Re-imagining power relations in Canadian theatre

Equity, diversity, inclusion.

We’re hearing these words more and more, as Canadian universities and other institutions strive to address historic, systemic biases and structural inequities. For the award-winning theatre director Ravi Jain, however, the language of “EDI” is already shopworn.

“I’m not interested in using those words anymore,” said Jain, Artistic Director of the Toronto-based company Why Not Theatre. “You either do it or you don’t, and how you do it demonstrates to me how invested you actually are in the conversation.”

For Jain, concepts such as innovation and leadership are much more interesting. He’ll be covering these topics in a keynote address, “Alternative Visions of Existence,” that he’s delivering as part of a series of events taking place from Nov. 9 to 10, co-sponsored by Brock’s Walker Cultural Leaders Series and the St. Catharines-based theatre company Suitcase in Point.

The events also include a staged reading of Pipeline, a 2017 play by Dominique Morisseau, the title of which refers to the widespread perception of a school-to-prison pipeline for young African American men. It’s the story of a black teacher’s struggle to protect her son, Omari, after he assaults his high school teacher for aggressively singling him out to answer why a book character behaved like an “animal” and murdered a woman.

Toronto-based actor, director and producer Lisa Karen Cox is directing a cast largely made up of seasoned and emerging professional actors, with Brock students also participating onstage and behind the scenes. Of the six-person cast, five are people of colour. Jain’s keynote runs from 3 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9, with the Pipeline reading from 4 to 5:15 p.m., followed by a Q&A session.

The events, being presented under the title “Pipeline to a Better Way,” are spearheaded by Department of Dramatic Arts (DART) Assistant Professor Danielle Wilson and Suitcase in Point’s Outreach Coordinator Marcel Stewart, a 2007 DART graduate.

“The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts is a place of both learning and artistic creation,” said Wilson. “I felt the play was a perfect fit as part of the Walker Cultural Leaders Series.”

Suitcase in Point’s “Pipeline to a Better Way” programming on Nov. 9 includes a forum and panel discussion around questions of power, privilege, race and theatre in Niagara.

The Brock-based events on Sunday, Nov. 10 are free of charge, but tickets are required and can be found online. Information about the Suitcase in Point events on Saturday, Nov. 9 can be found at suitcaseinpoint.com

This article was written by Karen Fricker, Associate Professor in the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.


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