Boy in the Hood
CHILD HOOD by Bobby Del Rio, directed by Hume Baugh. August 4-7 and August 11-14 at 7:30 pm. Presented by INCLUDE Studios at offsite location (meet in Factory courtyard). Rating: NNNNN
Two months ago, Bobby Del Rio went into TheatreBooks looking for plays that included any hiphop. He was offered one work: Guillermo Verdecchia's Fronteras Americanas.
"That's pretty far from hiphop," the playwright and actor says, laughing. "I realized that no one had written about my experience - my life, how I grew up, the people I know. Where are our voices on the Canadian stage?"
He hopes to add one big shout-out to the theatre scene with Child Hood , set in his old stomping grounds of Keele and Eglinton, a tough, ethnically mixed area in west Toronto.
"When I was growing up it was pretty rough," he says. "Twelve-year-olds were talking about fucking each other, there was swearing, crotch-grabbing. It was graphic but true. I remember arriving back in the city for grade four after living for a while in London, Ontario. I heard more swear words in one day than I'd ever heard before."
Del Rio toys with time in the piece, which looks at various 20-somethings, played by a mix of theatre regulars and newcomers.
"It involves a neighbourhood of kids, with one protagonist, played by me," he says. "We all start out at about 11 years old and gradually age in a series of vignettes until we reach our early 20s. It's about who went to university, who didn't. If some kid acted a certain way at 11, would it affect them later? Basically, you get to learn about and understand this group of multicultural kids of all shapes and sizes."
Child Hood is being performed in a real schoolyard near Factory Theatre, which should add a gritty, chain-link-fence vérité vibe to the experience.
"Some scenes take place while people are playing basketball or having fights, and others with people just hanging out," says the author, who scored summer festival hits with When Children Fall and Christian Values. "We're using every inch of space."
Even the tech elements are integrated into the piece. They consist of two boom boxes, one of them carried around by an actor, which provide the work's soundtrack.
"We're spending a ton of money on batteries right now," laughs Del Rio.
SUMMERWORKS a theatre festival of 43 shows, readings and workshops at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst), Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson) and bring-your-own venues. August 4 to 14. $10, festival pass $50. Complete listings, page 83. 416-410-1048, www.summerworks.ca.
See fest reviews and updates at www.nowtoronto.com/summerworks