Saturday, 5 November 2016

Play set to reveal the secrets of a black boy

Play set to reveal the secrets of a black boy
By Neil Armstrong

When playwright, Darren Anthony, started writing his play, “Secrets of a Black Boy,” ten years ago he always envisioned that it would be staged at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto.

Produced by his company, PLAYINGwithCRAYONS, the play is now part of the theatre’s 2016-2017 season and runs from November 10 to 20.

“I remember “Da Kink in My Hair” [his sister, Trey Anthony’s play] being at Theatre Passe Muraille and seeing how engaged the community was about the piece and what it did for Trey’s career,” he says.

He noted that the theatre company has created a lot of opportunities for minorities.

Anthony first mounted “Secrets of a Black Boy” at the Harbourfront Centre in 2007 and said since then the play has had some time to marinate – to evolve.

“There was a lot of time restrictions and things that we weren’t prepared for but I think over the years I’ve grown as a creative, as well as a writer, and we’ve built a solid team and everyone is contributing to bringing it to the next level.”

He says Kimahli Powell, the director, has pushed him to tackle certain issues in the play and to elaborate and make things three-dimensional.

“I think also with what’s happening in society with all these social issues and issues regarding the urban community, it only made sense for me to really tap into that and write about issues that we didn’t tackle when we initially started.”

Anthony says everyone involved wants the play to push the envelope and they have definitely done that in its evolution.

“I’m so excited for the production in November. We have the right pieces in line and everyone knows their role and it’s definitely been a process.”

He has elaborated on the issues of mental health and sexuality, and made the black male more vulnerable.
“Secrets of a Black Boy” is a brutally honest dramedy that gives voice to five young black men from Toronto as they come together for one last domino game at their local community centre before its permanent closure – a devastating result of the neighbourhood’s revitalization project.

“I wanted to tell this specific story because it’s a story that resonated with me, being a child and youth care worker and being in social work it really opened my eyes to certain things. And I felt I know that community, I know these stories, I know this narrative and I feel like I wanted to bring that to the masses. I find that a lot of issues and a lot of things that are happening in the community that we don’t really address. I wanted to address those issues and to also have a forum afterwards to discuss them.”
Through a series of compelling monologues and narratives, mixed with musical interludes, the play critically explores the underlying effects of common stereotypes faced by racialized men.

It delves into several controversial issues such as police brutality and injustice, mental health, domestic abuse, infidelity, interracial dating, and sexuality.

Anthony says the play is a universal story, timeless, and the themes resonate with people.

The cast includes Samson Brown, DJ O-nonymous, Troy Crossfield, Mark Sparks, Julien Hyacinthe and Al St. Louis.

The play has been presented in Brooklyn, New York; Washington DC and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Anthony has plans to do a huge US tour in the future.

“We want to really focus on this production first. We really want to engage our community and take it to the next level first. Toronto is our home and there’s a lot of people that are watching.”

Asked where he finds the time to work on the play because his full time job is a social worker, Anthony says he has some amazing people around him like his business partner, Shaka Licorish, executive producer of the play and co-founder of the company, and the strong team involved.

Anthony said PLAYINGwithCRAYONS was established two years ago and he was always fond of the name.

“When you’re young, you’re youthful; you can colour outside the line, you can make your mistakes and I feel like that’s how I feel now. I always loved playing with crayons, it seemed like you were just being youthful.”

He says the company is trying to make dynamic pieces of work. “We have something to say and we’re doing it a little bit different than other people.”

“We’re giving people a window into our community. It’s going to be frank, it’s going to be in your face; it’s going to be uncut, it’s going to be honest,” he says about the play.

The playwright wants people to leave the theatre talking about the issues.

Kimahli Powell, left, director of Secrets of a Black Boy, and playwright Darren Anthony. Photo contributed

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