Film & Theatre: Theatre Companies


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Theatre Companies, Currently Active
Theatre Companies, Historical
Resources on African Canadian Theatre

Theatre Companies, Currently Active

Black Theatre Workshop
3680 Rue Jeanne-Mance, Suite 432
Montréal QC H2X 2K5
514-932-1104 ext. 225

The Black Theatre Workshop was born of the Trinidad and Tobago Association and the work of Victor Phillips. Founded in 1971 in Montréal after an influx of Caribbean immigration, the BTW worked to counter negative perceptions about Caribbean culture. It was and remains especially interested in developing original plays that reflect Black Canadians' experiences. Its premiere production was How Now Black Man by Montréal writer Loris Elliot in 1968. Since then, the company has changed with the diversity of the Caribbean population in Montréal and has a production history that includes new and old works by African, American, Caribbean, and Canadian playwrights. BTW was affiliated with Montréal's English-language Centaur Theatre from 1976 to 1985, and used its theatre space. The company began a school touring company in the early eighties, and since the mid-eighties has held an awards ceremony to celebrate the artistic contributions and achievements of individual Black community members. Since its conception, the Workshop has been the artistic home for Errol Slue, Jeff Henry, Walter Borden, Winston Sutton, Lorena Gale, Marvin Ishmael, Dwight Bacquie, and George E. Boyd, and has aided in the development of hundreds of playwrights and theatre artists across Canada.

In the late sixties, the company produced Dance Bongo by Errol Hill, The Sea at Dauphin by Derek Walcott, and How Now Black Man by Loris Elliot. In the early seventies, the group produced Walcott's Dream on Monkey Mountain. In the mid-seventies, BTW produced plays by Wole Soyinka, Yvonne Greer, Eric Roach, Clarence Bayne (The Black Experience), Joseph A. Walker (The River Niger), David Westheimer (My Sweet Charlie), David Edgecomb (For Better For Worse and Sonuvabitch), Errol Sitahal (Sea Shango), as well as Jean Genet's The Blacks (1976), Edgecomb's Strong Currents (1976), Elliot's A Li'lle Bit O'Somet'in (1978), and Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun (1979). In the eighties, their productions included Hector Bunyon's Prodigals in a Promised Land (1982), Clarence Bayne and Dwight Blackie's Martin Luther Who (1983), Ntozake Shange's for colored girls who have considered suicide, when the rainbow is enuf (1984/5), James Weldon Johnson's God's Trombones (1986), George C. Wolfe's The Coloured Museum (1987/8), and Dwight Bacquie's Marvin: Dream of a Lifetime (1988). The nineties saw a co-production of Mustapha Matura's Playboy of the West Indies (1993), Richardo Keens-Douglas's children's play The Nutmeg Princess (1994), Athol Fugard's My Children, My Africa (1998/9), Andrew Moodie's Riot (1998/9), and Dennis Foon's New Canadian Kid (1998/9).

A 1999 $100,000 Millenium Fund Grant from the Canada Council renewed the financially strained company, and enabled it to participate in the Anthony Sherwood production of Rockin' in Paradise. The grant also helped the company revitalize the Young Performer's Initiative, an intensive drama training program for Black youth.

Their recent productions include: · The Crossroad/Le Carrefour by Kossi Efoui (2000) · Afrika Solo by Djanet Sears (2002, reprised as a school tour in 2006) · Wade in the Water by George Elroy Boyd (2004) · Blacks Don't Bowl by Vadney Haynes (2005/06) · The Lady Smith by Andrew Moodie (2006).


Obsidian Theatre Company
50 Carroll St., Suite 215
Toronto, Ontario
M4M 3G3

The OTC was founded by Awaovieyi Agie, Ardon Bess, David Collins, Roy Lewis, Yanna McIntosh, Diane Roberts, Kim Roberts, Sandi Ross, Djanet Sears, Satori Shakoor, Tricia Williams, Alison Sealy-Smith, and artistic director Philip Akin in 1999. The company focuses primarily on the works of playwrights of African descent, and works to promote African Canadian artists and to provide mentoring and apprenticeship opportunities.

Their production history includes: · The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God by Djanet Sears (2001/02, in association with Harbourfront Centre) · The Piano Lesson by August Wilson (2002/03, in association with Harbourfront Centre) · Consecrated Ground by George Elroy Boyd (2003/04, in association with Factory Theatre) · The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke (2006/07) · Othello by William Shakespeare (2007) - Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith (2009).


We Are One Theatre Productions

940 Landsdowne Ave.,
Toronto, ON

Artistic director Marvin Ishmael founded We Are One in 1986 with a mandate to develop theatre that reflects Caribbean Canadian culture, traditions, and experience. It has a reputation for incorporating steel band and calypso into its productions, and for writing and producing plays for young audiences. While the company produces many of Ishmael's own plays, such as Comedy and Culture and Duppy in the House, it has also produced Kate Osborne's Wipe That Smile, and Mustapha Matura's Playboy of the West Indies. The company has also been critical in the development of Caribbean Canadian theatre, and has been important in the careers of actor/story-teller Richardo Keens-Douglas and actor/director Amah Harris and her Theatre in the Rough company.


Theatre Wum

Artistic director Colin Taylor founded Theatre Wum to explore the African diaspora. The company mounted Jeff Stetson's The Meeting (1991), Radiance of the King (1991), and Susan Lori Parks' The Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (1992). Colin Taylor won the John Hirsch Award for Directing in 1993, and in 1994 he was appointed Artistic Associate at Theatre Passe Muraille. He has also directed with the Tarragon Theatre, the Great Canadian Theatre Company and Alberta Theatre Projects.


Voices Black Theatre Ensemble
P.O. Box 23106 RPO
Dartmouth NS B3A 4S9
Artistic director: David Woods


Sepia Players / Black Theatre West

Sepia Players was founded in Vancouver in 1969 and renamed Black Theatre West in 1982.


AfriCan Theatre Ensemble
703-250 Consumers Road
Toronto, Ontario
M2J 4V6
Artistic Producer: Modupe Olaogun

Founded in 1998, AfriCan Theatre Ensemble aims to spread awareness about African drama, including the traditions of legend, history, mythology, and idiom. AfriCan Theatre Ensemble recognizes the power of live art to inspire and renew the human spirit and to forge human relationships across cultures, creeds, ethnicities, ideologies, genders, and social classes.


b current
Artscape Wychwood Barns Studio/Office
601 Christie St, Suite 251
Toronto, ON, Canada
M6G 4C7

Founded in 1991 by ahdri zhina mandiela, b current is a dub-based performance organization that includes in its productions poetry, music, dance, film, and plays. A non-profit organization, the company works to promote and support the work that emerges from the Black diapora. They run the rps festival each spring, which consists of dub performances at venues across Toronto, and the group runs various training programs for youth.

Their production history includes: · dark diaspora . . . in dub by Ahdri Zhina Mandiela (1992) · Caribbean Cindy by Richardo Keens-Douglas (in association with Young People's Theatre) · Naga Mandala (1996, in association with Hansraj Dramatic Arts @ Tarragon Theatre) · Harriet's Daughter by M. NourbeSe Philip (2001) · After All by Carol Anderson (2004) · Fallen Angel and the Devil Concubine (2006, in association with Theatre Archipelago) · Wise Woman of Abyssinia by Rebecca Fisseha (2007)


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Theatre Companies, Historical

Negro Theatre Guild

The Negro Theatre Guild opened in Montréal in 1942 with Marc Connolly's The Green Pastures, and a 1949 production of Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones. In the 1960s, the company began selecting plays that reflected the interests of immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean. The Negro Theatre Guild did not survive the emergence of the Black Theatre Workshop in the 1960s or the rise of Revue Theatre (which produced a large number of African American plays).


Black Theatre Canada

Black Theatre Canada was founded in Toronto in 1973 by Vera Cudjoe, in order to share Black culture with the rest of the community. In addition to staging productions, BTC was very interested in cultural awareness projects, toured schools extensively in the Toronto area, and put on workshops to train young Black people in theatre arts. Because of financial difficulties, the company suspended operation in 1988. Their first full production was Roderick Walcott's Malfinis in 1974. They also presented a number of new works, among them Trevor Rhone's first Canadian production, Story Oh (1977). Their other productions include Freedom Ways by Amah Harris (1973), School's Out by Trevor Rhone, Bathurst Street by Bobby Gishay, A Few Things About Us compiled by Daniel Caudeiron (1977), Holes by Peter Robinson (1978), Dem Two in Canada by Peter Robinson (1979), More About Me by Daniel Caudeiron (1979), Rum and Coca Cola by Mustapha Matura (1981), One More Stop on the Freedom Train by Leon Bibb (1984; 1985), and Under Exposure by Linda Evans (1986).


Theatre Fountainhead

Theatre Fountainhead was established in 1974 by Jeff Henry, a supporter and collaborator of Vera Cudjoe(founder of BTC). His aim was to develop and produce the works of Black playwrights, and to employ Black actors, directors and designers. However, he also mounted productions of a wide range of plays, including Samuel Beckett, in order to aid the range and skill development of Black theatre professionals. The company closed in 1990 due to financial strain. Among the playwrights staged at Theatre Fountainhead were Wole Soyinka, Jeff Henry, and Linda Ghan. They also produced Richardo Keens-Douglas' musical The Obeah Man in 1985, which won the writer a Dora nomination for his lead performance. In 1982, Hector Bunyan's Prodigals in a Promised Land, originally staged at Montréal's Black Theatre Workshop, was produced in Toronto at Theatre Passe Muraille. Their productions include The Swamp Dwellers by Wole Soyinka (1975), Africa in the Caribbean by Jeff Henry (1976), Coldsnap by Linda Ghan (1983), The Blood Knot by Athol Fugard (1986), See Skengo by Errol Sitahel, and Sus by Barrie Keefe.


Caribbean Theatre Workshop

Winnipeg c. 1980s



Kwacha (meaning "Dawn of a New Day" in Zambian) was founded by Walter Borden in the early 1980s in Nova Scotia. Dissolved in the 1990s.


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Resources on African Canadian Theatre

The Canadian Encyclopedia
The "Black Canadian Theatre" entry provides an historical overview of African Canadian drama from the 19th century to the 1990s. There are also listings for many theatre companies and individuals, and the website itself seeks to compile information on theatre in Canada from 1770 to the 1990s.

Atlantic Canada Theatre
Comprehensive site, which includes databases of criticism and reviews, playbills, research, chronologies, bibliographies, etc. The site contains a lot of information about the 19th century as well. ACTS is funded in part by SSHRC grants and is academically refereed.

The Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia
Like the Canadian Encyclopedia, this is a searchable encyclopedia with many extensive listings.

Canadian Theatre Review

Special Issue: African Canadian Theatre Issue 118, Spring 2004.
Edited by Djanet Sears and Ric Knowles.

Special Issue: Black Theatre in Canada/African Canadian Theatre Issue 83, Summer 1995.
Edited by Angela Lee and Natalie Rewa.

African-Canadian Theatre

Volume two of the nine-volume series, Critical Perspectives on Canadian Theatre in English.
This text includes primarily academic criticism and commentary, but also includes Moynagh's own history of Black Canadian theatre, as well as further reading suggestions.

AfriCanadian Playwrights Festival

Conceived of by artistic director Djanet Sears and begun in 1997, the AfriCanadian Playwrights Festival "is a powerful gathering of Canadian and international theatre artists of African descent designed to celebrate, encourage, develop, promote and present African Canadian Playwrights and their plays." The festival includes readings, workshops, and full productions, as well as an academic forum for commentary on and history of African Canadian dramatists and theatre.


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Berger, Jeniva. "A Coat of Many Colours: The Multicultural Theatre Movement in Canada." Contemporary Canadian Theatre: New World Visions. Ed. Anton Wagner. Toronto: Simon & Pierre, 1985. 216-26. Print.

"Multicultural Theatre." Oxford Companion to Canadian Theatre. Ed. Eugene Benson and L.W. Conolly. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1989. 353-57. Print.

Canada on Stage: Canadian Theatre Review Yearbook. 1975-1977. Print.

Moynagh, Maureen. "African-Canadian Theatre: An Introduction." African Canadian Theatre. Ed. Maureen Anne Moynagh. Toronto: Playwrights Canada P, 2005. vii-xix. Print.

Professional Association of Canadian Theatres. Canada on Stage: 1982-1986. Toronto: PACT Communications Centre, 1989. Print.


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