Student-run New Work Play Festival sets stage for diverse, modern theatre

The Journal talks upcoming play festival with Black Swan Production Company

The New Work Play Festival premieres March 6th.
Credit: 
Supplied by Black Swan Production Company

Editor’s Note: One member of The Journal’s Editorial Board is a co-founder of the Black Swan Production Company.

Alysha Mohamed, ArtSci ’22, and Hope Van Der Merwe founded Black Swan Production Company (BSPC) in July amid BLM protests over the murder of George Floyd.

Beginning March 6, BSPC will debut with the New Work Play Festival, a showcase of new one-act plays on Zoom.

Mohamed, a third-year Queen’s student, and Van Der Merwe, a second-year York student, became friends in high school. They founded BSPC together as a means of turning their love of theatre into a catalyst for social change.

“We thought, ‘How can we contribute to this movement? How can we help? How can we amplify these voices?’” Van Der Merwe said in an interview with The Journal.

Their goal is to showcase a diverse group of artists and stories and create an inclusive space for spectators from marginalized groups to see themselves represented in a way they haven’t before.

“This was a very personal endeavor for us in that we wanted to reexamine the way theatre is now, whose stories get to be told, and why theatre […] privileges and prioritizes certain stories over others, and inevitably just excludes people from the conversation,” Van Der Merwe said.

BSPC aims to bring attention to marginalized groups that have been ignored in theatre and other art forms, including BIPOC, LGBTQ2A+, female, non-binary, and disabled voices.

“We care about underrepresented voices. We care about minorities. We see ourselves and we want to fight for [each other] when we see injustice,” Mohamed said. “We want to contribute and make sure that equity, diversity, and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords that people are using to cover their tracks.”

The New Work Play Festival will feature plays written by emerging playwrights across Canada and the United States: Love and Other Drag by Rachel Arnold, Bug by Araceli Ferrara, A Little Big Thing by Arvind Venkat, and Fried Rice by Aaron Refugio.

The audience will witness original stories unlike what they may have seen from most other theatre companies. Since the casts and crews of BSPC are diverse, each play tells an authentic story about marginalized groups from their own perspectives.

“People can expect really fresh, unique, young voices,” Mohamed said. “They can anticipate stories that are fresh and new and exciting, and that are authentic and representative.”

“Theatre is one of the best spaces to tell these stories. I feel like the theatre landscape, though it is exclusive, it is more inclusive than other spaces. And if we want to bridge art and activism, I think the theatre world is a really great place to start,” Mohamed said.

Each play is between 10-30 minutes in length and will be shown on March 6, 7, 12, and 13 at 7:30 p.m. EST and 5:30 p.m. MST.

Tickets for the shows are pay-what-you-can with 100 per cent of the proceeds going to BLM Canada.

Mohamed and Van Der Merwe are excited for audiences to experience the hard work of the actors, directors, playwrights, and dramaturgs. They look forward to seeing the final product that many talented people have collaborated on.

“We wanted to mobilize people to donate if possible. Activism comes in so many different forms, but the financial demands for this social justice movement are present, and we wanted to contribute to that in any way we can,” Mohamed said.

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