“In this day and age, all work, particularly by black artists—it’s extremely important that they have a place and a space in which their work is appreciated and disseminated for the greater public to enjoy,” exclaims Rosey Ugo Edeh—a once high-performance athlete that competed for Canada in three consecutive Olympic Games and now, the powerhouse Managing Director of b current.
Located at Artscape Wychwood Barns, b current is a space that reinforces the artists’ sense of value and voice. Rosey, forever the Olympic athlete, compares her new chapter to gathering the best of the best who are prepared to produce world-class productions. For over 28 years b current, founded by playwright ahdri zhina mandiela, has produced out-the-box performance pieces, ideas, workshops, and mainstage productions. They assist their participants through financial, artistic and emotional support that all artists need to shine.
Since inception, b current has developed scores of internationally celebrated artists and their works, focusing on engaging the community and creating a space for diverse voices to be heard. The work of the artist-in-residence program allows them to flourish and own their brilliance.
Rosey shared the rise of Makambe K Simamba—the playwright and actor, and one of b current’s thriving artists. Hailing from Calgary, Alberta, Makambe had a tough time expressing herself as an artist within the theatre arts community while living in the city.
No company was willing to produce and help her develop her play.
Catherine Hernandez, the Artistic Director of b current, heard about Makambe’s play and immediately took her under their wing. An artist, who at one point, couldn’t get her work heard or have her creativity shine due to outside forces that didn’t appreciate its value. b current provided a safe space, professional guidance and support for Makambe to trust herself and produce her play. That’s when Makambe decided to move to Toronto and commit to her talent by creating art full time.
By April 2019, Makambe K Simamba received rave reviews and won two Dora awards for the play called, “Our Fathers, Sons, Lovers and Little Brothers”. The play that was once shut out of the theatre arts community is now recognized and respected.
Rosey also shared the story of Award-winning playwright Andrea Scott. Who penned the play, “Controlled Damage” about the indomitable Viola Desmond—the same Viola Desmond that is printed on the Canadian ten-dollar bill. She workshopped the play at b current in 2018, and shortly after in the fall, b current hosted the reading of “Controlled Damage” to a full house and receptive audience.
Andrea Scott, the Playwright-in-Residence from 2018/2019 recounts her time at b current, “I’ve worked many years creating work without any institutional support in this country and at no time was I resentful because it’s been instilled in me, as a woman of colour, you had to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. I have invested in that mantra for the nine years I’ve been working at becoming a better writer.”
“I’ve written multiple drafts and applied for dozens of grants but never expected anyone to make life easier for me. It was only with Catherine Hernandez and b current, a company that historically gives a platform to racialized women, that I was given a hand up.”
“I mean, someone saw me grinding away on a script I believed in, had been refining for over two years and said, ‘Let us help you make this better and use our reach to bring it to a larger audience’. Because of this support and their residency, my Viola Desmond play, ‘Controlled Damage’, is going to get its world premiere at the largest Maritime regional theatre in the country in 2020. b current is the little theatre that could, did, and will continue to conquer as long as it champions marginalized voices.”
This is only a sample size of the success stories that came out and will come from b current. Rosey Ugo Edeh calls it a sanctuary, “Artists can use our space without judgment or hassle. They are free to create and they are free to enter our space as they are.”
b current’s dedication for the elevation and amplification of Black and Brown artists to take their work from “the page to the stage” is the most enriching process for all involved. And a brilliant way to catapult unsung gems to center stage.
Written by Tennile Cooper