Lately in the media, it seems as if black males are being put on center stage more and more—whether it’s the ‘man getting arrested for drug trafficking or robbery’, or a mugshot-style picture of a black male who was murdered recently. However, Shaka Licorish and Darren Anthony have shed some light on the inner struggles of what it’s like to be a black male, especially in today’s society.
Through their creative platform, PLAYINGwithCRAYONS, the duo produced a play which puts the black male in the spotlight—the 90-minute dramedy Secrets of a Black Boy. Running from November 10th-20th at Theatre Passe Muraille, the show told the tale of five males who reconvene in an old community building for one last game of dominoes, before it all gets torn down for new development.
The play features some of the artwork of Olu Seye, who was recently part of an exhibit over at Blank Canvas (Omit Limitation’s creative space). The content matter of the play included a number of topics relevant to the black male experience (such as ancestry, relationship/family, and dealings with the police) which were touched on throughout the play.
The first half warmed up the crowd, and broke down any barriers between the stage and the audience with very little direct engagement. During a segment of where the five males on stage were going over the “wifey checklist”—10 ‘Important’ Steps on How to Keep a Black Man Loyal—one female audience member broke the silence with a very hearty ‘yes!‘ and had the entire room roaring with laughter from that point on, until the intermission. On top of that, there were Toronto-specific references, such as a TTC’s Ride The Rocket, as well as OSAP, which gave the audience a deeper sense of home with the overall setting.
The latter half took a far more serious turn, and focused on each individual male’s tale; each came with its share of issues, such as domestic abuse and loss of loved ones. There were even points where the DJ for the performance, DJ O-Nonymous, would join the cast on stage and impart some words of wisdom or share a laugh.
Throughout the play, each actor demonstrated their strengths; for the lighter-hearted and funnier moments, Julien Hyacinthe, as Sean, would shine in the spotlight with his million-dollar smile and quirky antics. In contrast, during one of the play’s darker moments, Mark Sparks’ character Jerome poured his heart out and captivated the crowd. A special shout-out goes to Samson Brown and his character, Biscuit—the ‘baby’ of the bunch—for being able to pull off both ends of the spectrum seamlessly.
There was also a surprise town hall after the November 15th show, which was meant for open discussion on some of the issues and topics covered during the play, and to give audience members a safe, open and comfortable space to go over anything pertaining to the show.
The play itself was very multi-faceted, portraying different acting styles and arousing different emotions throughout the course of the play, which consistently kept things fresh. With a non-linear plot, it’s always a challenge ensure all segments flow seamlessly; there were times where such transitions felt like they had just missed the mark. Yet by the end of the play, each male had gotten to share a bit of their stories, tie everything together, and end off by simultaneously chanting “WE ARE HERE; a strong and friendly reminder to the audience of our presence. An extended (and well-deserved) standing ovation followed.
Check out some extra shots from the show below! All pictures courtesy of Brianna Roye.