Today we sat down with Roberts and her cast to talk about what it means to be a part of this show.
Diane Roberts: We're describing this show as a hip-hop theatre play because it really is a perfect balance of hip-hop and theatre that tells the story of a young, up-and-coming group of hip-hop artists who lose their DJ to a police shooting, and how they deal with the aftermath of that.
It's a tragedy but it has a lot of humour in it and you really fall in love with the characters. It was written by Omari Newton, who grew up in Montreal. It was based on an incident that actually happened in Montreal north. The shooting of Fredy Villanueva, a Honduran youth, who was killed when a protest turned into a riot. It was a pretty big thing.
Omari was here when it happened and was so incensed by the violence that he really wanted to respond to it by writing a play. We talked about it and started developing the play five years ago.
tV: These are very powerful roles to play. What has been your inspiration or motivation when approaching them?
Tristin D. Lalla (Sal): I've been working professionally for about twelve years as an actor and although this is theatre, we are breaking so many new boundaries with this. All of the music, all of the poetry, all of the feelings that come up in this are not your everyday type of theatre. We really got to have a blank slate and create our own conventions theatrically, which was terrifying and amazing at the same time.
Billy Merasty (Mac): The thing I like about this play is that it's a multi-cultural piece, which is very rare in Canadian theatre and I've been involved in the business for 30 years. Some writers have attempted to write multi-cultural pieces but haven't really succeeded, but Omari has quite beautifully.
I'm Native, we have two black characters, an Italian, and a Filipina woman. We meld beautifully and it really reflects what Canada means to me now: a multi-cultural country. I sure would like to see that continue: writers coming in to learn how to write for other cultures. I think that's the future we're heading to and the future I would like to see.
tV: Could you talk a little about what drew you to these characters?
Letitia Brookes (Naomi): The playwright is from Montreal and a black actor, as I am. Just like Naomi, when I was young someone in my extended family was shot by police and so I saw first hand what that did to family members and our community. It was really interesting for me to think of myself back at that time as a child, because I play a child in the play. I really like how the play shows two sides of the story and how both sides are hurting or how they try to overcome what happens to the DJ, their friend and family member.
Jordan Waunch (Chase): I was drawn to the story because it's set in hip-hop culture and I think that connects with a lot of youth these days. The story could take place in almost any major North American city. A lot of the problems with the police and the interactions with each other are things that are happening and have happened and probably continue to happen, and need to be addressed. It's a really strong story.
Kim Villagante (Jewel): I was drawn to the play because it's a great play that's very relevant. Growing up, I've never seen theatre where they cast a Filipino(a). This is my first theatre production so I've never done this professionally. My background is high school drama and those were all Shakespeare. Sal Capone, like Tristin says, really pushes the limits and makes it relevant to youth. I think that because hip-hop culture is something that youth really connects to, it makes talking about really difficult topics such as police brutality, racism, sexism, homophobia more accessible.
I think this play is legitimate because a lot of the actors in it, including Omari, are really familiar with hip-hop culture. We all love hip-hop: we're hip-hop heads. Some of us are MCs and poets, in the community and that makes it more of a believable play as well. The set and the people we are working with are the best. Troy (Slocum) is such an awesome sound designer. The music is amazing: the visuals. It's real raw art. We're all contributing our own stories to it as well: we wrote the raps ourselves. It's really multi-layered and it's raw and it speaks to what is happening right now in our society.
Sal Capone runs May 22 – 31, 2014 at the Roundhouse Performance Centre
Click HERE for tickets