Friendships in Black & White: Linden School senior students explore private and complex issues of race, class and privilege
Posted by Admin on June 24, 2021 at 1:58 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contacts: Farida Alam and Jean Geary: [email protected]
Stunning new play contains hard-hitting insights into the private world of teenage challenges and friendship during the COVID-19 pandemic
Toronto, Ontario, June 11, 2021: “Amani Makuto is a storyteller. She is a sixteen-year-old Nigerian girl, beginning her first day of school in Toronto, Canada, in the middle of a global pandemic. As her story unfolds on screen, in zoom calls, and across oceans, we hear her inner mind through the poems she writes.”
So begins the synopsis for “Unwritten”, a stunning new play created and performed by senior drama students at The Linden School. “Unwritten” follows the stories of 16-year-old Amani and her new classmates in Canada as they live through a tumultuous year shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the intersecting forces of youth, identity, race, culture, geography, and privilege.
This multidisciplinary play, entirely conceived and produced by students under the guidance of Linden senior drama teacher Coco Lee, chronicles, examines and celebrates Amani’s journey through friendships and “fitting in” all while fighting to celebrate that which makes her stand out. When her most honest and vulnerable poem is accidentally shared with her classmates, who then grapple with their responsibility and complicity, Amani will decide if she can continue to hide her feelings or if she will “just let it out.”
Its creators performed the play on May 26 and 27 to a limited Zoom audience, but, along with their families and The Linden School’s faculty, concluded that the work has value to a wider audience, especially young people who have been called upon to demonstrate and develop unprecedented resilience during the pandemic. “The world has never needed our stories more,” the creators say. “We are here to tell them.”
The school has consequently decided to release “Unwritten” online, so that this work can be shared with the wider community. The play will be screened as a limited run between now and June 30, 2021, to enable students, parents and teachers to watch the play together, and discuss their own comparable ideas and experiences, before the end of the ongoing 2020-2021 school year.
“Unwritten” is more than a school play: it boldly goes beyond a school production to portray characters and situations that are uncannily real. By taking you into the private world of teenage zoom chats, skilfully crafted scenes and dialogues reveal complex and powerful friendship dynamics that invite audience members to examine race, class and privilege from an intersectional lens.
Given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, even the technical resources and framework required to perform and release the play led the students to pivot between hybrid, in-person, and fully-digital formats, underscoring the ingenuity, talent and resourceful that they–and their young counterparts around the city, country and globe–have demonstrated this past year when confronted by challenging circumstances.
Asked in the actor and writers’ talkback that followed the play to identify what line each of the creators and actors would most like to see on a t-shirt, they responded with the following suggestions, all of which will resonate with students their age attending schools in Toronto, and around the world:
•”Nigeria was the place where I felt safe. Nigeria was everything to Amani, and when it was taken away, she just dipped.”
•Amani, you can just let it out.”
•”Yes, Amani, express yourself.”
•”Will they ever understand?”
•And finally, all the students’ favourite: “You’re so beautiful.”
These lines, and others from the play, underscore the reason why the students, teachers and families are pooling their energy and ideas to bring Amani’s story to young people who will have shared, or can learn from, her talent, thoughts, dreams, battles and experiences.
“‘Unwritten’ amplifies the voices of students who have long resisted marginalization and oppression,” said Linden drama teacher Coco Lee. It does so “by challenging students whose identities afford them privileges to face the ways that they can be complicit in oppression.”
WHEN & WHERE
“Unwritten”’s powerful message, compelling storytelling, rave reviews, and wide audience appeal, has led The Linden School to release the senior drama club production of “Unwritten” online.
Now till August 15, 2021: Performance with live talkback session available below via YouTube:
The play also featured live talk-back after the two virtual public shows. Cast and crew streamed live from their homes, answering questions posed by the audience in the chat.
Written, directed, produced and edited by Grade 10 students from The Linden School.
- Sam Layton, Guidance Counsellor, known for championing thought-provoking activism and creativity.
- Coco Lee, Drama teacher, who gleans hope from anti-oppressive activism, youth resistance, independent theatre, and black coffee.
Cast and Crew include Linden School students from Grades 8, 9 and 11.
“Unwritten” has elicited rave reviews from community members who unanimously agree that its powerful themes, valuable message, and high-quality production have great potential to resonate with a wider audience within and beyond Toronto.
“I think it’s a good conversation, especially in this time period. It’s important to allow those whose voices have been historically deliberately silenced by the mainstream media to come out and tell their truth about the damaging stereotypes. Skin colour and hair being one of them. Where black girls don’t have to aspire to European beauty standards. As Chimamanda Adichie puts it: 'black women's hair is political.’" —Pauline Mwangi, Linden parent
“Absolutely incredible! The inclusion of technology, media, chats, art, poetry... so thoughtful and vulnerable.” —Tonja Armstrong-MacInnis, Associate Principal
“This play affords so many opportunities for open discussions with other communities about racism, inclusion and exclusion, conflict resolution, expression, writing, school culture (especially in a pandemic where there is so much more text chat).... the possibilities seem endless.” —Rogue Witterick, Linden parent
“It was beyond a school production and beyond everything we expected... I think more people should see this to learn, on so many levels.” —Nasrin Matini, Principal
THE LINDEN SCHOOL
Linden is a socially-progressive community where innovative best practices in girls’ education promote and strengthen student voice, well-being, academic excellence, and global engagement. For over 28 years, Linden has specialized in applying feminist pedagogy through a social justice and interdisciplinary lens to inspire and engage girls. Our enriched curriculum and small classes lead to higher academic engagement and self-confidence amongst girls. Learn more at: www.lindenschool.ca.
THE LINDEN SENIOR DRAMA CLUB
The senior drama club showcases the strength of student-faculty collaboration and innovation within the framework of Linden’s social justice mission, feminist values, and program. It provides a safe space for students to explore their creativity while taking on thought-provoking issues and topics.