What is the future of Blackness?

21 playwrights, 21 directors and 21 actors respond in this urgent anthology series now streaming on CBC Gem.

21 Black Futures: Trailer

Watch Now

21 Black Futures is a production of Obsidian Theatre, Canada’s leading theatre for Black art. Obsidian would like to thank the incredible production team that worked on the show, and acknowledge the generous support of its funders and community supporters.

Go deeper into each monodrama in the program guide, below.

Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu

A radical offering in unprecedented times: the story of 21 Black Futures

In July 2020, I began my journey as the new artistic director of Obsidian Theatre Company, a 20-year-old ensemble with a strong legacy of centring and championing Black stories and Black artists. We were in the midst of a pandemic and the global fight against racism and violence toward Black people. Theatres across the country were shut down, and the future of live performance was uncertain.

To say it was quite a time to begin my journey as an artistic director is an understatement.

Read More

All the programming my predecessor Philip Akin had planned for his final season was cancelled or postponed. I was in the position of not only learning a new job, but also developing material for the 2020-2021 season. I had the choice either to wait out the pandemic or to adapt and create new programming that would reflect our times in both form and content.

Prior to beginning my role at Obsidian, I was a busy freelance theatre director who had also seen all of my upcoming gigs disappear due to COVID-19. With no end to the pandemic in sight, I went further into self-isolation, mourning privately the continuous murder of Black people at the hands of police. With no access to the theatre and no access to community, I was hurting and in need of connection.

I wondered how other Black artists across the country were doing. Especially when, around the world, the gaze of institutions, individuals and even politicians had turned sharply toward us. How could I respond and support Black artists from an institutional capacity? I thought about all the veteran artists who had been part of building Obsidian’s legacy and the aspiring theatre-makers, in various parts of the country, who had maybe never even heard of Obsidian. Was there a way we could come together in this moment and create something communal; something unapologetically Black; something with the Black gaze at its centre? A radical offering in unprecedented times.

I was interested in new stories about imagined Black futures to counter the messaging that was suddenly everywhere about us, but not from us. I was interested in new words, in new language, in what Black writers and thinkers across the country had to say about our future.

In conversation with the team at Obsidian, we decided to engage 21 writers from different generations and with different levels of experience — writers who reflected the rich diversity of Blackness in Canada. Twenty-one to celebrate Obsidian’s 21st anniversary in 2021. Each writer was tasked with writing a 10-minute monodrama — a one-person play — in response to the question What is the future of Blackness? We further engaged 21 Black directors and 21 Black actors to bring these stories to life as short theatrical films. Our goal was to give as many opportunities to as many diverse Black artists as possible and to bring new voices together from both film and theatre. It was a grand experiment to create as rich a tapestry as we could for the imagining of Black futures.

The experiment has finally come to life. The journey to get here — to create and present work of this scale in the middle of a pandemic — has certainly not been easy. We have learned a ton, adapted daily to producing a new form of storytelling that is a hybrid of theatre and film, and met and connected with so many incredible Black artists in a way that had never happened before at Obsidian. We are proud of and grateful to the 63 Black artists and creative and production teams who have been working tirelessly for months to make this project happen. We celebrate their incredible talent, and we hope you embrace and engage with their work over and over again this Black History Month and beyond.

All of us at Obsidian are truly grateful for the partnership with the CBC, which has given us a national platform to present this work. A special thanks to our supervising producer, Lucius Dechausay, who has been an incredible collaborator, helping us shape the filming of this project with so much rigour and care. Huge thanks to our venue production partner, TO Live, for giving us a space to film the project, and to all our donors and community supporters who have helped us make this project possible.

Thank you to my team at Obsidian, who have been my rock during this process. To my predecessors Philip Akin and Alison Sealy-Smith, thank you for the strong foundation you left at Obsidian, which we are now building upon.

What is the future of Blackness? Join us now for 21 versions of it.

Season 1

In a near-future world not unlike our own, premature Black death is an inevitability. But there is one significant shift from the present: Black folks now have the power to define the stories of their own lives on the hit television show The Death News. In this 12-minute play, we meet a young man who grapples with what to say when he records his obituary for a future episode — date TBD.

Note: Strong language

  • Playwright

    Amanda Parris

    Amanda
    Parris

  • Director

    Charles Officer

    Charles
    Officer

  • Actor

    Lovell Adams‑Gray

    Lovell
    Adams-Gray

Director's Note:

The Death News invites Black people to record their obituaries using their own authentic voices and words to illustrate their lives. On first read, this revolutionary and absurd concept, written by Amanda Parris, moved me to my core and as a Black man.

The power of the piece is the call to action: for us Black people to claim our existence, claim our narrative.

In the play, the struggle for Dante lies in answering the question: What do you want people to remember about you? His journey leads to understanding what matters to him the most.

True say, the brutal evidence of racial injustice we witnessed as a Black community in 2020 was unforgettable. I can’t say there is anything more essential to examine for us. Tomorrow is not promised.

— Charles Officer

Cil Brown loves her work. Her job as a Sender on a global racism-elimination project has resulted in a peaceful, logical and sustainable world. However, she encounters technical difficulties when a Sendee objects to restrictions on the lives of residents of White Supremacist Island.

Note: Strong language

  • Playwright

    Cheryl Foggo

    Cheryl
    Foggo

  • Director

    Leah-Simone Bowen

    Leah-Simone
    Bowen

  • Actor

    Amanda Cordner

    Amanda
    Cordner

Director's Note:

2020 marked the 30th anniversary of Cheryl Foggo’s groundbreaking book Pourin' Down Rain: A Black Woman Claims Her Place in the Canadian West. In it, she recounts her life growing up as a Black girl in Calgary with her family, documenting the long legacy that Black people imprinted on the province of Alberta. She wrote the book with the understanding that the Black experience in Alberta had for years been obfuscated by the dominant settler narrative — stories that erased Indigenous Nations, Black people and other people of colour in favour of tales of “open land.”

When her book was released in 1990, I was a young Black girl growing up with my family in Edmonton. I had no inkling that a rich history of Black Albertans even existed. I made the false assumption that Black people had arrived around the ‘50s or ‘60s because I had never been taught otherwise and could not fathom there were women like Cheryl, whose family had been in Alberta for generations. Because of writers like her, I grew to learn I was not an anomaly, but part of a larger fellowship of Black people in the Prairies, with a rich tapestry of stories and traditions of their own that dated back to the early 1900s.

When Obsidian asked me to be a part of this project and told me it would be Cheryl Foggo's piece I would be directing, it reminded me of a saying: “If one does not see themselves in history, they cannot envision themselves in the future.” And so, what a gift it has been to direct a piece about a Black future by the woman who gave me mine.

— Leah-Simone Bowen

Jah, a former student radical, is speeding through the universe inside a dub song. As they travel, a blue macaw urges them to relive a demonstration during which a colonial monument was toppled. The Earthly consequences were dire, but ancestors intervened to offer Jah an eternal reward.

  • Playwright

    Kaie Kellough

    Kaie
    Kellough

  • Director

    d’bi.young anitafrika

    d’bi.young
    anitafrika

  • Actor

    Ravyn Wngz

    Ravyn
    Wngz

Director's Note:

Within the Afrofuturist kaleidoscopic rainforest of a dub tune we meet Jah, travelling inside an everlasting song. A question lingers on the rhythm: Do I return — to the incomplete, to rage, to revolution — or do I rub-a-dub into eternity?

Writer Kaie Kellough took inspiration from the track Every Dub Shall Scrub by Scientist, a Babalawo of dub music who trained under the genre’s founder, King Tubby. Dub embodies a cultural revolution in Jamaica, which reverberated throughout the world, transforming the musical recording process via sonic fragmentation and radical technological experimentation in studio. This new Black soundscape conjured living musical universes through community sound systems, which transported African descendants beyond neocolonialism to Black utopias soaked in the sweat of dancehall and decolonization.

It is in one of these universes that we encounter Jah, who invites us to query our own relationship to coloniality, political action and personal accountability. Jah sings a dub reinterpretation of the original Philippians 2:10-11 Bible verse — “Every knee shall bow / And every tongue confess / On the day / When Jah shall come” — as a warning, an incantation, an invocation and a proclamation. Jah or Jah Jah is the name of God in Rastafari — the anti-colonial socio-religious movement that emerged in Jamaica in the late 1930s. The story’s central character, Jah, journeys toward their Godself, being the very transformation that they seek.

In the process of directing the piece, certain questions arose: How do we move toward our Godself as agents of change in the current global political climate? How can we transform rage, make revolution, and achieve completeness? How will we embody ancient African rhythms transmuted across time — becoming dub — as a space of peace?

Jah in the Ever-Expanding Song does not offer answers; instead it reminds us that we — like Jah, like dub — can choose to be transcendent, transformational and transgressive in the face of ongoing neo-colonial atrocities.

— d’bi.young anitafrika

In the year 2080 and just hours after receiving a terminal diagnosis, Aodri struggles to discuss an uncertain future with her 10-year-old daughter Bena. Mother and daughter are among the last surviving members of the Ebanu people, a community of African-descended people who resisted transatlantic slavery. Eager to ensure survival of their culture, Aodri instructs Bena in their traditional language using American Sign Language and other gestures.

Note: Strong language

  • Playwright

    Shauntay Grant

    Shauntay
    Grant

  • Director

    Lisa Karen Cox

    Lisa
    Karen Cox

  • Actor

    Natasha “Courage” Bacchus

    Natasha
    “Courage”
    Bacchus

Actor's Note:

Actor's note in ASL by Natasha "Courage" Bacchus

Transcript:

Hello! My name is Courage. My real name is Natasha Bacchus, and the character that I’m playing is Aodri. My experience rehearsing this past month with the director Lisa Cox — I felt honoured to be part of this production of 21 Black Futures.

It’s important to me and the reason for that is that I’ve never had a chance to experience working and rehearsing with a Black theatre company. So with this script by Shauntay Grant from Nova Scotia, the story and the script reading it over — I was quite fascinated. With the use of English and African-American vernacular, the script was challenging to translate into ASL. I learned a lot, and the story reminds me of getting back to the connection of where I’m from.

My family is from Guyana. And we’re historically part of the African diaspora. And so I’ve become more immersed in African art and poetry and the use of language. It’s made me research! I want to thank you for being part of this production. Thank you for having me!

— Natasha “Courage” Bacchus

It’s 100 years in the future. The last African warrior wanders around the barren continent searching for the remains of his tribe. He discovers a rock, the only evidence of a once fruitful Africa, and decides to tell his story. Through the art of poetry, talking drums, Nigerian fables about the tongue, and odes to nature, the warrior rediscovers his culture in the face of extinction. Madness with Rocks is a life lesson to inspire lost souls and remind us of the magic of storytelling.

  • Playwright

    Peace Akintade

    Peace
    Akintade

  • Director

    Jamie Robinson

    Jamie
    Robinson

  • Actor

    Dion Johnstone

    Dion
    Johnstone

Director's Note:

When the damage has been done, how do we heal? What does it mean to truly forgive? The history of Africa has been told best through oral storytelling, its lessons passed down through generations. In Peace Akintade’s allegorical tale, a warrior struggles to rediscover his lost tribe and his heritage to heal after his oppressor’s harm to Mother Africa. Today, we must all heal from our immediate past and strive for harmony in the future — without blame, shame or amnesia. Rather than madly demanding change from solid rocks, we must see these formations for what they really are: grains of sand that can be nurtured in the palm of our hand. It is from this peaceful place that you, the audience, are invited — with the click of a button — to hear the warrior’s story upon a theatre stage. Mother Africa is by your side and always willing to forgive, if you truly want it.

— Jamie Robinson

In a world where calling the cops is not the only option, a veteran emergency services dispatcher leads a rookie through a training day. “Yeah, but does anything ever change?” asks the skeptical youngblood. Over the course of the session — from a lost dog to a mental health distress call — the rookie learns what it means to be a witness. Equal parts pathos and proverb, this story could save a life.

  • Playwright

    Donna-Michelle St. Bernard

    Donna-Michelle
    St. Bernard

  • Director

    Sarah Waisvisz

    Sarah
    Waisvisz

  • Actor

    Uche Ama

    Uche
    Ama

Director's Note:

The policing system in North America was born out of — indeed, born in order to support — the structures that upheld slavery and genocide. Since we know this to be true, why do we allow it to persist? Isn’t there another way to serve and protect our communities so we can meet the needs of the most vulnerable?

Donna-Michelle St. Bernard’s Witness Shift challenges us to imagine a future in which calling the cops is not the only option in an emergency; a future in which the aspirations to “Abolish the Police” and to “Defund the Police” are allowed to play out. The play offers us a model to explore the steps we need to take to transform our society so each of us can truly be seen in our full humanity and each of us can truly be free.

Witness Shift is dedicated to Regis, Breonna, Abdirahman and everyone who deserved a different system.

— Sarah Waisvisz

Gabriaela Monk, a 40-something business professional, just got fired from her job at a dating app company. The cause? A racial sensitivity seminar gone terribly wrong. As she considers her situation, Gabriaela recalls conversations with her late mother — who warned her of the folly of educating white people — and relives the interactions with her seminar participants that went straight downhill.

Note: Strong language

  • Playwright

    Lawrence Hill

    Lawrence
    Hill

  • Director

    Mike Payette

    Mike
    Payette

  • Actor

    Sabryn Rock

    Sabryn
    Rock

Director's Note:

It’s a few years from the present, and Gabriaela Monk misses her GO train to Hamilton. She’s just been fired from her long-standing job as the only racial sensitivity trainer at Connect International, one of Canada’s leading dating services. The aftermath for Gabriaela is a complex and honest reliving of what led her to this moment, negotiating the wisdom of her deceased mother and the voices that challenge the relevance and value of sensitivity work in these times.

Lawrence Hill weaves a singular narrative about one woman’s personal investigation, through humour and questioning, and her quest for hope and to reclaim her dignity. It’s a contemporary and deeply resonant piece that asks us to remember who we are and what we believe in when confronted with those who challenge us.

— Mike Payette

Seeding the Future

Black theatre students share original art and performances inspired by 21 Black Futures. See their responses »

Season 2

Moving to Diamond Valley, an all-Black town in 2035 Alberta, has led to an identity crisis for eight-year-old Zari: she is no longer the only Black kid at her school. Wanting to find ways to stand out, she turns to God to help her brainstorm. But when God is unresponsive, she takes matters into her own hands.

  • Playwright

    Keshia Cheesman

    Keshia
    Cheesman

  • Director

    Jay Northcott

    Jay
    Northcott

  • Actor

    Avery Grant

    Avery
    Grant

Director's Note:

I always wanted to be different. My family are all electricians; I became an artist. Kids in school wanted to play dodgeball; I would meditate (incorrectly) in a corner at recess. That was my identity for a long time: the exact opposite of everyone else.

This is why I connected to Keshia’s piece, Special. It explores what it means to be different and how identity is a state of mind. It tells the story of an eight-year-old girl trying to find the meaning of life while struggling to understand the complexity of self. In this play, we see how this battle is within all of us and experience the vulnerability of asking for a sign to tell us, Am I doing the right thing?

There has been a shift in Western culture. We have become a melting pot, where access to everyone and everything is like it has never been before.

You can’t be different because someone is already doing what you’re doing — and probably doing it better than you on TikTok. So what makes you special? That is the question Zari is looking to answer. Isn’t it what we are all looking for?

— Jay Northcott

Facing the justice system alone, Adrian’s future is in jeopardy. But what if there were a corporation that set out to amass Black wealth, knowledge, strength and hard work for the betterment of Black society? A corporation that exploited capitalist systems, normally used as tools of suppression, to uplift and care for Black causes and Black people? What if that group stepped in to ensure Adrian’s talents wouldn't be wasted in prison? This is the collective. This is Umoja Corp.

Note: Strong language

  • Playwright

    Jacob Sampson

    Jacob
    Sampson

  • Director

    Leighton Alexander Williams

    Leighton Alexander
    Williams

  • Actor

    Pablo Ogunlesi

    Pablo
    Ogunlesi

Director's Note:

Charged with fraud and identity theft, Adrian Joy Ellis faces the full wrath of the court system — until Umoja Corp. steps in. We join Adrian in isolation as he recounts the steps that led to his imprisonment.

This film tackles themes of isolation. We see its effects on mental health as Adrian spirals downward, making bad choices just to survive. This story is pertinent in this day and age, because of the COVID-19 lockdowns, which compounded unemployment, mental health issues and other societal ills. Stepping into Adrian’s shoes is not a difficult task for many, thanks to 2020.

But the story also explores unity as a major theme — depicting a future in which the Black diaspora steps into our collective power. Beautiful to behold.

Finally, I thought it important to shape Jacob’s text into a love letter: Dear Black women, we love and need you; Sincerely, Black men. Through all the challenges Adrian faces, his saviour is “the Black woman.” With the recent and ongoing civil war in North America regarding Black Lives Matter, our Black women were on the front line for fallen brothers. But when the role is reversed — when our women go missing and are killed (Oluwatoyin); when they fall from their balconies (Regis), when they are slain in their homes (Breonna) — where are Black men’s voices? My hope is that this little film sparks trust again between Black man and woman.

“We were conquerors when in concordance. We bathed in Gold and birthed the boldest battalions. Wakanda is not a wish. Pharaohs are not fictitious. Our empire is not erased. Black is King. Black has been King. Black will be King, but only if Black joins Queen.”

— Leighton Alexander Williams

It’s 2045, and Crystal Hinds has a message for the NBA board. Twenty-five years ago, in the middle of a pandemic and global racial reckoning, she watched athletes boycott the sport they loved for something more important. She was just 12 at the time, but that event lit a fire inside her. Since then, she’s been imagining a radical new future for Black athletes — and it’s about to become a reality.

Note: Strong language

  • Playwright

    Luke Reece

    Luke
    Reece

  • Director

    Ngozi Paul

    Ngozi
    Paul

  • Actor

    Lisa Berry

    Lisa
    Berry

Director's Note:

Crazy times — but isn’t that always the case? Will it always be this crazy?

Our social fabric is on fire, and race politics — including politics around Blackness — and other identity politics are only fuel for this fire.

In Notice, we see the future of disenchanted Black children born in this age, their anger and frustration transformed into a powerful agency. They’re swift on the court, but are they making the right moves in life? Creating new organizations on the basis of race might not seem like the best way to proceed; on the other hand, it might be the only way.

Sport has long been seen as a way out — but a way out from what?

Black communities have been underserved and overpoliced. Still, we have improved greatly and must continue to improve greatly. But let us think carefully as to how we do that.

I am fascinated by freedom, and I am taken aback by the divisiveness of this moment, aghast at growing calls for actions that erode what precious freedoms we have enshrined, aghast at certainty in unfounded theories and vigorous destruction in the name of those theories.

Martin Luther King Jr. imagined a world where children of all colours could play, love and live together. While the dream is still alive, it is not invincible.

What if we used this moment to become our best selves, together?

Perhaps we can imagine a future of equity. Notice explores what that future might look like and how we might win at this game called life, together.

— Ngozi Paul

Effie Andoh, 24 and of mixed Afro-Inuk heritage, finds herself in Nunavut for the first time to attend her grandmother’s funeral. She takes a boat trip with her uncle and cousin, Tia, and afterward the cousins hang back to pick berries on a hillside by the bay. Inspired by the idyllic surroundings, an excited Effie begins to reflect on her family’s struggles to a patient Tia.

  • Playwright

    Miali-Elise Coley-Sudlovenick

    Miali-Elise
    Coley-Sudlovenick

  • Director

    Alicia K. Harris

    Alicia K.
    Harris

  • Actor

    Adeline Bird

    Adeline
    Bird

Writer's Note:

Black future represents many things; we see one possibility in Blackberries, which tells a story about identity, compassion and being home. The play follows Effie Andoh, a mixed heritage Afro-Inuk woman, who visits Nunavut for the first time to attend her grandmother’s funeral.

Picking berries with her cousin inspires clarity. Effie finally has the space to reflect on intergenerational trauma, alcoholism and why her mother never returned home to Nunavut.

Effie receives love and warmth from her Inuit family and the land, which awakens in her a desire to embrace Inuit cultural practices and the language — a chance to connect with her roots.

— Miali-Elise Coley-Sudlovenick

director's Note:

Many of us have intersecting identities. In Blackberries, we see Effie reflect on her mixed-heritage family, and her two cultures. The play follows her journey in uniting the two, as she embraces them both as herself, both as home. Effie shows us it's never too late to learn more about your heritage, to grow and to expand — as there is no one way to be Black. Black future is us reclaiming our roots, freely. Black future is us being accepted as we are, and all parts of ourselves. Black future is redefining home.

— Alicia K. Harris

Seven years after the Fall, Medgar makes his way along the shores of the Great Ontario Sea and remembers his lost love Emmett. Every day is very much the same on an Earth still plagued by viruses. But on this day, everything is about to change.

Note: Strong language

  • Playwright

    Syrus Marcus Ware

    Syrus
    Marcus Ware

  • Director

    Tanisha Taitt

    Tanisha
    Taitt

  • Actor

    Prince Amponsah

    Prince
    Amponsah

Director's Note:

How fascinating it is for Obsidian to consider the future of Blackness through so many pairs of our own eyes. It has been such a truly beautiful experience collaborating with Syrus Marcus Ware and Prince Amponsah on Emmett. From the first time I read the piece, I was struck by its beautiful and stark imagery. What is Blackness when humanity is all but a memory? What energy does Black love, and Black love lost, leave behind? In Emmett, a Black man who should be dead is somehow still alive. That simple statement is the story of the Black spirit itself: it — we — are not gone. In the face of all that would seek to erase it — and the bodies inhabited by it — it remains unbreakable, indomitable, wounded but glorious, and defiantly Black.

— Tanisha Taitt

A bride motors down a highway in her wedding dress, struggling to make sense of what led her to this moment. Her veil lies crumpled on the back seat. Her cellphone keeps ringing, and the car in her rear view appears to be following her. Could it be Mathiew, her groom?

Note: Strong language

  • Playwright

    Djanet Sears

    Djanet
    Sears

  • Director

    Weyni Mengesha

    Weyni
    Mengesha

  • Actor

    Virgilia Griffith

    Virgilia
    Griffith

Writer's Note:

In the wake of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, when race-based incidents are investigated in the media, it is common practice for journalists to examine the motivations of the perpetrators. We see it happening in the news today in reports about the Capitol insurrection. We saw it when a Canadian “Karen,” Amy Cooper, called the police on the birdwatcher in Central Park. “Why did (insert name of a Karen here) feel forced to attack (a description of a person of colour here)?” But do we know the name of the man she victimized? His last name was Cooper too — Christian Cooper. Another frequently asked question is “What is behind the rise in race-based attacks on people of colour?” Or “what drove (insert the name of a “Kevin” — a wannabe fascist — here) to want to be a Proud Boy?” If the injured party is Black, the news story will typically focus on the white attacker.

This short play was inspired by real events. It was also prompted by a two-decade-old study by clinical psychologist Maya McNeilly out of Duke University Medical Center which suggested that “racist provocation” could lead to damaging physical and emotional symptoms. As McNeilly put it, “It is well-documented that racism has negative social, economic and political consequences on African Americans, but the direct effects of racism on physical and emotional health have only begun to be explored."

This story continues that exploration and contemplates the effects of the terrorism of overt and implicit white supremacy on the physical and emotional life of one particular Black woman: Georgeena.

— Djanet Sears

It’s New Year’s Eve 2059, the night before the long-awaited Reparations Day, and Chariott receives a mysterious call that leads her on a ride through the world outside her bubble. Cities are sky-high, a curfew is on and it’s hard to tell humans from holograms. On this surreal road trip, she tunes into BlackSpaceX radio and, helped along by a cadre of cryptic guides, finds herself on the astronomical journey of her life.

Note: Strong language

  • Playwright

    Motion

    Motion

  • Director

    Jerome Kruin

    Jerome
    Kruin

  • Actor

    Chelsea Russell

    Chelsea
    Russell

Director's Note:

Rebirth of the Afronauts: A Black Space Odyssey incorporates themes that are rarely explored in mainstream media: Afrofuturism, Afrofuturist music, reparations, space travel, destiny, language and technology in the future, identity and the African diaspora in North America. These themes and the storylines in the film are essential; they are rooted in history, while amplifying the voice of the next generation.

In mainstream media, I have not seen a film or TV show talking about reparations, reclamation of land and Black liberation in an Afrofuturist world. Especially from a Canadian point-of-view.

The film asks bold questions about who we are as individuals, as people, as a culture and as a nation. Being a first- or second-generation African Canadian creates hybrid identities at the intersection of ethnic/national origins within North America. I ask myself those same questions all the time, and as a proud first-generation African Canadian director, I wanted to bring my unique vision and authenticity to the film.

I am also extremely honoured to collaborate with Motion, who is a super-talented writer, wise beyond my imagination, and an amazing collaborator from beginning to end; and Chelsea Russell, a talented ball of energy, a generous actor and a force to be reckoned with.

— Jerome Kruin

Season 3

After the revolution, an exhausted and enraged Ancestor is tasked with planting the new generation. Though things have gotten better, the earth is still cracked, the well water still dirty, the sky thunderous and grey. With rage burning within, Ancestor grapples with their own body and spirit, so they can plant joy and peace for the next generation.

Note: Strong language

  • Playwright

    K.P Dennis

    K.P
    Dennis

  • Director

    Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu

    Mumbi
    Tindyebwa Otu

  • Actor

    Alison Sealy-Smith

    Alison
    Sealy-Smith

Actor's Note:

To be at this stage of my life and to be engaging in so many firsts is fantastic: my first time back on a Toronto stage in well over a decade, my first time being part of this new theatre-film hybrid, my first time working with the top-notch talents of Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu and K.P Dennis — it’s all intensely exciting! I’ve been fortunate enough to have been involved in some pretty big things in my time, but to be included in this massively ambitious, totally innovative, future-focused undertaking is the stuff of dreams and a tremendous privilege. It is also hugely personal.

The opportunity to help bring to life K.P Dennis’s evocative, poetic and powerfully beautiful exploration of legacy, transformation and the potential for healing could not have come at a more opportune time for me. I am a grandmother, desperately worried about the world my generation is bequeathing my precious grandchildren. Hope is sometimes hard to find. Many days I go to the well, waiting for the wisdom that supposedly comes with age — and choke instead on my seemingly bottomless rage at the willfully myopic, endlessly repetitious injustice of it all. It is almost enough to incite a nihilistic despair. Almost. But these are my seeds, my teeth that I have sown, and I owe a responsibility to these future warriors, a responsibility to ensure that in the coming battles there will still, and always, be space for unmitigated, soul-cleansing joy.

Thank you, K.P, for your visionary words.

Thank you, Mumbi, for so confidently and boldly carrying on the legacy of the Obsidian dream, first birthed 21 years ago.

The revolution continues. The future is ours.

— Alison Sealy-Smith

Satchel Dew is the principal engineer behind a groundbreaking spacecraft that can carry humans to far-off solar systems. But in this hip-hop parable, he discovers the military has less peaceable plans in mind for his invention. And so inspired by the teachings of civil rights activists, he decides to commandeer the ship in search of a planet where Black people can flourish.

  • Playwright

    Omari Newton

    Omari
    Newton

  • Director

    Lucius Dechausay

    Lucius
    Dechausay

  • Actor

    Daniel Faraldo

    Daniel
    Faraldo

Director's Note:

The capacity of human innovation is limitless. As a people, we have developed treatments and cures for infectious diseases, created technologies that connect us, harvested sustainable energy{ and explored from the depths of the oceans to beyond the bounds of our own planet. For the most part, if we can dream it, we can and have found ways to achieve it. But how do you inspire those who refuse to dream? The year is 2050, and despite the progress ignited by the protests and promise of 2020, systemic anti-Black racism remains unsolved.

In 40 Parsecs and Some Fuel, Satchel Dew is searching for safety in an inherently unsafe place. He has done his best. As an engineer, his greatest invention allowed humankind to travel further than ever because he believes somewhere in this galaxy, there is a planet where Black joy can thrive uninterrupted. And instead of spending more energy fighting a system he can never overcome, he’s out. He may not get there, and in my mind, even if he does, he only took enough fuel for a one-way trip.

Written by playwright Omari Newton and performed by hip-hop artist Dan-e-o, this is a monodrama that is as intricate in its lyrical wordplay as it is in its ideology. As a father, I spend every day trying to create a better Black future for my kids, and truly — as a closet celestial nerd and huge hip-hop fan — if this place exists and you gotta rhyme your way onto the ship, I might be the first in line. One thing is certain: the capacity for Black innovation and resilience is limitless, and if there is a place for us in this universe, we will find it.

— Lucius Dechausay

Open Your Big Black Mouth, a brand-new treatment designed to help Black women affected by racism, bigotry, microaggressions, white supremacy, exotification or unwanted hair touching, has just been rolled out. Acute or severe, this specially formulated treatment of endless doses of time and space allows Black women to speak their mind and be heard. The first recipient of this revolutionary treatment has just been given her prescription… and she’s skeptical, to say the least.

Note: Strong language

  • Playwright

    Lisa Codrington

    Lisa
    Codrington

  • Director

    Alison Duke

    Alison
    Duke

  • Actor

    Akosua Amo-Adem

    Akosua
    Amo-Adem

Director's Note:

The year is 2042. There have been technological advances in the field of medicine, especially in the area of mental health and wellness. Chantal Thompson, 30, also known as Recipient 1, is the first to be administered an innovative treatment called Open Your Big Black Mouth. The technology is marketed as the cure for chronic depression and anxiety in Black people overwhelmed by everyday microaggressions, oppression and anti-Black racism. Never before has a Black woman been given the space to say what’s on her mind and not have to deal with white fragility. The monologue follows a skeptical Chantal coming to terms with what this new treatment means for her life. Will it work? What are the side-effects? And is she willing to take the risk and accept the consequences?

Directing Lisa Codrington's monologue is a creative highlight for me because it conjures so many emotions that Black women feel today. This is the first time I have worked with text that unapologetically propels an unfettered internal conversation from a Black Canadian woman. It's a tour de force about language that plays with how we receive Black women's stories. What we hear, between what is said and what is not said, is raw and familiar. And I equally enjoyed the process of discovering how deeply we could explore the feelings with actress Akosua Amo-Adem, who is just magical with her delivery. I marvel at how she can bring emotions to life while staying true to Lisa's prose, layered as it is with intricate poetic formations. I have often reflected on what life would be like if I, like Chantal, could say what's on my mind about racism, oppression and sexism, without having to reflect on the consequences. I am drawn to this idea, which is both raw and new.

— Alison Duke

A simple, loaded question — “Where are you from?” — sends Muco spiralling through memories of her mother and her stories of life in Burundi. Unable to find belonging in any single environment, the young writer seeks out identity through literature — the only place she is fully at home. Despite heartache and loss, Muco finds hope in an encounter with a young girl with a gap in her teeth.

Note: Discussions of sexual assault

  • Playwright

    Stephie Mazunya

    Stephie
    Mazunya

  • Rehearsal Director

    Katia Café-Fébrissy

    Katia
    Café-Fébrissy

  • Film Director

    Mike Payette

    Mike
    Payette

  • Actor

    Sheila Ingabire-Isaro

    Sheila
    Ingabire-Isaro

Rehearsal Director's Note:

Where are you really from? A question that every single person of African descent in North America has heard at least once. Such a benign question, yet so loaded. Loaded, because it implies that anyone with a hue has to come from somewhere else — that they cannot possibly just be from Canada — and also, because said complexion is often the only prism through which a person of colour is perceived.

But how does one even answer that question? Where to begin? It’s that very question that triggers Muco, the young Black woman at the centre of Chronologie. She embarks on a journey of self-reflection prompted by memories. The question propels her into a stream of consciousness as she dives into her most intimate thoughts.

When I first read the play, I immediately deciphered a duality relatable to any African Canadian — anglophone and francophone alike.

Besides, it’s seldom the case we get to witness the vulnerability of a Black woman — and even less so through storytelling. The expectation is they must be strong in all circumstances.

Chronologie aims to put Burundi on the map again. To deconstruct the stereotypical views the Western world may have of an East African country often reduced to the genocide. But mostly, it sheds light on the layered complexities of identity that second-generation Canadians of African descent experience.

— Katia Café-Fébrissy

It is 2080. There is a race war in North America. A vessel carrying 500,000 refugees and led by a rich young Black man sits at Osu, off the coast of Ghana. The young man’s actions bring him face to face with himself, his history and the mothers of his own native land.

  • Playwright

    Tawiah M’Carthy

    Tawiah
    M’Carthy

  • Director

    Dorothy A. Atabong

    Dorothy
    A. Atabong

  • Actor

    Peter Fernandes

    Peter
    Fernandes

Director's Note:

It is August 1619. A ship carrying enslaved Africans docks at Point Comfort in the British colony of Virginia, now part of the United States, and over 20 Africans from the ship are sold. This was the beginning of American slavery. Over 400 years later, what would our ancestors who witnessed and suffered the atrocities of slavery say, seeing that much hasn’t changed in 2020. History repeats itself; the Black child is still in bondage. The European scramble for Africa roughly between 1884 and 1914 saw a continent rich in culture and resources invaded, divided and depleted. The 21st century is witnessing another form of colonization: debt-trap diplomacy, where African countries are held hostage financially, with loans they cannot pay. These loans are extended to them by a powerful country with a hidden agenda to extract economic and political concessions to further its strategic aims. The powerful country increases its leverage over the poor nation.

Will the Black child ever break free? What is the future of the Black child?

Fast forward to 2080, in a dystopian world where Ghana is the only utopia. There is a race war in North America. A rich young Black man leads a vessel carrying 500,000 refugees to Osu, off the coast of Ghana. It’s a time when Mother Africa says enough is enough! Africa is for Africans; Blacks for Blacks. A time when the Black child embraces self-love and acknowledges self-worth. A time when the Black child finally breaks free from bondage. In a time when we are all mixed — halves and quarters of different races — who is truly that Black African child who can reclaim the land? I hope you take away from this piece the many themes buried within.

— Dorothy A. Atabong

Armed with a chisel and a hammer, Hussein weaves the story of his 100-year-old life into a sculpture 20 years in the making. Conceived on Obama Night — the night the United States got its first Black president — Hussein has seen civilizations crumble and humanity brought low. As chisel strikes stone, the words of his late father, an ardent defender of Obama’s myth, ring in his ear: “If you let them, they will break the nose off of the Sphinx.”

Note: Strong language

  • Playwright

    Joseph Jomo Pierre

    Joseph
    Jomo Pierre

  • Director

    Kimberley Rampersad

    Kimberley
    Rampersad

  • Actor

    Philip Akin

    Philip
    Akin

Director's Note:

Creation is an activity not only left for God.

On this Earthly plane, the creator is also the artist: man — the one in possession of imagination and the courage to pursue its actualization. Inheriting his father’s legacy, Hussein (Philip Akin) takes up his chisel, building upon his inheritance something greater for his son.

Refusing to surrender to the darkness of humankind, Hussein perseveres in the light of those who have gone before him. With a resilient spirit, this Black father shoulders both his responsibility to his legacy and his accountability to the future, not for himself, but for his son, through whom he will find salvation and the reclamation of our nation.

— Kimberley Rampersad

In a world fraught with unending racial wars and devastating division, a crazed, megalomaniac leader exterminates the world as we know it. A stealthy group of Black freedom fighters escapes and finds refuge in an underground stronghold, waiting for Earth to regenerate so they can return one day. Hope for the future of humanity rests on the shoulders of a young Black child, who must brave the unknown dangers lurking above.

  • Playwright

    Cherissa Richards

    Cherissa
    Richards

  • Director

    ahdri zhina mandiela

    ahdri zhina
    mandiela

  • Actor

    Emerjade Simms

    Emerjade
    Simms

Director's Note:

As we gingerly move through the beginning of the year 2021, we’re steadfastly trying to affix “our eyes on the prize”: the end of lockdowns, social isolation, physical distancing and travel restrictions; and much, much, much fewer COVID-19 cases and Zoom rooms! Please, please, please, bring on the people gatherings and age-old rituals we took for granted (like burial and marriage ceremonies).

And while the now-popular phrases "I can't breathe," "Black lives matter," "Defund the police," "End racism now," and "Say her name" ring on, we want to purge our hearts and minds (and screens) of the whispers and chants and rants that held our gaze. Meanwhile, we mostly continue to ignore the scourge of oppression. We’ve been looking away from the ravages of racism for hundreds of years despite unending shrieks from the “victims” and “survivors” of this wholly man-made affliction.

If only we could hold our gaze on a future world, like in these few minutes in which Cherissa Richards envisions Omega Child. It’s a world on the mend, where nature is an underground experience, having been choked by hate, greed, spite and the willful destruction of humans.

It’s a world where 10-year-old Omega — who has never lived on terra firma — and her people hold on to the rites and everyday culture of Black people in the African diaspora. In Cherissa's Black future, Omega conjures her strength to give a glimpse of both dread and hope; painting vivid colours where monotones want to conquer; spitting rhymes when fear and confusion and desperation set in.

Like in the world of those before her, Omega proffers hope while enduring.

"Pour one out for all the homies." Aché.

— ahdri zhina mandiela

Credits

Creative Team

Set and Costume Designer: Rachel Forbes | Lighting Designer: Shawn Henry | Projection Designers: Cameron Davis and Laura Warren | Props Coordinator: David Hoekstra | Head of Wardrobe: Joyce Padua | Assistant Set and Costume Designer: Jawon Kang | Hair & Make Up Specialist: Bianca Harris

Film Team

Cinematographer: Keenan Lynch | First Assistant Camera: Arvin Cordova | Digital Imaging Technician: Jeff Pentilla | Location Sound Recordist: Kevin Brown | Editors: Ramon Charles, Ashton Lewis, Joe Amio and March Mercanti | Sound Designer: DJ Loqenz | Sound Designers/Mixers: Antoinette Tomlinson, Inaam Haq, Debashis Sinha and Rez Dahya | Online Editor: Ken Yan | Senior Consulting Online Editor: Jordan Lavigne

Producing Team

Artistic Director: Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu | General Manager: Michael Sinclair | Artistic Producer: Fatuma Adar | Company Dramaturge: Myekah Payne | Line Producer: Muzafar Malik | Production Coordinator: Malina Patel | Stage Manager/Script Supervisor: Kat Chin | Production Manager: Crystal Lee | Associate Production Manager: Carlos Varela | Rehearsal Stage Manager: Emilie Aubin | Production Assistant / Driver: Emida Olusegun

Additional Creative Team Members

Creative Director: Chinedu Ukabam | Artwork by: Yung Yemi | Graphic Design: Gloria Asse Elogo | Publicity: Suzanne Cheriton | Assistant Director: KayGeni - Jah in the Ever-Expanding Song | Assistant Director: Abigail Whitney - Sensitivity, Witness Shift, Madness With Rocks, Notice | ASL Coach: Natasha 'Courage' Bacchus - Witness Shift | ASL Interpreter: Marcia Martins - Witness Shift, Beyere | ASL Interpreter: Denica C. Brown - Beyere | Artistic ASL Consultant: Dr Jenelle Rouse - Beyere | French Dramaturgy: Stéphanie Jasmin - Chronologie | Movement Director: Esie Mensah - Cavities | Workshop Director: Sasha Leigh Henry - The Prescription

CBC

Supervising Producer: Lucius Dechausay | Website: Jeff Hume | Copy Editor: Marcia Chen | Production Manager, CBC Arts: Luke Myers | Manager, Digital Business and Rights: Clara Lee | Executive Producer, CBC Arts: Andrew D'Cruz | Executive in Charge of Programming, CBC Arts: Grazyna Krupa

Special Thanks To:

BIPOC TV & FILM, Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, Alistair Hepburn, Ravi Jain, Ulla Laidlaw, Weyni Mengesha, Shanna Miller, Jeremy Mimnagh, Charles Officer, Peter Pasy, Ngozi Paul, Trevor Schwellnus, Djanet Sears, Bahia Watson

Funders and Supporters

Venue Production Partner : TO Live

21 Community Supporters: Harbourfront Theatre, Canadian Stage, National Arts Centre (supporting Beyere), Tarragon Theatre, 2b theatre company, BnB Hamilton Fund, Centaur Theatre, Coal Mine Theatre, Crow's Theatre, Downstage Theatre , Eastern Front Theatre, The Musical Stage Company (supporting 40 Parsecs and Some Fuel), Necessary Angel Theatre Company, Nightwood Theatre, Prairie Theatre Exchange, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Soulpepper Theatre, The Theatre Centre, Theatre Calgary, Why Not Theatre, IATSE Local 58

Obsidian also receives support from:
Season Sponsor: TD | Project Sponsor: TAC - Open Door Grant | Sponsors: Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, Hal Jackman Foundation, Metcalf Foundation