Student stage work to raise questions of race in Canadian theatre

Theatre should be a vehicle for education, say two drama students who will premiere their original work, For Those Who Stand Upon Our Shoulders, this weekend.

Fourth-year acting majors Aisha Bentham and Alexis Gordon drew upon their own experiences as the only two black women in their program to craft what they hope will be a jumping-off point for thought and discussion on the subject of race in Canadian theatre.

“We don’t have all the answers,” says Bentham. “We just want to raise some questions.”

The two have written, directed and will perform the piece, which combines elements of dialogue, music and dance. It has been in development over the course of about a year.

“We knew we wanted to do a project but we weren’t sure what,” Gordon says. “We discovered through the process this is not going to be a traditional play.”

She says presenting even stylized reflections of their own experiences is very intimidating: “The material is so personal – we are right out there.”

The performance itself is about 30 minutes; an opportunity for discussion will follow. For Those Who Stand Upon Our Shoulders premieres on Saturday, January 28, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, January 29, at 2 p.m. in the Studio Theatre, Jackman Dramatic Art Centre. Admission is $5 at the door.

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