Mx by Lili Robinson
What of culture and ancestry lives within us, and how much is determined by our upbringing? If a part of your identity has never been nurtured, do attempts to rekindle it amount to appropriation? Does blood equal belonging? These questions form the world of Mx, a boundary-pushing, bouffon-inspired new play exploring what it means to be mixed-race and Black in the world today. Pulling on elements of satire, physical theatre, and mythology from the African Diaspora, Mx cracks open notions of Black and Queer identity through the lens of a character stuck in the in-between.
From the Playwright
The concept for Mx was born from a deep sense of needing to unpack my racial identity and untangle my personal history as a mixed-race kid. I am biracial and light-skinned, and I grew up in a left-leaning, white Canadian family, with no connection to my father’s side. I also grew up in Vancouver, a city whose only historically Black neighbourhood was decimated by the construction of the Georgia Viaduct in 1971. The result of these combined factors was that for much of my life I viewed my own blackness as if at a distance, an interesting anecdote rather than a resonant part of myself. It was not until late into my teens, witnessing the onslaught of police murders of unarmed Black people in the States, that I was unavoidably confronted with the question, "Where do I fit?"
The honorific ‘Mx’ comes from the work of feminists and the trans and non-binary communities to establish an honorific that does not denote gender or marital status; the term also speaks in a multilayered way to the intersections of identity that this show explores. The process of grappling with my mixed racial identity is inextricably linked with my growing experience of gender and sexuality as fluid, rather than fixed. While there are significant privileges inherent in an ability to move between worlds, (for example, light-skinned Black folks such as myself who can pass as white or “racially ambiguous” benefitting from a dominant culture of white supremacy) in many cases, there is a also sense of being othered from all sides. Fuelled by these experiences, I set out to create a piece that would tackle perceptions of these identities and bring new representation of these experiences to the stage.
Mx aims to engage the realities of difference using the humor, wit, and vulnerability of clown. Tearing down the fourth wall, the show utilizes bouffon-inspired technique to place an unflinching lens on race relations and privilege in the modern day. By re-envisioning and melding different styles of clowning, the work defies limiting associations of minstrelsy that have historically mired the medium for Black artists. Taking full advantage of the live nature of theatre, Mx seeks to create shared experience of catharsis through the acknowledgement of truth.
What You Are Funding
We are grateful to already have received significant support from the local arts community. Back in September, Mx won the Fringe New Play Prize 2019 (FNPP), a competitive prize judged and curated by Playwrights Theatre Centre (PTC). Through the FNPP we are receiving an amazing package of in-kind support including free rehearsal space, the dramaturgy of Joanna Garfinkel and a mainstage venue for an initial production of Mx at this September’s Vancouver Fringe Festival. Further support from local theatre companies and theatre artists Green Thumb Theatre Company (rehearsal space and producing mentorship), Theatre Replacement (artistic and producing mentorship), Rumble Theatre (artistic and producing mentorship) and Karen Hines (clown consultation) have brought us a long way.
The final piece to bring Mx to life is to fund the travel (flight costs and per diem) of our amazing director Donna-Michelle St. Bernard to Vancouver and pay her for her work on the show.
As early career artists, our eligibility for most provincial/federal arts funding is limited. This means we rely on support from the community to bring our work to fruition. Your donation will ensure we are able to bring Donna-Michelle on board.
Quick Introduction to Donna-Michelle:
Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, aka Belladonna the Blest, is an emcee, playwright arts administrator and agitator. She has contributed as a director to Makambe Simamba’s Our Fathers, Lovers, Sons and Little Brothers, Yvette Nolan’s Job’s Wife and Perfect Storm, Wanda Fitzgerald’s Practising Art and Fall From Grace and John Feld’s OOPS!, and collaborated as a dramaturge on Keith Barker’s The Hours That Remain and This is How We Got Here, Tyler Pennock’s Al and the Snake and Joseph Tisiga’s Evening with Grey Owl. Works for the stage include Sound of the Beast (Theatre Passe Muraille), They Say He Fell(Pandemic Theatre/Cahoots Theatre), A Man A Fish (Persephone Theatre), Cake (New Harlem Productions), The House You Build (Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company), Salome’s Clothes (Space in Point Theatre) and Gas Girls (New Harlem Productions) as well as interdisciplinary co-creations including 501:Toronto in Transit with Bob Naismith and Justin Manyfingers, Bag of Stones with Clare Preuss and On The Hill with Pulga Muchochoma and Vivine Scarlett. DM’s work has been recognized with nominations for SATA, Herman Voaden Playwriting Award, Enbridge PlayRites Award, Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play, Governor General’s Literary Award and the Siminovitch Prize. She is the founding artistic director of New Harlem Productions, coordinator of the ADHOC Assembly, emcee in residence at Theatre Passe Muraille and playwright in residence at lemonTree creations where she runs the FORGE, a space for queer women writers.
In bringing together our creative team, it was of vital importance to us that Mx be directed by a queer Black woman, in order to have the complexity of the social politics of the piece understood from a place of lived experience. DM’s significant experience as a playwright, director and dramaturg of interdisciplinary theatre akin to Mx make her the perfect match for this play. The synchronicity of artistic vision present between us as creators, the long-term possibilities of artistic mentorship and partnership, and the potential cross-Canada impact of such a collaboration makes this an invaluable opportunity. We are deeply grateful for any and all contributions towards our goal.
Donna-Michelle's thoughts on Mx:
Mx is an exciting exploration of the lived friction of miscegenation and migration, a simultaneous reclamation and rebuke of tribalism. It is a liminal sermon preached from midstream with keen awareness of the pressures from either bank: assumption expectation, aspiration, ambiguity. LR’s fresh telling is a space of joyful invitation with shades of abrasive compassion and gentle remonstration. I’m drawn to the concurrent dualities and internal contradiction that form this story’s perimeters. I love that it isn’t easy, that it cannot rely on well-worn shorthand, but must scribe its own vocabularies from the found and reconsidered. In the act of elevating identity beyond the binary this play twists the familiar in order to enter the uncharted. At the heart of this story is a question I am eager to extrapolate alongside the play’s gifted team.
By donating to Mx, you are supporting Canadian artists and creators who are committed to bringing boundary pushing, relevant new theatre to the stage. You are also supporting the stories of queer and black folxs and their communities. Any contribution goes a long way to seeing their stories take a more prominent role in Canadian society and the arts that shape it.
Mx will run at the Vancouver Fringe Festival from Sept. 5th - 15th 2019, so mark your calendars and keep an eye out for tickets at https://www.vancouverfringe.com/
We hope to see you there!
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Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/mxtheplay/
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Our work takes place on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Səl̓ílwətaʔ (Tsleil-Waututh), and Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) peoples.
We are sending a big thank you to Agentic Communications who has generously become a sponsor of Mx. Specifically, their sponsorship has gone to helping us bring our director, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, from Toronto to Vancouver for rehearsals. We appreciate them backing our vision of what is needed to truly make Mx the best it can be. Agentic Communications is a deep believer in culturally sensitive work being created with the direct agency, consultation, and leadership of the communities the work involves. Deeply grateful to Jai Djwa at Agentic for recognizing what we are trying to accomplish with Mx. Thank you so much for making Donna-Michelle's involvement possible.
And many thanks to the contributions from many of you to our GoFundMe! Couldn’t have done it without you.
Lili Robinson and I are so deeply humbled by all of the support. We can’t wait to share the amazing things we have done with this project and the work of the amazing artists involved in it. Come see Mx at the Vancouver Fringe on the Red Gate Revue Stage from Sept. 6th-15th.
Check out our event page here https://www.facebook.com/events/423303035192725/,
Tickets on sale Aug. 7th!
Follow us on Social Media for the latest in our journey!
Y’all are blessings.
See you real soon!