Brownstein: Black Theater Workshop Tackles Racial Inequality in Schools with Pipeline

The play will be presented in English and French with the same actors: “It’s a great idea. But I think it’s an idea that can only really exist in Montreal,” says artistic director Tyrone Benskin.

Content of the article

The Black Theater Workshop is making up for lost time – and more.

Advertisement 2

Content of the article

After a two-year absence from the stage due to the pandemic, the company is preparing to mount one of its most ambitious stage productions in its 51-year history: Opening Tuesday at Théâtre La Licorne, Pipeline, treating Racial Inequalities in the School System, is the hit off-Broadway play written by award-winning Dominique Morriseau.

BTW, Canada’s oldest black theater company, missed celebrating its 50th anniversary in style due to COVID-19, so organizers are labeling this year 50&1.

What makes things rather difficult here is that this production will be presented in English from Tuesday to April 23, followed by a French translation, written by Mishka Lavigne, from April 26 to May 8 – with the same actors reprising their roles in both shows. Needless to say, director Ahdri Zhina Mandiela will have her hands full, as will the actors.

Advertisement 3

Content of the article

Pipeline is the first joint venture between BTW and La Manufacture productions at Théâtre La Licorne.

BTW has lost more time over the past two years. It also lost longtime art director Quincy Armorer, who originally commissioned Pipeline but left after a decade of service. Thus, the former artistic director of BTW, Tyrone Benskin, returned to the breach as interim artistic director, helped and encouraged by the associate artistic director Lydie Dubuisson.

Benskin notes that tackling the play in separate English and French productions takes this staging to another level.

“It’s a great idea,” he said. “But I think it’s an idea that could only really exist in Montreal, simply because of the very nature of who we are as Quebecers and Canadians. That was the impetus for wanting to do the show that way. Many companies have tried to make bilingual programs, but with varying degrees of success.

Advertisement 4

Content of the article

“We are also fortunate to have an exceptional cast who have plunged into this project wholeheartedly with commitment and passion. original and putting them on paper in a language and culture that normally does not exist.

Dubuisson adds: “I truly believe that only Montreal can meet such a challenge. I once worked on a production that did a separate presentation in English and French, but it only involved one actor and there was a two-month break between shows. Not quite the same as a six-player turnaround with a weekend break like we’re going to do. The reality is that Montreal has incredible artists who are bilingual, who can think and work in both languages.

Advertisement 5

Content of the article

Although Pipeline is set in New York, Benskin and Dubuisson believe its plot transcends its setting and local audiences will have little difficulty understanding its message of equal opportunity based on social class and ethnicity. It revolves around Nya (Jenny Brizard), a dedicated public school teacher and single mother who believes the key to success for her teenage son Omari (Grégory Yves) may be through a private school education. But obstacles quickly arise.

The title of the play refers to the phenomenon of young people excluded from the education system, then victims of a “pipeline from school to prison”.

“This is an important story about the invisible side of education, especially how it affects people of African descent,” said Benskin, the former New Democrat MP and acclaimed actor with more than 70 Movies, TV Shows and Stage Credits. “The way education is delivered is in a way that is antithetical to actual learning. We have so many of our young people who have historically dropped out of school, who are doing poorly in school, because the system doesn’t support who they are and the world they live in. We are now beginning to understand the effect of generational trauma, and the education system is part of it.

Advertising 6

Content of the article

“We see this with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters in residential schools and how it has been passed down from generation to generation. The same is happening with our black youth. There is nothing in the education system that says they exist, that they have value. This creates a feeling of worthlessness, which puts them on the path of resistance, which often ends up sending them into the prison system.”

Encouraged by the initial reaction to the separate stagings of Pipeline in English and French, Dubuisson, also an accomplished playwright and director, would like to see BTW present a play every year in the same format in the future: “The time has come to bring our communities together on the same page.

Advertising 7

Content of the article

Benskin agrees: “If we start engaging with other people’s stories, we have the opportunity to learn more about them and they about us. Here we have the opportunity to do so not only culturally but linguistically. It is so rare that English arts and French arts intersect. … It’s no more Molière than Shakespeare, but the ability to understand the nuances of this story is there for everyone to understand.

[email protected]

IN ONE LOOK : Pipeline runs from Tuesday to April 23 in English, from April 26 to May 8 in French at Théâtre La Licorne, 4559 av. Papineau. Tickets/information:

Advertisement 1


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively yet civil discussion forum and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments can take up to an hour to be moderated before appearing on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications. You will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, if there is an update to a comment thread you follow, or if a user follows you comments. See our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Comments are closed.