Review: Season Two of 21 Black Futures

by Lynn on February 22, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Streaming on CBC Gem.

To mark Obsidian Theatre’s 21st anniversary, Artistic Director, Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu asked 21 Black playwrights to create 21 short monodramas to be filmed and streamed, focusing on the idea of the future of Blackness. 21 Black Futures was born.

The 21 plays are divided into three ‘seasons’ of seven plays each, streaming on CBC Gem over the month of February. Season One began Feb. 12. Season Two began Feb. 19. And the last seven plays in Season Three will begin Feb. 26.

As with Season One, the episodes in Season Two illuminate a cross-section of ideas, forms of expression and different voices. The ideas of the future of Blackness are fascinating.

Season Two:


Written by Keshia Cheesman

Directed by Jay Northcott

Performed by Avery Grant.

Zari is eight-years-old and laments that since her mother and she moved to an all-Black town (her father has died recently), Zari does not feel special anymore. Before they moved, she was the only Black kid in her school. She liked being different. She liked feeling special. In her new school she is like all the other kids. She fits in. She feels she’s not special anymore. She prays to God for a sign that this problem will be corrected. She gets that sign in an unlikely place.

Keshia Cheesman’s episode is gently sweet and quirky; taking a potentially troubling situation—feeling special because she was the only Black kid in her school—and then feeling ordinary when she goes to an all-Black school.  Zari learns an important lesson about being and feeling special and we do too. Avery Grant is charming as Zari. Jay Northcott directs the piece with sensitivity.

Umoja Corp

Written by Jacob Sampson

Directed by Leighton Alexander Williams

Performed by Pablo Ogunlesi

Jacob Samson has written a wonderfully prickly monodrama that creates payback for bad treatment of Blacks. Typing across the screen says that Adrian was born of ‘unknown degenerates” who abandoned him at the hospital. The system did not believe in giving care for such a defenseless person. (The font was too small to read easily and the font should be larger). He was eventually adopted by a tough but loving woman and Adrian was happy for the four years he lived with her. But then his ‘mother’ died—she had been sick and didn’t tell him. He continued collecting her cheques for his education, but was caught for fraud.  Adrian would have spent a long time in jail but the Umoja Corp came to his rescue. It was a mysterious organization that believed ‘care must be given.’ (One does research, according to Google: Umoja: Unity – To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race. 2. Kujichagulia: Self-Determination – To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves).

Adrian’s lawyer—from the Umoja Corp–put the fear of God in the government by promising a long trial if they didn’t bow to her wishes with respect to her client. Adrian got off with a fine and 500 hours of community service. He could serve the hours at one of Umoja’s homes or join the Corp. The Corp was founded by rich like-minded ancestors who learned and passed on the techniques to suppress Black people to give them a fighting chance. Adrian joins the Corp for payback. As Adrian and his sassy female lawyer, Pablo Ogunlesi is nuanced, subtle and compelling.    


Written by Luke Reece

Directed by Ngozi Paul

Performed by Lisa Berry

Luke Reece takes preconceptions about so many things: women in sports, basketball, tall people and basketball, the fire of candles, running the game, and turns them all on their ear in his bracing, smart, compelling play.  

Crystal Hinds always wanted to play basketball professionally. Her parents supported her. Even when she was the only girl playing and the only Black kid playing, her parents supported her and Crystal never lost her focus. When she was 12 years-old she was stunned when the NBA walked off the court demanding social justice. While the teams were owned by rich white people, Black players had the power to stop the game. Crystal knew that anything was possible and she planned her assent to make a difference and effect change. In 2045 she got her chance. Crystal has a line regarding that change that now Black athletes “Speak up and dribble” which is a sly middle finger to Laura Ingraham the Fox News Host who told LeBron James to “Shut up and dribble” when he offered a political comment during an interview.

Luke Reece’s dialogue is as elegant and muscular as a three-point “whoosh.” Notice is beautifully directed by Ngozi Paul. Lisa Berry as Crystal is dynamic and compelling. Terrific.


Written by Miali-Elise Coley-Sudlovenick

Directed by Alicia K. Harris

Performed by Adeline Bird

Blackberries is a delicate play about longing, leaving home to find a more peaceful one and belonging. Effie has come from B.C. to Nunavut for her grandmother’s funeral. Her own mother refused to return. Miali-Elise Coley-Sudlovenick uses language to show how things have different words to describe them. Effie picks what are called blackberries with her cousin. Effie notes that that’s not what she calls them in BC. They are still delicious. By the same token home has different connotations to the family she is visiting. Several times we are told that for the two weeks she was there everyone seemed to be drunk, perhaps to forget the emptiness of their lives. Effie, however, feels a love for the place, she doesn’t want to leave. “I could live here. I needed this. I love this.” It’s an interesting play that looks at the different aspects of ‘home.’


Written by Syrus Marcus Ware

Directed by Tanisha Taitt

Performed by Prince Amponsah

 It’s been seven years ‘since the fall’, ‘the virus to end all viruses and the earth has suffered a catastrophe. Desolation is everywhere. Medgar scrounges for wood, sticks, rocks. He is industrious. He marvels that he survived. “I survived the fall. Me, my disabled, chronically ill and Immunol compromised” body survived the catastrophe. But in the doing he lost his lover Emmett, the person he cherished more than everything. Medgar notes that life has been found on Venus and this is hopeful since Mars was a disaster. Prince Amponsah gives a gentle, determined performance as Medgar, perhaps indicating what gets a person through such a horrific situation. Syrus Marcus Ware has created a thoughtful monodrama and director Tanisha Taitt has directed this fascinating piece with a firm and sensitive hand.  


Written by Djanet Sears

Directed by Weyni Mengesha

Performed by Virgilia Griffith

Georgeena is driving in her car away from whatever has caused her anguish. She says: “I’m going to die.” That certainly grabs our attention. You get the sense from Virgilia Griffith’s fierce performance as Georgeena, that she’s not exaggerating. She wears her wedding veil which she tears off her head and throws it in the back seat. She is furious and distraught. She was to marry Mathiew until she realizes that even though she would be marrying a person who was Black like her, their world would be anything but. His white parents adopted him from Rwanda and raised him. Georgeena uses her rarely used middle names as she talks to herself. “I Georgeena Shakel Beroney Darson (I’m sure the spelling is incorrect), am going to die.” She refers to her middle names as “a cultural hic-up.”)

At the wedding rehearsal Georgeena realizes the world she is in—everybody but she and Mathiew at the rehearsal was white, her bridesmaids, grooms, guests, everybody. Her future mother-in-law said insensitive things to her. The best man is a racist. So she left. Her phone continues to ring. A car is following her. She knows it’s Mathiew on the phone and following her. Only, it isn’t.

Djanet Sears is a towering presence in Canadian theatre. Sears has written a play that grabs you and leaves you breathless. I must admit that some moments made my eyebrows crinkle: Georgeena only realized at the wedding rehearsal she would always be in a white world? That her future-mother-in-law was insensitive to her and that Mathiew’s best man is racist? Huh? Hmmm. That said the effect of the whole play, Weyni Mengesha’s tight direction and Virgilia Griffith’s stunning performance, left me winded for all the right reasons.  

Rebirth of the Afronauts: A Black Space Odyssey

Written by Motion

Directed by Jerome Kruin

Performed by Chelsea Russell

The year is 2059, ‘the year of our George.’ Motion has written a funky, hip-hoppy look into the future and that future is in outer space. Chariott, our heroine has no work, no training, and no prospects in the city of Tkaronto. There is a curfew and she needs to get off the street. She meets a strange woman with attitude on a bus who guides her to a better place. Chelsea Russell plays both Chariott and the strange woman with tremendous style. Jerome Kruin directs with a sense of dazzle, lights flash and wiz as if a space ship is taking off. Wild.

For all episodes:

Cinematographer, Keenan Lynch

Set and costumes, Rachel Forbes

Lighting by Shawn Henry

Projections by Cameron Davis and Laura Warren

Theme Music by Tika.

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