In the midst of his tenth season as artistic director and 50th Anniversary celebrations of Black Theatre Workshop (BTW), Quincy Amorer had to pivot as the raging coronavirus blunted all options for what was expected to be a bumper season of mainstage plays, school tours, workshops and mentorship programs.
Instead, like most leaders in the performing arts industry whose stages have gone dark, he has had to withdraw to his living room and strategize on ways to keep the theatre company relevant and ready to rebound from a truncated season.
“The virus has crippled the industry, forcing us to postpone all our shows and events leaving us with no choice but to look to 2021 to complete our 50th-anniversary celebrations,” he told the CONTACT.
However, in midst of the shutdown, Amorer and his team have been able to the finishing touches to a number of developmental projects that positions the BTW to capitalize on new opportunities when the dark clouds of COVID-19 clear.
Amorer says he’s excited about the prospects of the future and he and his team are rearing to go with what already line up for 2021. As always it starts with the annual Vision Celebrations and the awarding of the Martin Luther King Award, which this year will be handed out to iconic Haitian dancer, choreographer, teacher, and artistic director Eddy Toussaint.
The event will be virtual with a command performance by Ranee Lee and Amorer is hoping that this time around the annual fundraising event carded for Saturday, January 30, 2021, at 7 pm, will take the form of a telethon and contribute some much-needed funds to the coffers of the organization.
The shutdown also allowed for him and his team to explore avenues to broaden BTW’s audience base, with two areas demand urgent action. “I think it’s important that we do more to reach out to a younger demographic, who are eager to see their experiences reflected on stage,” he says. “It’s long overdue for us to try to bring the BTW into the French sector of our community. So we’re working towards those two eventualities.
Amorer points to a planned late Spring outdoor presentation at the front of the St. James United Church featuring an excerpt from a play by emerging playwright Omari Newton, Black, and Blue Matters – Track 1: No One Gives a F*ck About A Cop as one of those efforts targeting young Montrealers.
The show will be part of the National Arts Centre’s ‘Grand Acts of Theatre’ initiative, There is also a lot of development work going on behind the scenes with the commissioning of new plays from playwrights Donna-Michelle St. Bernard and Kym Dominique-Ferguson and Christine Rodriguez.
And as far as overtures into the French sector goes, he’s particularly excited about a projected 2021 presentation of an English/French translation of Pipeline by Dominique Morisseau, that will be staged with the same cast performing separate shows in English and in French.
He says another area of growth that he’s contemplating is in the LGBTQ community, where many stories are not being told.
Even as he gazes deep into the future, and ponders the company spreading its wings, Amorer says it’s important to remember the foundation and the home of BTW.
“It’s a Black theatre company and it’s important that Black people whether they’re from the US, Canada, Europe, Africa, or the Caribbean know that this is their company. And they should do all in their power to support and sustain it.”
The workshop grew out of the Trinidad and Tobago Drama Group in 1970, which was led by Dr. Clarence Bayne. It was incorporated in 1972 and in the five decades that followed the company went on to entrench itself as a cultural force in Canada.
In the ten seasons that he has been serving as the workshop’s artistic director, Amorer, who studied at Concordia University’s Theatre Department and at the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre at the Stratford Festival looks back on many highlights but points to two seminal plays Angelique and Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God as a memorable moment.
“Angelique because it’s our story about a Montreal woman, who made her mark on the history of the city and Adventures because of the grandness of the production and the opportunity to experience the genius of playwright Janet Sears.” This year the workshop reached another milestone when it was named Co-Curating Company in Residence, at the National Arts Centre English Theatre in Ottawa.
It comes with an opportunity for the BTW to “have agency over half of English Theatre’s programming resources for the 2021–22 season.”
“Ideal chance for us to take the works of many talented Black artists to a national stage,” says an excited Amorer.
Looking forward he says there’s still a lot of work for him however he knows the time is due for conversations about a strong Black woman taking his place for the other leg of the journey.