by Lynn on August 6, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Falstaff Family Centre, Stratford, Ont. Plays until Aug. 14, 2022.

Written by Andrea Scott and Nick Green

Directed by Monique Lund with Associate director Tiffany Deriveau

Costume and set by Monique Lund

Lighting and sound by Stephen Degenstein

Cast: Jenni Burke

Robbie Towns

A blazingly intelligent play that challenges our perceptions of race, communication, friendship, respect and how we deal with uncomfortable situations and each other.   

The Story. Every Day She Rose by Andrea Scott and Nick Green is about two friends:  Mark who is white and gay and Cathy-Ann who is Black and straight, and their different perceptions on the Pride Parade in Toronto regarding the police presence in the parade and Black Lives Matter who did not want the police there.

Cathy-Ann and Mark are close friends and share Mark’s condo. They are preparing to go to the Pride Parade and are getting all costumed up in the pride colours. At a point in the parade they see that a contingent of police are marching in the parade and they are being stopped by a group from Black Lives Matter who protest their presence in the parade.

Cathy-Ann is sympathetic to Black Lives Matter and its political concerns. Mark is happy the police have a presence in the parade because he thinks of the 2016 massacre in Orlando, Florida and believes the men were killed in Orlando because they were gay. Cathy-Ann counters by saying gently they were Latino and that’s why they were killed. Obviously these two friends have different perspectives on some thorny issues.

The Production.  The production is fascinating.  Monique Lund has created a simple design for Mark’s condo. There is a couch with some cushions with dogs on them. Some storage boxes are beside the couch that hold a laptop, some notebooks, etc.  that will be used during the production. I love that economy of design.

To be scrupulously fair Every Day She Rose is co-directed by Monique Lund who is white, with Associate director, Tiffany Deriveau, who is Black. They each bring their own sensibilities to the play but also collaborate in realizing the subtle and nuanced moments in the play and the characters.

Mark (Robbie Towns) wears torn shorts and a flashy t-shirt, and is  flamboyant in his body language and voice.  He is excited about going to the parade and seeing Justin Trudeau who will be marching in the parade.  Cathy-Ann (Jenni Burke) is comfortably dressed in a flowing colourful dress with a Pride scarf wrapped around her hair.  Kudos to Monique Lund who also designed the costumes.

Cathy-Ann is more serious and thoughtful than Mark. Mark tends to tease and joke.  They are comfortable with each other. They banter like friends who are used to flipping smart talk back and forth.

Mark describes seeing Justin Trudeau and screaming his name several times. Cathy-Ann looks at him with crinkled eyebrows. Mark continues describing how they negotiated various sections of the parade until they came to that section with the police marching and how they were stopped by a contingent of Black Lives Matter who don’t want the police in the parade at all. That’s when Cathy-Ann expresses that she supports Black Lives Matter in this regard. Mark on the other hand is happy they are there for protection and cites the Orlando massacre. Both don’t like what is happening and want to go home.

Mark and Cathy-Ann are close friends but it’s obvious from their different perceptions of the police and Black Lives Matter there are cracks in that relationship. Earlier in the apartment he calls her “girlfriend” with a lilt in his voice as if he was Black. She tells him not to call her that (“in that way” is implied). He does again as a joke.  I thought that was really telling. He’s not listening to her request, or if he is he is not respecting her enough to stop calling her “girlfriend” and in the way he is saying it.

As they continue their conversation about race Cathy-Ann says that when she sees a group of racially different people she just sees “people”. But she wants Mark to see her as a Black woman first because that’s how she perceives herself. Certainly something to think about.

With every shift in perception of the characters we are given so much to parse, weigh, consider and reflect upon not only from the characters’ point of view but from ours. And then the playwrights weigh in as well.

As the characters in the play wrangle, the “actors,” Jenni Burke and Robbie Towns, step out of the set and ‘the play’ and then take on the personas of the playwrights Andrea Scott and Nick Green, respectively, who then discuss the scene and how it’s working or not. This shift is noted when either actor hits a bell on the table. There also might be a shift in lighting. I loved that bell-dinging as the scene-change signal. However, the bell-dinging isn’t consistent for the whole show. I thought that odd.

The ’playwright’s personalities are very different from the characters of Cathy-Ann and Mark but their skin colour is not. Andrea Scott is Black and Nick Green is white.

In their easy conversation Robbie Towns as Nick, is more subdued, thoughtful and very eager to accommodate Andrea’s ideas, very often seeing her point of view. I don’t get the sense there is animosity or overt power-tripping from him.  Initially I find that refreshing but then wonder if that’s because he has the confidence of being white.

Jennie Burke as Andrea, illuminates Andrea’s watchfulness, her subtle and contained reactions, as if she is preparing for Nick to ‘take over.’ In fact there is a scene in which that does happen and if I have quibble with the production, it’s this scene. Both playwrights decide to review the structure of the play. They each have a different coloured pad of post-it notes. Each playwright notes a scene on the pad and then takes the post-it note and places it on a ‘white board’. In turn each scene is discussed and noted and the post-it notes form a vertical formation of notes.  The audience sees how each playwright makes her/his note and places it on the white board. But then Nick thinks he has a better idea and takes the white board and turns it away from the audience and starts fiddling with the form of the post-it notes and removing some of them. Andrea looks behind the board with an ever-growing look of concern (disdain?) at what Nick is doing and takes each note he is ‘discarding’ and eventually puts the post-it note on her face. Then Nick turns the board around for us to see what he has done. The board is now a short horizontal line of post-its, mainly his. Andrea notes that it is now a linear story. It’s also obvious Nick has in fact taken over and reformed the story to his way of thinking.

My concern is that the audience is taken out of this equation by having Nick turn the white board away from the audience and Andrea, leaving her to peak at what he is planning and the audience to have to wait for him to turn the board around. I think having the audience see what he is doing—removing her post-it notes– along with Andrea seeing it with the audience, is a more powerful statement. The way that Monique Lund and Tiffany Deriveau have staged that scene weakens the scene.

This play is not only an examination of different perspectives involving race etc. it’s also an observation in play-writing when one playwright is Black and one is white. At one point the character of Andrea says that she was eager to collaborate with Nick but not if it meant she was just tagging along and he was really the lead writer. The character of Nick says that he didn’t want that either.

The ‘playwrights’ discuss how these two different characters could be friends; how they met; the back stories. They check the script on their laptops. It’s all heightened theatricality.

At one point Nick asks Andrea something along the lines of how she copes with disappointment in the work etc. She says something like, “every day you rise”—you get up and try again. Beautiful. And how telling that the title now focuses on her with Every Day She Rose.

It’s also interesting to note that at times the clear lines between the characters ‘in the play’ and the ‘characters’ of the playwrights of the play get intentionally blurry in their attitudes and politics. Conflict resolution between the character varies greatly.

Comment. I love the play and found this production intriguing.  I loved the perception of race relations both writers have. I love the boldness of the creation and the fact that the focus is on such thorny issues. I loved that both writers seemed to have written for both characters rather than Nick writing only for Mark (white) and Andrea writing only for Cathy-Ann (Black). Loved that melding. I loved that the play gets us thinking about our perceptions of race, skin colour, Black Lives Matter, the police, communication, friendship and respect.

Here for Now Theatre presents:

Plays until: Aug. 14, 2022.

Running Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes (no intermission).

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