BLOOD (CLAAT) written and performed by D'bi.Young, directed by Weyni Mengesha. Presented by Wanza Oomaan at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. August 5 and 13 at 5 pm, August 6 at 11 pm, August 7 at 6:30 pm, August 8 at 3:30 pm, August 12 at 8 pm, August 14 at 9:30 pm. Rating: NNNNN
The richness of blood goes beyond its crimson colour for writer/performer D'bi. Young and director Weyni Mengesha. Their latest collaboration, blood (claat), began as the story of a Jamaican immigrant to Canada - young is from Jamaica - whose internal journey was as trying as her geographic one.
"In the script, the woman travels from self-hate to love, a movement paralleled first by the rejection and later the celebration of her blood cycle," explains mengesha on the phone from Vancouver.
The script, young's first solo show and still in a workshop form, was first staged at the New York Hip Hop Theatre Festival. It's gone on a long trip since that version.
"We realized that what stood out in the show were the curse words that relate to blood and the vagina," recalls the director. Blood claat, the Jamaican phrase for the cloth used during the blood cycle, is a curse word in that country.
"We want to carve out a theme around the idea of menstrual blood, so that people realize that what's cursed is actually sacred."
In a marathon four-day workshop, the pair cut the Canadian section and added 10 new scenes. Young plays half a dozen characters in a show that involves movement, music, text and a bit of dub poetry.
"Now the show looks at the central character's cycle as it relates to both blood and violence. We hear about family blood lines, the blood that travelled from Africa to Jamaica, and also Queen Nana, a maroon resistance fighter who protected the African blood line in the 17th century."
Mengesha and young have collaborated on six productions in three years, among them yagayah, 3 parts harmony, stuck and their first show together, Trey Anthony's da kink in my hair.
"I remember when we first met, d'bi shot me a cynical look that said, 'What you gonna do, girl?'" giggles the director. "But we had a magical interaction when we began working and immediately started to trust each other."
This latest collaboration is a production of their new company, wanza oomaan, whose title combines the name of an Ethiopian tree - mengesha is Ethiopian - and the Jamaican word for "woman."
"The fruit-bearing tree is traditionally a gathering place for children to hear stories," explains mengesha. "We're a storytelling company with roots in African/Canadian ritual and experience. We're trying to cultivate new theatrical rituals."