The theatre scene in Toronto is abundant, overflowing with impressive works of all kinds in theatres all over the city, but one of the things that I love the most is the variety of voices which are currently being amplified in the theatre community. With diversity and inclusivity at the heart of this evolution, the stories that I’ve been fortunate to witness over the past six months of reviewing have opened my mind and heart to so many different experiences than the ones I’ve personally had. This week, I wanted to delve a little deeper into this idea and hopefully encourage you to get out and see something new.
I remember when I first saw The Breathing Hole at the Stratford Festival in 2017: it was the first time I had been to a play with a predominantly indigenous cast. I was in awe of how their culture was represented and how deeply the play made me feel. Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for theatre from different voices than what’s found in the traditional theatre cannon. Thankfully, beautiful theatre written by all sorts of people is easily found, but lately I’ve noticed that it’s being brought even further to the forefront of theatre programming.
My Sister’s Rage has a very beautiful land acknowledgement which is presented by the entire cast before the show. It got me thinking about how Western theatre usually goes back as far as Greco-Roman works; centuries into our past and feels ancient to audiences now. Yet Indigenous peoples have been telling stories on our lands here in North America for centuries even before that. Though many tales are lost as they were not recorded or the language is no longer understood, many live on through storytelling. Asian and African cultures are the same, with legends and teachings reaching back through recorded time, some stories being set down while others have survived purely through oral tradition.
Just this year alone, I’ve seen plays featuring Indigenous culture and storytelling (Kamloopa, My Sister’s Rage), Asian culture (Cockroach, The Year of the Cello, Bad Parent), African/Black culture (Is God Is, Dixon Road, The First Stone), and Iranian culture (Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo) amongst many others. I’ve also seen amazing productions created and featuring queer artists (Distant Early Warning, My Sister’s Rage, The Family Crow, Who’s Afraid of Titus? to name a few).Each one of these pieces of theatre opened my mind and my heart, allowed me to learn about these people and how they tell their stories. I think if we all can go into unfamiliar pieces of theatre, and theatre from different cultures than our own, with the intent of learning from the experience we’re about to have, it’ll make ourselves and the world we live in change for the better. From what I hear from these storytellers, that’s what they’re looking for: to have audiences come in ready to respect and appreciate the parts of themselves that they’re putting into these stories to share with you.
Now comes my challenge to you, dear reader. With all of this in mind, and knowing how many amazing works are consistently at our fingertips, I want to challenge YOU to go outside your comfort zone and see something new! Within the next 6 months, I want you to see a piece of theatre created by people whose background or culture is different than your own. Leave a comment on this post letting me know what you got out to see!