"Compassion is good, but it’s just motivation. Cars need engines. Movements need mobilization."
Through spoken word, storytelling and hip hop, acclaimed wordsmith Donna-Michelle St. Bernard illuminates racial discrimination, the suppression of expression and the trials of activism. Her experience as a Canadian emcee is woven through with allusion to Tunisian emcee Weld El 15’s unjust imprisonment for rhymes against a regime. This story creates a space to reflect on how we are connected to the systems that oppress us, and how we can empower each other to rise up.
About the authors
Donna-Michelle St. Bernard (aka Belladonna the Blest) is an emcee, playwright, and agitator. Works for the stage include Reaching For Starlight, Cake, Sound of the Beast, A Man A Fish, They Say He Fell, Salome's Clothes, Gas Girls, Give It Up, The Smell of Horses, and The First Stone. She is co-editor with Yvette Nolan of the Playwrights Canada Press anthologies Refractions: Solo and Refractions: Scenes, and editor of Indian Act: Residential School Plays. DM is the creator of the 54ology and artistic director of New Harlem Productions.
Originally from Trinidad, Kern Albert sometimes reads books, sometimes writes things down, sometimes watches plays and most times sits in a corner and waits for something to happen. He likes doing all those things.
Andy McKim focuses his professional life on developing, dramaturging, directing and producing new Canadian plays. He was recently Artistic Director of Theatre Passe Muraille (2007–2019), and was Associate Artistic Director of Tarragon Theatre (1986–2007), where he created and programmed the Spring Arts Fair. Andy was President of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (2002–2005) and President of the Toronto Theatre Alliance (1997–1999). Among other awards, Andy has been recognized with the Playwrights Guild of Canada’s Bra D’or Award (for playwright gender equity), the George Luscombe Mentorship Award and the Dora Mavor Moore Silver Ticket Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Jivesh Parasram is a multidisciplinary artist and facilitator of Indo-Caribbean descent. He grew up in K'jipuktuk in Mi'Ma'ki (specifically Dartmouth, NS), and currently lives and works primarily on the Unceded Coast Salish Territories (Vancouver) where he works as the Artistic Director for Rumble Theatre. Jiv spent over a decade in T'karonto/Toronto working mostly in the independent theatre scene; there he co-founded the award-winning political theatre collective, Pandemic Theatre. He also worked as the Associate Artistic Producer at Theatre Passe Muraille. His performance work has toured across Canada, to the UK and Europe; and his research has taken him back to the Caribbean to Cairi (Trinidad & Tobago) Taino Carib & Arawak territory. He has been honoured with numerous awards and nominations including the Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award, The Dora Mavor Moore Awards, The Jessie Richardson Awards, The Harolds, and the Herald Angel at the Edinburgh Festival. He is also published with playwrights Canada Press, and has been a contributor to publications including CBC, the Canadian Theatre Review, and Spiderweb Show.
- Nominated, Governor General's Literary Award
Excerpt: Sound of the Beast (by (author) Donna-Michelle St. Bernard; introduction by Kern Albert; afterword by Andy McKim & Jivesh Parasram)
Have you ever been slow cruised?
If you have, then you know.
If you haven’t, it’s impossible to explain.
It’s like . . . like this.
The cops are always out there, making themselves known
Nothing sinister, just visibility
So when it happens . . .
It’s a thing you know for sure happened when it was happening, but when you try to say what happened, there’s no happening there to describe. This incident, which very definitely is something, becomes nothing. It is like a sentence without a verb.
They . . . blehhhh’d me.
I’m sorry, can you spell that?
No, I can’t. And I can’t draw a picture of it either, or point to it on a doll. But this thing happened . . . happens. Frequently. It is the frequency that gets under your skin. The perpetualness.
the performer follows a slowly passing car with her eyes.
Each time they pass they are saying something.
Do you see me?
I see you.
And I know what you’re about to do.
Am I gonna stop you today? Maybe . . . maybe . . .
Nah. Today I’ll keep driving.
But I could have stopped. I could have.
It’s a very grown-up game of “I’m not touching you.”
And you don’t want to get touched.
So when you see them, you suddenly think, “Act like nothing’s going on,” which is how you were acting before you saw them, because nothing, genuinely, is going on. But suddenly you can’t remember what that looked like, so you are racking your brain, trying to remember how fast you were walking before you saw them, and then you wonder, did I just speed up or slow down, and does that look suspicious, and is there a more suspicious looking person nearby I could walk past in order to become less threatening on the curve, and fair enough, I look like the type, right? Fair enough. Cuz why didn’t I wear a bow tie to the laundromat today? And all the while they are slowly cruising by.
the performer follows the slowly passing car with her eyes.
Do you know what I mean?
Have you ever been slow cruised?
If you have, then you know.
If you haven’t . . .
You may say, “Just take it cuz it all serves a purpose”
And “If you never did nothing, why you getting nervous?”
Seems knee jerk on the surface, but it goes deeper:
Sound of the beast is sound of the reaper.
Or the sleeper or the choke
It’s a taser for a toke
Grab the phone, then remember them three numbers is a joke
And you’re on your own when you hear that note
Cuz the system’s broke . . .
Have you ever been slow cruised? . . .
“Effective, disturbing, and enlightening.”
Karen Fricker, Toronto Star
“Unusual and disarming.”
J. Kelly Nestruck, The Globe and Mail
“As poignant as it is playful. Utterly affecting.”
Camila Fitzgibbon, Montreal Theatre Hub