After a sold-out run at Factory Theatre last May, Trey Anthony’s and Girls in Bow Ties Production of How Black Mothers Say I Love You returns for a full run until March 5, 2017.
Prior to its official premiere, I had the pleasure of speaking with Anthony about the show, its beginning, its evolution, and its future.
HM: I understand How Black Mothers Say I Love You is based on your own experiences growing up. What was the impetus to write this play at this particular time in your life?
TA: The whole process of writing [the play] took about 6 yrs. I was taking my time perfecting it, editing it… because it’s such a personal story, I wanted to get it right. I also was not sure how my grandmother and my mother would respond to the piece — It was a bit of procrastination on my part. But when my grandma passed, there was a new a level of urgency in telling the story.
HM: The first run of the play had a successful sold-out run last May here in Toronto. Other than some casting changes, how else has the play evolved since then?
TA: That is a great question, thank you. There has been some tweaking and editing of the script. I have a collaborating director, Nisha Ahuja, which is new. There is more movement in the piece, more dance added to the transitions… Two new cast members were added to the piece.
We were also given much more time. We had a week earlier to get on stage [for rehearsals] and to check tech. It really helped us this time around. The piece has gone up by another level. I look at it from a sense of calm, let’s perfect on the perfection.
HM: When thinking of the music that is featured in the play, what was the dialogue between you and composer Gavin Bradley?
TA: I’ve worked with Gavin since we did from Secrets of a Black Boy. We have great understanding with each other. I talk a shorthand; he knows what I mean and he’ll bring it to another level. He is also a great composer; really knows his music. He also really loves the piece and that shows in the music. The play features Canadian musicians and it’s a full original score.
HM: During the first run of the play, what were audiences’ responses?
TA: We sold out based on word on mouth. There is a community that wants to see themselves on stage. There are people who want to see Caribbean stories on stage. The same goes with non-caribbean audiences, I heard from some non-caribbean audience members that they could relate to the story.
The piece also showcased women having dialogue, which is very important; very private; very stoic; not as emotional. I had women emailing me saying it was first time they could speak to their mothers. Someone sent me a message and told me, “I went home and whispered to my daughter, I love you.”
When you see your work making change and healing, showing the need for spaces as black women to heal and talk,… having a safe space and be able to see yourself, that is powerful.
HM: Absolutely… At this time any future plans; what is next for How Black Mothers Say I Love You?
TA: Yes, we are going on tour to Ajax, Mississauga, Ottawa. And just today, we received funding to adapt it to a movie! It is Clement Virgo‘s production company that has stepped up to the plate. Clement also related to story; he saw the play last May. He saw his own story and he knew the importance of seeing his own story on stage. He came to speak with me after he saw the play, and told me he’d want to make it into a film someday.
After we are done here, I will go back [to the USA] and work with Carys Lewis to co-write the screenplay. I am really excited to work with [Clement]. I know his work… He is the right person.
How Black Mothers Say I Love You
Written and Directed by Trey Anthony
February 4 – March 5, 2017
Factory Theatre, Mainspace
Tuesday – Saturday @ 8pm, Sunday @ 2pm
Tickets: $25-$55 including Student, Arts Worker and Senior Prices
Purchase in person at Factory, online, or call 416-504-9971