Diaspora Dialogues to Launch New Mentoring Program for Emerging Black Playwrights with Support from TD Bank Group
January 19, 2021
Diaspora Dialogues is excited to announce the DD-TD Black Playwrights Mentoring Program, a transformational new initiative that matches four emerging playwrights with four of Canada’s top dramaturges to develop their first full-length play for mainstage production.
The intensive one-on-one mentorship over six months will enable the playwrights and their mentors to dive deep into work that explores the multifaceted reality of the lived Black experience in Canada and provoke meaningful conversations both within the Black community and within the wider Canadian society.
A nurturing environment is baked into the structural design of this playwright’s unit, including mentorship, peer-to-peer and professional development opportunities. In all DD’s suite of mentoring programs, the organization focuses on supporting writers as they tell their own stories and that of their communities, often tackling difficult subjects such as systemic racism and oppression.
DD will partner with theatre companies Canadian Stage, Obsidian Theatre, Soulpepper and New Harlem Productions to produce this program. Each theatre partner has nominated an emerging playwright to take part, as well as identified the appropriate dramaturge for the work.
As part of Black History Month in February 2021, this program will present digital table readings from two of the plays under development which will be free and open to the public. Additionally, in later spring, all four will have public readings.
There’s been a significant new wave of female, Black theatre artists taking positions of power at theatre companies over the past couple years including Weyni Mengesha at Soulpepper, Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu and Myekah Payne at Obsidian, and Mel Hague at Canadian Stage. DD is fortunate and grateful to work with, and learn from, these stellar artists through partnership on this program.
The DD-TD Black Playwrights Mentoring Program is sponsored by the TD Ready Commitment, the Bank’s global corporate citizenship platform.
“Black playwrights are playing an important role in telling the stories of Black communities in Canada, but systemic barriers have inhibited their progress. TD is thrilled to support Diaspora Dialogues in facilitating the professional development of emerging Black talent in arts and theatre and to help address systemic barriers in the sector,” says Naki Osutei, Associate Vice President, Social Impact (Canada), at TD Bank Group. “As part of our corporate citizenship platform, the TD Ready Commitment, we are proud to support organizations like Diaspora Dialogues in building a diverse and inclusive arts sector across Canada.”
“We’re delighted to add the DD-TD Black Playwrights Mentoring Program to our existing development activities, which have resulted in plays such as The Orchard (After Chekov) by Sarena Parmar, Chicho by Augusto Bitter and dozens of books,” DD president Helen Walsh said. “It is our hope that this program, in addition to helping develop four new major plays, also contributes to forging a life-long connection between the playwright and the theatre company.”
Meet the playwrights and dramaturgs:
Yellow by Kalale Dalton-Lutale follows two artists/lovers trying to make work together while also sorting through their romantic relationship.
Blood and Memory by Dainty Smith tackles Lilith and Eve, two Black women, talk about life, sex, shadism, and choices within the Garden of Eden moments before Eve bites the apple.
When a fight breaks out on a streetcar, Toronto’s newly instituted broken windows policing strategy leads to a fatal shooting and two women are forced to deal with the consequences in Broken Windows by Fiona Raye Clarke.
Dramaturge: Donna-Michelle St. Bernard. Partner theatre company: New Harlem Productions
Table For Two by Akosua Amo-Adem is a comedic play about a thirty-five year old Ghanaian-Canadian woman on a journey to find an epic love.