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Obsidian Theatre Announces Inaugural Cohort For Ambitious New Development Program YOUNG, GIFTED & BLACK

Created to develop non-performance focused Black theatre artists, YG&B has recently gotten underway and will continue through to Sept '23.

Obsidian Theatre Announces Inaugural Cohort For Ambitious New Development Program YOUNG, GIFTED & BLACK


Following the announcement earlier this year that Obsidian Theatre was launching a vital new training and mentorship program supporting Black theatre creators -YOUNG, GIFTED & BLACK (YGB)- the company is thrilled to unveil the inaugural cohort for the program, which has recently gotten underway and will continue through to September 2023.

After conducting a nationwide call for applications, the team of adjudicators -Obsidian Theatre's Artistic Director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu, General Manager Michael Sinclair, Producer Vanessa Spence, Metcalf Intern Artistic Director daniel jelani ellis, and YGB Program Director Jay Northcott- have selected K.P. Dennis (directing), Asheda Dwyer (producing and dramaturgy), Christopher-Elizabeth (production management, sound, and lighting design), Janeena Morris (stage management, set, and costume design), and Lennette Randall (producing and directing) for the program's first year. In selecting from the pool of applicants, considerations were made in regards to diversity in artistic practice and assembling the best team to work together as an ensemble.

"We are so excited to welcome our first Young Gifted & Black cohort," says Obsidian Theatre Artistic Director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu. "We had such an overwhelming response to the national call and making the selection to choose these final five was really difficult. There is clearly a great need for this program and we are looking forward to this first year of getting to know these incredible emerging artists and to support their artistic growth. Canadian theatres are searching for Black talent not just on stage but behind the scenes, and we are truly hopeful that this program will help fill this gap. We are excited to have incredible multidisciplinary artist Jay Northcott as the Program Director and we know that the program and the participants will flourish under their care. We can't wait for you to meet these remarkable artists and get to know their work!"

Some of Canada's most illustrious Black theatre professionals lead the masterclasses in the program's inaugural year: Weyni Mengesha, Artistic Director Soulpepper Theatre, and Mike Payette, Artistic Director Tarragon Theatre, lead Masterclasses in Directing; Luke Reece, Associate Artistic Director Soulpepper Theatre and Former Producer at Obsidian Theatre, a Masterclass in Producing; Rachel Forbes, Freelance Set & Costume Designer, Graduate of Obsidian's former Mentor-Apprentice Program will lead a Masterclass in Set & Costume Design; Lisa Codrington, Playwright, Actor, and Facilitator of Obsidian's Playwright's Unit, and Mel Hague, Artistic Director Factory Theatre, a Masterclass in Dramaturgy; LaMeia Reddick, Executive Director 2b Theatre, a Masterclass in Arts Administration and Leadership; Daniel Bennett, freelance Technical Director and former Technical Director, Grand Theatre London, a Masterclass in Technical Direction & Production Management; Shawn Henry, a Masterclass in Lighting Design; and freelance stage manager Kennedy Greene and Obsidian General Manager Michael Sinclair, lead a Masterclass in Stage Management.

Named after the titular play by Lorraine Hansberry and song by Nina Simone, YOUNG, GIFTED & BLACK invites five emerging Black theatre artists (in non-performance disciplines) per year to participate in masterclasses, mentorships, and industry conversations with leading Black theatre practitioners. The program runs annually and places participants in paid professional apprenticeships that culminate in an ensemble showcase presentation in Toronto, Ontario.

An ambitious revitalization of Obsidian's former mentorship program which ran successfully for 15 years and nurtured the careers of an extensive list of today's Black theatre leaders -including Obsidian Artistic Director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu- the new program expands upon the company's legacy of supporting the next generation of Black theatre creators in an environment that uniquely honours their cultural experiences. Through this program,
participants will interrogate the Black aesthetic and develop the Black voice to foster Black
excellence.

Young Gifted and Black is generously supported by:

Obsidian Theatre's Season Sponsor: TD Bank Group
Program Sponsors: Catapult/Rideau Hall Foundation, Scotiabank, Toronto Arts Council Strategic Fund


About the 22/23 YOUNG, GIFTED, & BLACK cohort:

K.P Dennis



"It feels incredible to be accepted into the first {Young, Gifted & Black} cohort! I am so excited to learn, grow, and expand my practice with other Black people! I am excited to learn across the mediums, and come out a more well-rounded, confident, and experienced director and creator."

I am K.P Dennis, a queer, non-binary, Jamaican and Sierra Leonean, director, dramaturg, and multi-disciplinary artist, based on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. I was the 2016 Youth Poet Laureate of Victoria, and the 2017 recipient of the VACCS Community Recognition Award. My practice is rooted in the principles of Truth, Honesty, and Care, and uses afro-surrealism, magic, and fantasy to explore what we must do, and who we must become to liberate our futures.

Asheda Dwyer

"I am looking forward to raising my voice as part of the profound legacy of this institution. It is a deep honour to join this cohort and grow my artistic practice in this distinct program."

Asheda Dwyer is an artist-scholar. Her interest in curatorial strategies is specific to dramaturgy and producing for both traditional and contemporary forms of presentation. She is the youngest co-founding member of Toronto's first Black Arts center, where she began her career in arts administration. During a fellowship at the Center for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC), she designed and co-chaired Project Groundings: a two-year exchange between youths in Canada and Jamaica funded by SSHRC, exploring belonging and transnational violence through art.

Forming part of the inaugural cohort of the Performance Criticism Training Program (PCTP), she has been named an emerging voice in theatre criticism at Toronto Fringe. Select writing from her portfolio is included: in the "Studies in Praxis I - Theatre Criticism" syllabus at Brock University. She has led strategic community outreach and engagement strategies for one of the latest editions of Progress: An International Festival of Performance and Ideas, supporting audience development for "Salt" by Selina Thompson (UK), "Documents" by Autumn Knight (USA), and "Poor People's TV Room SOLO" by MacArthur fellow, Okwui Okpokwasili (USA). Her work "Oversight" won the 2018 Ontario Book Publisher's Prize for poetry, and "Personal Dispatch from Slavery in Chile" was shortlisted with an honourable mention for the 2020 Tele Latino Prize.

Two of her latest compositions, "Lightrail" and "Pelham Park Gardens," are featured in the "Islands of Influence" issue of Arc Poetry Magazine and "Holy Metal" in the "Ancestors" issue of ROOM Magazine. Other writings from her are in Alt. Theater Magazine, Caribbean Quarterly, Ethnic Aisle, Shameless Magazine, NOW Magazine, and others. She is co-founder of the micro archive library, La Biblioteca de la Liberacion Negra, located in northern Chile, where she collaborates to sustain the global resonance of black memory through local histories. She is inspired by the orbiting, featherweight of blackness.


Christopher-Elizabeth

"I'm profoundly grateful. I can feel happiness like a little flame in my chest... I'm excited to meet the rest of the cohort, and to see how we've all changed a year from now. I'm super jazzed to see what we come up with for our showcase, from the process to the final product. I know we're going to make something special."

Hello! My name is Chris-Liz and I'm a multi-disciplinary storyteller with a focus in music, sound, poetry and theatre. I have a deep interest in our inner world: the thoughts we're afraid to think, the sounds we only hear when it's too quiet, and our relationship to control. I'm beyond jazzed to be a part of the very first YGB Cohort!!

Recent credits include: Blackberries(Sound Designer) with Red Betty Theatre, House Key Project (Sound Designer/Engineer) with Porchlight Theatre, Three Ordinary Men (Sound Designer/Composer) with Cahoots Theatre, Morning After (Sound Designer) with Indomitus Theatre. Insert Clown Here (Sound/Lighting Designer with Precipice Productions ), Balance (Producer) at Toronto Fringe Festival, The Reaper & The Whale (Playwright, Co-director at Davis Shakespeare Festival.)


Janeena Morris

"Getting accepted into this program was actually kind of a shock. I didn't think I had enough experience for it but I'm glad I was accepted. I'm absolutely grateful for this opportunity and I'm so excited to be able to network with other people in the industry. I'm very excited to be able to learn more about costume design and to explore why I fell in love with it!"

Bio
While studying drama at the University of Windsor, I became enamoured with costume design and production. After graduating in 2015, I took a three year break to work as a teacher's assistant at a daycare. While working there, I volunteered with my local community theatre to make costumes for their production of The Little Mermaid. I also acted in and helped with costumes on their production of Hairspray. After some thought, I decided to get back into costuming and sewing and went to Seneca College for fashion, and then to Fanshawe College for costume production. I am thrilled to be a part of the Young, Gifted, and Black Program and can't wait to see what the future will hold for me!


Lennette Randall



"I am grateful for the opportunity to be fortified and equipped with skills needed to build the non performance side of our sector. I am thrilled to have so many great minds contribute to shaping and fortifying my foundation. I look forward to be shaped and sharpened. My form and structure is in place, but the details and specific texturing is what my work within the YGB program will be about."

Bio
I am a cosmopolitan, nurtured and influenced by 3 different continents.

My love for story began as a toddler in my great grandmother's house in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Every activity was wrapped up in action, story, poetry, music and dance.

Initially drawn to medicine, then politics and social sciences, I finally yielded and moved from London, UK to attend Rosebud School of the Arts in the prairies of Alberta for only one semester. One semester turned into 4 years of artistic mentorship and embraced by the nurturing arts community of Calgary, Alberta, I fully surrendered to the call and made Canada my artistic home.

This led me onto multiple stages across Canada, training and mentorship in the US and the UK.

Primarily an actress, my focus is now on directing, creating/writing, production and arts leadership as I embrace the responsibility to build solid artistic structures for the next generation to step on to.

I hold a BA Honours in Applied Communication from the University of Newcastle and an MA Distinction in Classical Acting for the Professional Theatre from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

I am currently undertaking the role of Artistic Director Intern at the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario as well as a Master of Studies(MST) in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge.

I am a recipient of the Stephen Hair Emerging Actor Award ('14) and The Fight Directors of Canada (FDC) Jacie Levinson Memorial Award ('17).

Obsidian is Canada's leading culturally specific theatre company. Our threefold mission is to produce plays, to develop playwrights and to train emerging theatre professionals. Obsidian is passionately dedicated to the exploration, development, and production of the Black voice. Obsidian produces plays from a world-wide canon focusing primarily, but not exclusively, on the works of highly acclaimed Black playwrights. Obsidian provides artistic support, promoting the development of work by Black theatre makers and offering training opportunities through mentoring and apprenticeship programs for emerging Black artists.

Obsidian Theatre Company was born out of a passionate sense of artistic responsibility - a responsibility to bring the Black voice, in its many artistic dialects, to Canada's cultural forefront. Obsidian encourages Black artists to expand their vision of what they perceive, create and present to a national audience. Obsidian continues to play a prominent role in Canada's theatrical mosaic by showcasing the work of both emerging and established Black artists.

Since its inception, our development programs have led many artists to expand their professional development and create new Canadian works. Through our training programs, we produce plays, develop playwrights and train emerging theatre professionals.

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