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This article was published 18/8/2010 (4176 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Mary Black has experienced the effects of racism firsthand but continues to believe that society can overcome its uglier tendencies.
That’s why the 17-year-old actor from Elmwood was thrilled to earn a lead role in Sarasvati Production’s latest offering, the interactive play No Offense.
The play explores the issue of racism in Manitoba high schools and, after each scene, the audience will be asked for its input. It was created in partnership with Fringe Benefits Theatre.
"I’m very excited to be a part of this play," she says, noting she has been acting for nine years.
"Racism is a really touchy subject and it is so prevalent in high schools. What’s worse is that it’s also accepted. In this play the characters make racism seem fun in the beginning, but as it goes on the audience gets to see just how deep racism goes and that it’s really not a joke."
Black said she was uncomfortable with the play initially and felt vulnerable during the audition process. The dialogue is laced with derogatory terms for aboriginals and others, a no holds barred approach to theatre Black says is sure to have an impact on the audience.
"I hope the play will inspire the audience but inspiration is not enough," she says. "I hope the audience is moved to act, to change, to fight racism."
Artistic director Hope McIntyre is hoping for a similar reaction.
"We don’t shy away from controversial issues," she says. "In fact, we use theatre as a powerful way to provoke discussion in the community."
Black says she feels a special connection with her character, Charlotte. Charlotte is an aboriginal high school student from a middle class background who can’t relate to stereotypes about aboriginal people and is angry that they exist.
"Charlotte’s best friend has had a more difficult life and wasn’t dealt as good a hand," Black says.
"Charlotte really believes you don’t have to live your life according to the stereotypes of your people. You can choose not to let it get to you."
A reading of No Offense was held on Aug. 17 at the annual Traditional Youth Gathering in Fisher River Cree Nation. The play will officially premiere on Sept. 26 at FemFest. It will be performed at high schools throughout Manitoba during the months of October and November.
"This plays is important and the message is necessary," Black says.
"Racism is a problem in high schools and we have to get the message across that it’s not OK. This play will have a lasting effect on high school audiences."
For more information about No Offense, visit www.sarasvati.ca.