Canadian playwright, Trey Anthony, knows a good thing when she sees it.
For years, she has been closely monitoring New York-based composer and producer, Justin Ellington, who has collaborated with several Grammy Award-winning artists, including Beyonce, Lil Wayne, Ludacris and four-time billboard music award winner, Nicki Minaj.
Ellington, a former guest lecturer and resident musician at Princeton University, is the nephew of the late Duke Ellington, who was the 20th century’s most prolific composer.
“I tried to reach out to him two years ago when I was doing a production in Atlanta, but he was really busy,” said Anthony.
Upon learning a few weeks ago that she was one of eight Canadian writers accepted into the two-week Banff Playwrights Colony (BPC) and she could invite a collaborator to work on her project, Ellington popped up on her radar.
Anthony will use the BPC to develop her debut documentary, When Black Mothers Don’t Say I Love You, which is a “herstorcial” piece that tells the touching and heartbreaking story of a mother and her three daughters and their attempts to love each other in challenging circumstances.
“When I called Justin and told him about the project, he thought it was unique and interesting,” said Anthony. “I gave him my ideas of the music I wanted which is ska, reggae and calypso and what that music would have looked like from 1955 to 1989 and his interest peaked. That’s the kind of music I want people to hear throughout the show. He was excited to be going into that realm of music and also by the fact that I am combining film, theatre and music in one piece.”
The Colony, which is exploring playwright-driven interdisciplinary works this year, runs from April 2 to 21 and the collaborator will spend five days with the playwright.
“Justin is extremely busy and I was shocked when he agreed to allocate some of his precious time to be my collaborator,” said Anthony. “I am a big fan of his work. He’s young and innovative and his body of work is so impressive. Though we have never met in person, I feel as if there is a synergy between us.”
In addition to Ellington, Anthony will have access to veteran actors who will read scripts aloud and explore texts on their feet, a director, senior playwright and associate dramaturg.
The first Black woman to have her own show on a prime time television network, Anthony is delighted to be in this year’s BPC.
“I am so happy to be part of this initiative,” she said. “I applied last year because I know it’s a very competitive program. It provides a platform for me to further develop the documentary that talks about the complexities of love, sexuality and homophobia in the Jamaican-Canadian community. It’s a very personal and freeing piece. It not only tells my story, but the lived experience of my mother and grandmother whose personal stories speak to a wider community.”
Anthony wrote and produced Da Kink in My Hair, which won four National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People’s (NAACP) Theatre awards and was nominated for four Toronto Theatre Dora awards. It also ran for a week in October 2010 at New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts.
Global TV, which adapted the sitcom as a television series, cancelled the show after the second season. Anthony then ran a wellness centre for women in downtown Toronto for two years before relocating to Atlanta in 2010 to pursue creative opportunities.
She splits her time between Toronto and Atlanta.