The longest running Black theatre company in Canada, BTW has reached a significant milestone: its 50th Anniversary season. The coronavirus pandemic forced BTW to abandon its original programming, moving most of its planned productions to 2021-22. Despite this, BTW has called on all of its half century experience to produce a 50th season like no other in its history, with a focus on virtual events and the creation of new work for future presentation.
The first event of the 50th season will be the annual Discovery Series — a play reading of a new work in development. The selected play this year is Sanctuary by BTW's newly appointed Artistic Associate Lydie Dubuisson. A bilingual emerging playwright and director, Dubuisson is an alumnus of the BTW Artist Mentorship Program with a promising career in both English and French theatre. As part of the BTW team, she will be working closely with Artistic Director Quincy Armorer on the company's future programming, as well as on its play development initiatives and other artistic projects.
Sanctuary is a feminist conversation between a teenage girl and her sister, her Godmother, her best friend, her pastor and God, as she takes refuge in the sanctuary of her church while searching for answers about her destiny.
Due to the pandemic, the Discovery Series this year will be a virtual event, streamed live on the BTW Facebook page on January 15 at 7 pm.
Vision Celebration Gala
The 50th anniversary of Black Theatre Workshop also marks the 35th anniversary of the Vision Celebration Gala. The annual event pays tribute to Black Canadians who have made significant contributions to the performing arts. This year, the prestigious Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award will be presented to Haitian dancer, choreographer, teacher and artistic director Eddy Toussaint.
The Dr. Clarence Bayne Community Service Award and two youth awards will also be presented at the gala, which this year will be transformed into an online virtual event streamed live on the BTW Facebook page. Vision Celebration Gala will be held on Saturday, January 30, at 7 pm and will feature performances from some of Montreal's most talented artists, including a special performance from legendary award-winning vocalist, Ranee Lee.
Also in the new year, BTW will present an online Poetry Jam. This event will bring together some of Montreal's most talented spoken wordsmiths in a showcase where each artist will perform work based on a chosen theme. Following the presentation, the poets will participate in a virtual live discussion and Q&A with the audience. Look out for more information on the BTW website.
While primarily known as an anglophone theatre company, BTW is committed to expanding its programming to offer productions and performances in French. On the heels of past collaborations with Espace Libre (Black Boys) and Théâtre D'Aujourd'hui (Angélique), BTW is now partnering with Théâtre La Licorne on a workshop presentation of the English/French translation of Pipeline by Dominique Morisseau, translated by Mishka Lavigne, to be presented in the spring of 2021.
Pipeline tells the urgent story of a mother's struggle to protect her teenage son, keeping him from falling into the "school-to-prison pipeline" that funnels underprivileged youth from public school directly into the criminal justice system. The play is a reflection of not only the deep racial issues that exist in the United States but also on our own systemic racial imbalances here in Canada. This BTW/La Licorne collaboration will also extend into the 2021-22 season, when a bilingual cast will perform in concurrent presentations of both the English and French version of the play.
The Artist Mentorship Program
The Artist Mentorship Program (AMP) is now in its eighth successful year, and this season the program welcomes a talented ensemble of 11 emerging IBPOC theatre artists, strengthening their skills and preparing them for professional careers in the performing arts. With the continued support of the Department of Canadian Heritage, as well as a new AMP Season Sponsorship from the DAN School of Drama & Music at Queen’s University, the AMP program continues to be an invaluable resource for emerging theatre artists.
The Artist Mentorship Program Industry Showcase will be presented April 22–25 as a live stream event on the BTW Facebook page, connecting the talented ensemble with directors, artistic directors, casting agents and other potential engagers not just in Montreal but across the country.
New for season 50
BTW will also welcome two Resident Designers for the 50th season. Set and Costume Designer Nalo Soyini Bruce and Lighting Designer Tim Rodrigues have worked with BTW on multiple projects and were assigned to the company's anniversary mainstage productions, which have now been postponed. As Resident Designers they will collaborate in the development of upcoming BTW projects and be responsible for the designs of productions that will take place during the 2021-22 season.
With the interruption of live performance due to the pandemic, BTW continues to put increased focus on the creation of new work. BTW has partnered with BradyWorks on the creation of the new chamber opera Backstage at Carnegie Hall by Composer Tim Brady and Librettist Audrey Dwyer. Supported by the National Arts Centre's Creation Fund, Backstage at Carnegie Hall is inspired by the life of guitarist Charlie Christian and will be developed over the next two years with a World premiere scheduled for the fall of 2022.
Other projects currently in development include the commissioning of new plays from playwrights Donna-Michelle St. Bernard and Kym Dominique-Ferguson, as well as the French translation of Simone Half and Half by Christine Rodriguez.
— Black Theatre Workshop