Black Theatre Workshop’s (BTW) mission is to promote and produce Black theatre that educates, entertains and inspires. The company strives to create a greater cross-cultural understanding by challenging its audience and the status quo. As Canada’s longest running Black theatre company, it maintains a high level of integrity and creativity. Elevating the representation of Black Canadian artists, the company bridges cultural barriers – uniting hearts, minds and communities.
Artistic goals or objectives
The artistic policy is to program primarily plays by Afri-Canadian playwrights, however plays are selected firstly on their artistic merit. While BTW continues to attract a diverse audience, plays are selected for their relevance to Black society and culture. This is in answer to the growing need amongst the Black communities to see themselves reflected in the stories they watch and to further answer the need for the general audience to better understand and participate in the varied aspects of Black culture.
A brief history
BTW is the oldest Black theatre company in Canada with the presentation of their first production in 1971 as the Black Workshop. BTW was incorporated as the non-profit organization Black Theatre Workshop Inc. in 1972 and in 1985 changed its legal name to adhere to new French language rules to Théâtre BTW Inc. The history of BTW involves a relentless struggle to diversify and democratize the arts in Canada. This has been accomplished by increasing the range of performing arts and cultures that are recognized, accepted, and supported in Canada at the level of audiences, patrons, sponsors, funding agencies and governments. BTW is the longest-surviving and most established Black theatre company in Canada, due in part to our continued commitments to artistic excellence, social relevance and our audiences, and to our ability to adapt as a self-renewing arts organization.
For more info on our history please visit our archives section or visit the Concordia University Records Management & Archives and Library’s Special Collections where we have donated the bulk of our archives.
What we do
Black Theatre Workshop is a ground-breaking theatre company committed to showcasing and fostering Black Canadian artists, inspiring dialogue and broadening understanding across the country. Our activities include:
Every season, Black Theatre Workshop produces plays for the general public in one of Montreal’s established theatre venues which we call mainstage productions. These plays can be anything from classics of the African-American theatre cannon to new plays written by Black Canadian playwrights. The topics range from contemporary Black life to historical dramas set in Canada, the United States, the African continent or the Caribbean. Our goal is to present the great diversity of what it means to be Black all the while reflecting on the legacy of the past and expressing our aspirations for the future.
We also have a touring show every year that visits schools across the Montreal region during Black History Month. These shows are created to appeal to young audiences and vary season to season depending on the topics and themes of the play. The school tour always has public performances for the general public as adults are always entertained by these theatrical presentations which they can enjoy with the entire family.
Artist Mentorship Program
The Artist Mentorship Program is an annual program spearheaded by Black Theatre Workshop that aims to guide and facilitate emerging artists who are mainly Black or people of colour towards a sustainable professional career. The ensemble is always inclusive and diverse. The selected participants are mentored throughout the season by established artists and take part in a variety of workshops aimed at building their skill sets and confidence as artists. Many artists who have been through the program have gone on to successful careers or have received the necessary jumpstart to navigate the world of professional theatre, TV and film.
The Discovery Series consists of a public reading of a new work by a Black playwright. It’s a great way for our audience to “discover” a new work, ask questions and provide feedback as the playwright continues to develop their work in the hopes of having it produced in the future.
Vision Celebration Gala
Vision Celebration Gala is an annual fundraising event that takes place at the start of Black History Month to honour Black artists and community members who have made significant contributions to Canadian arts and the Montreal community. We also give a nod to young, up and coming Black artists who are awarded bursaries to encourage them in their path towards the arts and Black excellence. It is also a time when we recognize all that we’ve accomplished the previous year and what we have to look forward to the coming year while saying thank you to the loyal community that supports us year after year.
Awards, nominations and mentions
· 1 META win (Montreal English Theatre Awards) in 2018/19 for ‘Outstanding Emerging Artist(s) – Production’ Nikita Bala – Production Management and 1 nomination for ‘Outstanding Lighting Design’ Tim Rodrigues for How Black Mothers Say I Love You.
· 4 META award wins (Montreal English Theatre Awards) in 2017/18 for ‘Outstanding PACT Production’ for The Mountaintop by Katori Hall (co-production with Neptune Theatre), ‘Outstanding Set Design’ Eo Sharp for The Mountaintop, ‘Outstanding Lead Performance – Actress’ Letitia Brookes in The Mountaintop, ‘Outstanding Lead Performance – Actor’ Tristan D. Lalla in The Mountaintop. The 11 META nominations also included ‘Outstanding Lead Performance – Actress’ Djennie Laguerre in Rendez-Vous With Home, ‘Outstanding Lighting Design’ David Perreault Ninacs for The Mountaintop, ‘Outstanding Direction’ ahdri zhina mandiela for The Mountaintop, ‘Outstanding Direction’ Dayane Ntibarikue for Rendez-Vous With Home, ‘Outstanding Contribution to Theatre’ Karl-Henry Brézault: Live Musical Performance in Rendez-Vous With Home, ‘Outstanding Costume Design’ Eo Sharp for The Mountaintop.
· 2 META award wins (Montreal English Theatre Awards) in 2016/17 for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Theatre’ by SIXTRUM Percussion Ensemble, ‘Outstanding PACT Production’ for Angélique by Lorena Gale (co-production with Tableau D’Hôte Theatre). The 10 META nominations also included ‘Outstanding Lead Performance – Actress’ Jenny Brizard, ‘Outstanding Direction’ Mike Payette, ‘Outstanding Supporting Performance’ Karl Graboshas, ‘Outstanding Supporting Performance’ Tristan D. Lalla, ‘Outstanding Supporting Performance’ Olivier Lamarche, ‘Outstanding Set Design’ Eo Sharp, ‘Outstanding Lighting Design’ David Perreault Ninacs, and ‘Outstanding Sound Design’ Sixtrum Percussion Ensemble.
· 7 META award wins (Montreal English Theatre Awards) in 2015/16 for ‘Outstanding Lead Performance – Actor’ by Walter Borden, ‘Outstanding Direction’ by Djanet Sears, ‘Outstanding Lighting Design’ by Jason Hand, ‘Outstanding Original Composition’ by Alejandra Nunez & Djanet Sears, ‘Outstanding Contribution to Theatre’ by the Chorus: Troy Adams, Kaleb Alexander, Tamara Brown, Janelle Cooper, Marie-Christine Depestre, Trudy Lee Gayle, Don Jordan, Evangelia Kambites, Kayvon Kelly, Tristan D. Lalla, Amanda LeBlanc, Paula-Jean Prudat, Saidah Baba Talibah, Alison Woolridge, ‘Outstanding PACT Production’ for The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God (co-production with Centaur Theatre and National Arts Centre) and the ‘Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Award’ for the Artist Mentorshop Program. The 13 META nominations also included Quincy Armorer ‘Outstanding Lead Performance – Actor’, Barbara Barnes-Hopkins ‘Outstanding Supporting Performance – Actress’, Lili Francks ‘Outstanding Supporting Performance – Actress’, Astrid Jansen ‘Outstanding Costume Design’, Peter Cerone ‘Outstanding Sound Design’, and Vivine Scarlett ‘Outstanding Contribution to Theatre – Choreography’ in the Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God.
· 3 META award wins (Montreal English Theatre Awards) in 2014/15 for ‘Outstanding Lead Performance’ for Lucinda Davis and ‘Outstanding Sound Design’ Peter Cerone for random (co-production with Imago Theatre) and ‘Outstanding Emerging Artist’ Virgilia Griffith for Gas Girls. 6 META nominations also included Micheline Chevrier ‘Outstanding Direction’ and Martin Sirois ‘Outstanding Lighting Design’ for random, Virgilia Griffith ‘Outstanding Lead Performance’, Chimwemwe Miller ‘Outstanding Supporting Performance’ and Rob Denton ‘Outstanding Sound Design’ in Gas Girls.
· 5 META Nominations in 2013/14 for ‘Outstanding Supporting Actress’ for Kim Villagante, ‘Outstanding Sound Design’ for Troy Slocum, ‘Outstanding Original Composition’ for Troy Slocum and Collaborators, ‘Outstanding New Text’ for Omari Newton and ‘Outstanding Professional Production’ for Sal Capone: The Lamentable Tragedy of.
· 2013 World Premier of Sal Capone: The Lamentable Tragedy of by Omari Newton (Co-production with urban ink Productions)
· a META Award win (Montreal English Theatre Award) in 2012/13 for ‘Best Actress’ (Lucinda Davis) and a nominations for ‘Best Sound Design’ (Rob Denton) and Best Supporting Actor (Jeremiah Sparks) for our production of Harlem Duet.
· 2013 World Premier of When Elephant was King by Chimwemwe Miller
· Actress Warona Setshwaelo, of Stori Ya, was featured as “One to Watch” in The Montreal Gazette’s year-end review of 2011 arts in Montreal.
· 2011 World Premier of Stori Ya by Joan M. Kivanda
· DreamKEEPERS Life Achievement Award in 2011 in recognition of BTW as a clarion voice of equality, providing inspired role models for all Canadians
· a MECCA (Montreal’s English Critics Circle Award) nomination in 2011 for Best Actress (Ranee Lee) for A Raisin in the Sun
· a SOBA (Sounds of Blackness Award) recognition award in 2011
· a MECCA Award win in 2010 for ‘Best Lighting Design’ (Swan Song of Maria)
· a MECCA Award win in 2009 for ‘Best Costume Design’ (Le Code Noir)
· 2009 World Premiere of Le Code Noir by George Boyd.
· BTW was honoured in 2009 by the Table Ronde du Mois de l’Histoire des Noirs in their annual calendar.
· 3 MECCA Award nominations in 2008 with a win for ‘Best Lighting’ for blood[claat].
· a SOBA Award nomination in 2007 for The Lady Smith)
· a MECCA Award nomination in 2006 for ‘Best Ensemble Cast’ (Blacks Don’t Bowl)
· Blacks Don’t Bowl voted ‘Best Play of the Year’ in the Montreal Mirror’s annual audience survey
· Blacks Don’t Bowl nominated for ‘Best English Language Production’ for Les Masques
· 2006 World Premiere of Blacks Don’t Bowl by Vadney S.Haynes.
· 2005 Black Theatre Workshop’s production of Wade in the Water, bought by Centaur Theatre in Montreal.
· 2005 Wade in the Water published by Playwrights of Canada Press
· 2005 Black Theatre Workshop honoured by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Committee of Montreal, Historic Contribution to the Development of Black Performing Arts in Canada.
· 2004 MECCA Award Best Director for Wade in the Water. Also runner-up for Best Production.
· 2004 World Premiere of Wade in the Water by George Boyd.
· Trail Blazer Award (Black History Month Round Table Award). In recognition of Black Theatre Workshop’s exceptional and exemplary dedication to the development of the community by promoting cultural diversity, educational awareness and social consciousness.
· 2003 MECCA Award Best Ensemble Cast, for A Common Man’s Guide to Loving Women. Two other MECCA nominations, Best Director, Best Overall Production, for A Common Man’s Guide to Loving Women.
· 2003 World Premiere of Bluenose by Emil Sher. Co-produced with Geordie Productions.
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