Written by Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu
Over a decade ago, I applied for the Mentor/Apprentice Training program at Obsidian Theatre to train as a Director and I got it! That opportunity changed my life by introducing me to the Toronto professional theatre scene. Over the course of my career, Obsidian continued to be an important home for my artistic growth and development. It is a huge honor to now be serving as the company’s Artistic Director and to be a part of the incredible legacy of shepherding this company that has always been un-relentless in its support of Black artists and Black voices. “ Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu
Mumbi joined Obsidian in troubling times, in the middle of a pandemic and in the wake of civil unrest in North America that spread across the globe. The pandemic forced Obsidian to cancel the season that Mumbi had inherited and as like the rest of our theatre community she had to pivot and be inventive over her first few months at the helm.
With all the hurdles in her early days with the company, Mumbi embarked on one of the most ambitious projects the company had ever undertaken “21 Black Futures”, a timely national theatre/film hybrid initiative created in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the global fight against racism and the Black Lives Matter movement.
21 Black Futures engaged over 63 Black artists and featured 21 filmed monodramas created by Black playwrights from across the country, from coast to coast. A few highlights included our very first ASL and French plays and two plays for Theatre for Young Audiences. The overall project aimed to imagine Black Futures that represented the intersectionality of the Black experience. It features works by veteran Black Canadian writers including Lawrence Hill and Djanet Sears as well as other powerhouse voices including Amanda Parris, Motion, Omari Newton. It premiered during Black History Month on February 12 2021 in a partnership with CBC Arts, and is currently airing on CBC Gem. The project is multigenerational, engaged both emerging and established Black artists, and offered training opportunities to Black directors, writers and actors as well as speaks to the rich diversity of Black Canadian communities. 21 Black Futures marks a shift towards a national lens at Obsidian with the goal to expand our reach and engage with Black artists and communities all across the country.
I am excited about the scope and range of Black artists we were able to engage for 21 Black Futures. I am glad for the beautiful canvas of new Black stories that are now readily available (for free) for Canadian audiences to enjoy! My hope is that many Canadian presenters take this opportunity to get to know and support, commission, hire every single one of the 63 + artists to do more work and to further seek beyond to engage even more of the many incredible Black artists that are out there. Obsidian will continue to blow the gates wide open in terms of enhancing visibility of Black stories and Black theatre makers and challenging perceptions about Black stories and Black identity with the hope of encouraging other organizations to do the same.