on love is a play about love between Black people in Canada that I directed and dramaturged. It features eight Black characters and was written and performed by mostly white undergraduate students in the Theatre and Performance program where I’m a professor.
The other little piece of this puzzle, is that on love is centred around an actual site called Nigger Rock, which is an enormous dark-coloured bolder in St. Armand, Québec just north of the U.S. border. The history of the St. Armand community indicates that the Black slaves, and free Black trades men who lived in the community in the 17th and 18th Centuries used Nigger Rock as the headstone for all of their dead.
Casting the play across racial lines was not an exercise in colour-blind casting. I knew the colour of each actor’s skin as did the majority of the audience members who saw the play. I cast the play this way because most of the students in my program are white and if I were to wait until there were enough Black students to do work featuring Black characters I’d have to wait an awfully long time. So, instead, we tackled the challenging, exciting and unsettling work of figuring out how to grapple with the ethical and aesthetic questions raised when predominantly white students, faculty and staff perform and produce Black art.