespearean voice. I wasn't attempting to pass this off as Shakespeare's work. In fact the first attempts at the piece were constructed with really modern speech patterns the sort of things I'm known for. But that wasn't the piece, it wasn't the world that was begging to be shown. In the end I found this hybrid language to roll with.

MH: Why is this play important now?

JJP: It is important now because it hasn't been done (I mean the play). It is important because dealing with themes of slavery is something that people don't want to fuck with. I'm talking young people I'm talking older black people. And I get it, I get not wanting to only be identified by that alone. But there is much for us to gain by not discarding history, finding new ways to discuss it. Broadening the discussion from one we think we know to something far reaching such as control/ power, the use and abuse of control/ power regardless of colour.

MH: Finally, and most importantly, what is your favourite colour?

JJP: Gotta be Black and all its variants, red, white, yellow, blue.... Jump on my Twitter, I plan to be on my tweet game during the workshop. @bruised_berry

The Blacker the Berry the Deeper the Bruise- Shakespeare's Nigga (JJP)

Shakespeare’s Nigga will be presented at Theatre Passe Muraille this Saturday at 2pm. Come out to see a staged reading of this wicked and challenging work featuring the stellar cast of Joseph Pierre, John Jarvis, David Collins, Andre Sills, and Sascha Cole directed by Philip Akin.

Friday, December 2, 2011

SHAKESPEARE'S NIGGA -The Development Series

This year Obsidian will launch new Canadian work throughout the season with three workshop productions. First up is Joseph Joe Pierre's Shakespeare's Nigga.
Joseph Joe Pierre photo by Adam Rankin

Shakespeare’s Nigga by Joseph Jomo Pierre

Sat Dec 10,2011 2pm
Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace 16 Ryerson Avenue

Tickets: 416-463-8444 or office@obsidian-theatre.com
$10 dollars per show or series pass is $25. 

Shakespeare’s Nigga is an exploration into the iconic black characters in the Bard’s work, subversive and poetic the play takes you on a journey beyond reality and into the mind of the Shakespeare himself.

Directed By Philip Akin
Starring:  John Jarvis,Joseph Jomo Pierre,David Collins, Andre Sills and Sascha Cole  
Dramaturg  Mel Hague
Set Designer  Trevor Schwellnus
Property Master Lokki Ma