Read these books by Black playwrights
As you honour Black History Month, make sure to add some plays by Black Canadian playwrights to your reading list, and not just for the month of February! Here are some suggestions:
The Adventures of A Black Girl in Search of God by Djanet Sears
A deeply moving story set in a two-hundred-year-old Black community in Western Ontario in which a doctor must come to terms with the loss of her daughter, the disintegration of her marriage, and an eccentric elderly father.
Toronto the Good by Andrew Moodie
When top Crown attorney Thomas Matthews, a victim of racial profiling, is assigned to prosecute a case against a Left-leaning white attorney, tensions mount and personal politics bubble to the surface.
Up the Garden Path & The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God by Lisa Codrington
These two plays feature young Black women who suddenly find themselves navigating unfamiliar territory on their own. In Up the Garden Path, Rosa, a young Barbadian seamstress, offers to pose as her brother to go to the Niagara Region in Ontario to work. In The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God a Black girl who was abandoned by a white missionary for asking too many questions sets off to find out who or what God really is.
Angélique by Lorena Gale
Based on the true story of Marie Joseph Angélique, an enslaved Black woman who was accused of setting fire to Montréal in the 1700s, Angélique is a vivid portrait of a time when captive people had no say in the outcome of their lives.
Sound of the Beast by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard
Through spoken word, storytelling, and hip hop, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard addresses racial discrimination, the suppression of expression, and the trials of activism. Her experience as a Canadian emcee is woven through with allusion to Tunisian emcee Wel El 15’s unjust imprisonment for rhymes against a regime.
who knew grannie: a dub aria by ahdri zhina mandiela
In this lyrical masterpiece, four cousins reunite in Jamaica to mourn the passing of their grandmother and to celebrate the times they shared together. As the cousins reminisce, they uncover their troubles and begin to fulfill grannie’s last task: to bring them back in tune with themselves.
Black Boys by Saga Collectif (Virgilia Griffith, Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, Tawiah M’Carthy, Thomas Antony Olajide, and Jonathan Seinen)
Black Boys uncovers the complex dynamics of the queer Black male experience. Text, movement, and design portray the rhythm and vulnerability of three very different Black men who seek a deeper understanding of themselves, each other, and of how they encounter the world.
Our Fathers, Sons, Lovers and Little Brothers by Makambe K Simamba
Slimm, a seventeen-year-old Black boy in a hoodie suddenly finds himself in the first moments of his afterlife. Our Fathers, Sons, Lovers and Little Brothers is a protest for all Black life beyond headlines and hashtags, a prayer for all families left behind, and a promise to the community that all Black lives matter.
Shakespeare’s Nigga by Joseph Jomo Pierre
Shakespeare holds the fate of several Black slaves in his hands. Among them are the rebellious Aaron and the obedient Othello, who each have complicated relationships with Shakespeare’s daughter, Judith. But a vital secret remains hidden that could untangle complex familial ties and change the course of their history.
Other Side of the Game by Amanda Parris
Told between two timelines separated by decades, Other Side of the Game turns the spotlight on the Black women who organize communities, support their incarcerated loved ones, and battle institutions, living each day by a ride-or-die philosophy, strengthening their voices and demanding to be heard.
Cast Iron by Lisa Codrington
When a woman in a Winnipeg nursing home receives an unexpected visitor from Barbados past repression resurfaces until the tragedy that shaped her life spills out.
The Bridge by Shauntay Grant
Set in a rural Black Nova Scotian community, The Bridge explores the complicated relationship between two brothers strained over twenty years of secrecy, deception, and dishonour. Secrets are revealed one by one by the brothers themselves, as well as a trio of community gossips who provide the musical backdrop for this gospel-infused tale.
Gas Girls by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard
Gigi and Lola live in Zimbabwe amidst a severely depressed economy, living day-by-day, plying their trade with the truck drivers that stop at the border. Through story, song, and play, the women inspire each other to find joy on the edges of survival.
Beatdown by Joseph Jomo Pierre
Beatdown includes three plays by Joseph Jomo Pierre: Born Ready a.k.a. Black on Both Sides, where two men who could’ve been brothers meet over a gun; BeatDown a.k.a. Life, where street life and fatherhood collide; and Pusha-Man a.k.a. The Seed, where placebos meet the everyday life.
Afrika, Solo edited by Ric Knowles, plays by Djanet Sears, George Seremba, and Lorena Gale
Afrika, Solo includes the titled play by Djanet Sears, about tracing roots back hundreds of years to Africa; Come Good Rain by George Seremba, which revisits a dark night in Uganda fifty years ago; and Je me souviens by Lorena Gale, about her crisis in belonging as a third-generation Canadian.
Give Voice edited by Rita Shelton Deverell, plays from the Obsidian Theatre Company Playwright’s Unit
Give Voice is an anthology of ten twenty-minute plays created between 2006 and 2009 with the guidance of former Obsidian Theatre Company artistic director Philip Akin. The book is divided into three sections about families, relationships, and social issues.
How Black Mothers Say I Love You by Trey Anthony
In How Black Mothers Say I Love You, Claudette still can’t forgive her mother Daphne for leaving her and her sister with their grandmother in Jamaica while Daphne moved to the U.S. to start a new chapter for their family. When Claudette, now in her late thirties, travels to visit her dying mother, the anger and abandonment issues are brought to the surface.
The Real McCoy by Andrew Moodie
The Real McCoy is the story of Elijah McCoy, the son of runaway American slaves, who despite not being allowed to practice mechanical engineering, devised a solution to one of the greatest problems facing steam locomotion, though his race had to be concealed.
The Flood, and other misadventures of the prisoners of the St. Lawrence Market by Leah Simone Bowen
Inspired by true accounts and the history of Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market, The Flood gives voice to the little-known stories of early female prisoners in Canada. Set in 1887, as melting ice water pours into the prison from Lake Ontario, the forgotten women of Toronto must come together to survive.
Find more books by Black Canadian playwrights here!