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#BlackLivesMatter Statement of Solidarity

Halifax Theatre for Young People
stands in solidarity against anti-Black and
anti-Indigenous racism and systemic oppression.

June 22 2020

As the recent anti-Black and anti-Indigenous tragedies have highlighted violence and discrimination in communities across North America, we acknowledge that we as an organization have benefitted from the systemic racism in our society.

HTYP’s mandate is to create theatre for young people, and we are keenly aware of our responsibility to model the world we want to see: one that affirms justice and equity for all people.  We have attempted to model these principles through our past planning and programming, most recently in our postponed production Mi’kmaq Stories: Past & Present.  The process of partnering with a team of Mi’kmaq artists has been a rich opportunity both to learn and to develop a positive process of collaboration.  However, as an organization led by individuals with a primarily white settler background, we know we have much more work to do to become an explicitly anti-racist organization.

We are using this time to learn, to listen, to reflect on our past complicity, to engage with this struggle, and to determine how to work towards justice and equity through our future activities.  We encourage all white people to join in this work.

Specifically, we are actively working towards:

– Listening to and learning from voices of communities that have been oppressed, and educating ourselves without expecting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) communities to do the work for us.

– Developing policy and procedures that acknowledge and actively dismantle white supremacist colonial structures in our administration and artistic practice, and replacing them with anti-racist action.  We will begin by mandating anti-racist and anti-oppression training for all staff members.

– Increasing and amplifying diverse perspectives on our board, in our staff, in our programming, and in our casting and hiring, with consciousness about the methods we employ in these areas.

– Developing an internal work culture that welcomes, values, and protects the well-being of BIPOC people.

– Developing new initiatives to connect with BIPOC communities, including mentorship opportunities for emerging BIPOC artists, in ways that affirm, amplify and honour their voices, humanity and artistry.

We intend to share this work as we refine these goals and work to implement them.  Please email us at HTYPinfo@gmail.com to discuss these activities or with further suggestions.

We must do better.
We will do better.
Because Black and Indigenous Lives Matter.

RESOURCES FOR MORE LEARNING

Resources on Anti-Black Racism in Nova Scotia, offered by the Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia:
This link (https://www.csc-ns.ca/anti-black-racism/#in-nova-scotia) includes multiple resources on topics including:

  • Information on Anti-Black Racism in Nova Scotia – both historical and present-day;
  • Organizations and Programs that are doing anti-racist work in our Province which you can support today; and
  • Training, Education, and Recommended actions for Organizations to take to make their workplaces anti-racist.

The Canadian Race Relation Foundation provides free learning about racism through a number of excellent online courses.  Visit their catalogue, and sign-up HERE.

For parents of white children, here are some resources that might give you a new perspective, and some tools to use when talking to children about racism:

Brundibar: A Children’s Opera

Brundibár: light-hearted children’s opera framed in bleak history in HTYP show

May 18, 2019 – BY ELISSA BERNARD | THEATRE REVIEW

Context is everything.

The half-hour children’s opera Brundibár, at the Sir James Dunn Theatre this weekend, is like an adorable school play.

However, this delightful piece performed by talented young actors and local classical musicians, was written in 1938 and performed 55 times by children at the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

As opening speaker Lindsay Macumber says, Brundibár was an expression of resistance against the Nazi regime and a solace through art for the camp’s children, most of whom did not survive.

Brundibár was written to be performed by children by Hans Krása with lyrics by Adolf Hoffmeister in Prague in 1938. Its premiere was in German-occupied Prague at the Jewish orphanage before the mass deportation of Jews began in 1942 to Theresienstadt. Krása worked from a smuggled copy to reconstruct the music for instruments available at the camp.

Director Tessa Mendel, artistic director of Halifax Theatre for Young People, reminds her audience of the harsh reality of the concentration camp with a forbidding background wall with barbed wire.

However, the foreground is a wonderful, childlike set of cardboard-box houses, some with lit windows, others with paintings of flowers. Katrin Whitehead based her design on drawings made by children at Theresienstadt, many depicting their former homes.

To stage right are musicians led by music director Eszter Horvath, and including Symphony Nova Scotia players who perform a score that is like liquid sunshine.

Brundibár is a fanciful tale of good triumphing over evil as a brother and sister are desperate to get milk for their mother, who is sick with the flu.

Too poor to buy the milk, they sing for spare change but are drowned out by the nasty organ-grinder Brundibár, played by adult actress Rachel Hastings, accompanied by the cutest five-year-old, gamboling monkeys you’d ever want to see.

Forest animals, including a wonderful, fluttering sparrow, come up with a plan to get the village’s children to support and save the brother and sister. The song about fighting the cruel dictator is wonderful and this cast’s performance of it heightens one’s awareness of history.

In the cast, led in expressive, lively movement by choreographer Veronique MacKenzie, are: Vera Lynn Dunlop-Vaillancourt, Charlie Boyle, Keira Lamey, Emily Gallant, Jasmine Aulenback, Ava Hadley, Vivi Brodin, Brielle Prevost, Linnea Brodin, Emily Feildsend, Brianna Desmond, Ada Bluestein and Eva Provost with Piper Doak as the accordion player.

Designer Elizabeth Perry’s costumes recall the 1940s with newsboy hats, stiff brown shorts with suspenders and leather lace-up boots. Matt Downey’s lighting design is bright and cheerful.

The energy and story are so positive and transporting that the knowledge of the real history makes for a moving, sobering experience for older viewers.

Macumber reminds us that we are again in a time of rising anti-Semitism, along with Islamophobia and racism, and we must resist.

This is the true story of what happened, according to the press release. The opera “was performed 55 times in the camp, including a production for the Red Cross, who were duped by the Nazis into believing Theresienstadt was a model institution where prisoners were well treated. In reality, all of the children, the composer, director and musicians were sent to Auschwitz for extermination following the final performance. Of the 15,000 children interned in Theresienstadt, only just over 100 survived the war.”

Brundibár – four years in the making with a large team of community and theatre members – is on today, 7 p.m., and Sunday, 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 regular and $10 for students through Ticket Halifax by clicking here:
https://www.tickethalifax.com/events/94107401/brundibr-a-childrens-opera.
Recommended for ages 8 and up, younger children will enjoy the show and may skip the 15-minute talk if parents wish.