CROSSCURRENTS FESTIVAL A national festival for playwrights of colour (Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst). From Friday (May 2) to May 11 at 8 pm, except May 3 at 7 pm, May 10 at 2 pm. All tickets pwyc. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNNNN
Good thing director Nina Lee Aquino has an understanding family.
It helps that her husband, Richard, is in theatre, and even her 15-month-old daughter seems to love being at rehearsals.Since January she’s been involved in helping to create one collective piece after another, with Humber students, Carlos Bulosan Theatre and Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People.
So what does she do for a break? She produces Factory Theatre’s CrossCurrents Festival, the seventh such fest devoted to developing works by playwrights of colour.
“Establishing the idea of diversity in theatre is an ongoing battle,” Aquino says during a few quiet minutes in the Factory lobby. “It’s important for me to be a voice for what I call the brown community, and it’s gratifying to see that things are starting to change, if slowly.“The point I always emphasize is opportunity. CrossCurrents is one of the few places in Canada where artists of colour can show their talent. I see my work as being about nurturing and allowing the artist to grow from the ground up.”With the hope of creating a more vibrant Toronto theatre landscape, Aquino positions herself in the middle, between developing artists and the established theatre community. She’s thrilled if an artistic director sees the potential in a CrossCurrents script or an actor of colour and wants to work with either the playwright or performer.
This year’s festival offers five plays by writers from across the country, and Aquino’s delighted that they’re all prominent writers with track records
. Andrew Moodie’s Toronto The Good looks at guns and black youth, while Marjorie Chan focuses on four students caught up in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations.
Anita Majumdar’s The Misfit (previously seen in Hatch) deals with Indian wedding dancers and marriage, and Simon Johnston’s Sisters offers a take on a Chekhov classic. Rahul Varma’s Truth And Treason, about a Canadian mother’s reaction when her daughter is shot in Iraq by U.S. soldiers, rounds out the scripts.
“They’re provocative works and all demonstrate that the personal is political,” offers Aquino, one of two emerging directors awarded the John Hirsch Prize for her directing vision
. “Each deals with the breaking of boundaries or the invasion of territory.
“The images I conjure up are checkpoints, police tape, barbed wire – some kind of line that people aren’t supposed to cross but do anyway. The scripts go further, too, examining the repercussions of stepping across the line.”
CrossCurrents features ancillary events as well, including works by the Obsidian Theatre’s playwrights unit in the Mussgorsky Project and Carlos Bulosan Theatre’s Flipside Keeps Current.
A collaboration between Cahoots Theatre Projects and Crossing Gibraltar Giving Back, this is our crossing looks at the concerns of refugee and newcomer youth, while in Recurrents: The Director’s Cut, emerging directors present scenes from previous CrossCurrent shows.
After all this developmental work, does Aquino ever feel like taking on the classics? She shakes her head.
“At this point in my life, I don’t want to direct Shaw or Shakespeare but to concentrate on play development – seeing a playwright’s vision and taking that through to the stage
“The Hirsch Award mentioned that my work is playwright-centred, and that for me is the best compliment in the universe.”