'Da Kink In My Hair by Trey Anthony, directed by Weyni Mengesha, with Anthony, Raven Dauda, Mengesha, Ngozi Paul, Satori Shakoor, Ordena Stephens, d'bi. young and others. Presented by David & Ed Mirvish at the Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King West). Begins Tuesday (January 11) and runs to February 27, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday, Saturday-Sunday 2 pm. $25-$65. 416-872-1212. Rating: NNNNN
How do you graduate from the Fringe Festival to one of the biggest theatres in the country?
Just ask Trey Anthony, author and star of 'Da Kink In My Hair, which begins performances Tuesday (January 11) at the Princess of Wales.
Yes, the li'l play about a group of diverse black women in a hair salon is getting restyled and moving to the same stage where the Beast won over Beauty, The Lion King roared and Hairspray tried to hold up.
"The pressure is beginning to set in," says Anthony, aware of the recent fate of other Mirvish-produced shows like Hairspray and The Producers.
What's keeping her calm is the knowledge that 'Da Kink appeals to a whole other audience. That was part of her pitch when she first tried to sell the show to the country's biggest commercial producers after it enjoyed a sold-out remount at Theatre Passe Muraille in June 2002.
"When David Mirvish asked why they should take the play, I told him they didn't have to take it," says Anthony. "But I also pointed out that half their subscription audience would be dead in 20 years and they had to start exciting younger people."
"'You don't mince words. '"
As part of the deal, Anthony also made sure that lower-priced $20 tickets will be available at every performance and that special matinees target inner-city high schools rather than the seniors set.
"The last thing I wanted was for the show to be inaccessible to the people it was written for," she explains. "I want my grandmother to see it, but I also want my brother and his hiphop friends to enjoy it."
For the remount, Anthony's added three more characters, including an older black woman - a voice many people felt was missing from earlier productions.
"Enid talks about her husband dying, and wanting to date again and getting her groove back, and what it was like to marry for security instead of love," says Anthony. "I think she captures that feeling I get from the older generation in my family. The idea of marrying a good man, what that means."
Anthony, a former stand-up comic, says she's also added more jokes and hustle and bustle in the salon so that it feels less heavy.
"I'm in a different place today," says Anthony, who began writing the monologues that eventually became 'Da Kink after the collapse of an eight-year heterosexual relationship that included wedding plans. When Anthony called off the marriage and came out as a lesbian, the news alienated some friends and family.
"I originally wrote it from a dark place. I was sad and angry. Now I'm rooted, more comfortable with myself and less afraid. In retrospect, it was a good thing. I'm even able to laugh about it with my former fiancé. He got married and I went to his wedding. He said that maybe it all happened so I could write 'Da Kink."
Anthony's at work on another play, tentatively called Little Black Girl, that deals with a mother and two daughters, one of whom is estranged from the family.
And there are also the Kink spinoffs, including a TV film, a possible TV series and a portable Vagina Monologues-style piece to travel to the U.S.
Not bad for a girl from Rexdale who had barely heard of the Fringe Festival before her show got accepted there.
"I still think there's not enough diversity out there," she says. "I don't want black to be the flavour of the month. I'm happy that 'Da Kink has opened doors. Now let's keep those doors open."