BORN READY/PUSHA MAN by Joseph Jomo Pierre, directed by Philip Aikin, with David Collins, Pierre, Mike G.-yohannes and Cara Ricketts. Runs in rep to October 29. Rating: NNNNN
Speak to your brothers and sisters in their own voice, but don't preach to them. That's the creed of playwright Joseph Jomo Pierre, whose one-acts Born Ready and Pusha Man are among four works by black artists in Stage3.
The first, which looks at black-on-black violence, reflects what's been happening on Toronto streets and offers some thoughts about why.
The second picks up on some of the same issues but channels them in a more spiritual manner.
"My intention's always been to speak to the culture that influenced me artistically," says the York grad, an actor whose plays have been produced in the Fringe and elsewhere. "So often the mainstream has reflected but not respected certain elements of black culture.
"I've always been big on the social element in Public Enemy's work. I want to be true to my community's patterns of speech and energy and have people see themselves on stage, see where they're going.
"As long as your intention isn't to create art, but rather to tell the truth about something, your culture will seep into your show and have an influence on everyone, no matter what their background."
On the page, Pierre's works have an uncanny poetry, a smartness that comes from uncomfortable truths as well as carefully chosen words.
"There's a strong emotional push in my writing," he admits. "My characters have something bubbling underneath, something that's pushed forward. The result is a real tension in the writing. These characters are trying to deal with situations and break away from them, trying to take a breath along the way. Sometimes being part of life's pace means losing the pace."
In Born Ready, Pierre appears on stage as one of two young black men sliding toward a violent confrontation; mixed in with their tale is a woman who offers a different perspective on their lives and hers.
"My female voices are strong and liberated in a weird way, one that's not obviously apparent. I want women in the audience to recognize their own strength."
At one level, the other play, Pusha Man, brings in a touch of the supernatural. But Pierre says that at its core, the piece looks at "how we sedate ourselves, how many of us don't deal with life but instead hide from it."
Gaining a big rep
Theatre Passe Muraille's ambitious Stage 3 kicks off with nine shows in repertory
STAGE3 A repertory series of nine plays and late-night music. Presented by Theatre Passe Muraille and Obsidian at Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). Runs through November 27. $15-$30, Stage3 pass $80. 416-504-7529, www.passemuraille.on.ca