Djanet Sears

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Djanet Sears
Born Janet Sears
1959
London, England
Citizenship Canadian
Education Bachelor of Fine Arts honours in theatre
Alma mater

York University Canadian Film Centre

New York University
Genre Drama
Notable works Afrika Solo, Harlem Duet, The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God,

Djanet Sears is a Canadian playwright, actor and director, nationally recognized for her work in African-Canadian Theatre. Sears has many credits in writing and editing highly acclaimed dramas such as Afrika Solo, the first stage play to be written by a Canadian woman of African descent; its sequel Harlem Duet, and The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God.[1] The complexities of intersecting identities of race, and gender are central themes in her works,[2] as well as inclusion of songs, rhythm, and choruses shaped from West-African traditions.[1] She is also passionate about "the preservation of Black theatre history,"[2] and involved the creation of organizations like Obsidian Theatre, and AfriCanadian Playwrights Festival.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Born (1959) in England, to a Guyanese father and a Jamaican mother,[3] Sears lived there until 1974 when her family moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and then settled in Oakville, Ontario in 1975.[1] Her birth name was Janet — she added the D after a trip to West Africa where she came across a plateau called "Djanet," inspiring her to change her name as a nod to her African Ancestry.[3]

Sears attended York University where she obtained an Honours Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre in 1999, followed by studies at the Canadian Film Centre and New York University.[1]

Career[edit]

After returning from a trip to West-Africa Sears wrote her stage play Afrika Solo, which premiered in 1987, and sparked the creation of many other full-length plays like Double Trouble, and Harlem Duet.[1] Sears is not only a writer for theatre, she has many credits in acting, directing, and editing multiple volumes of an anthology of Canadian African plays called Testifyin': Contemporary African Canadian Drama.[4]

Sears contributed to the creation of the AfriCanadian Playwrights Festival in 1997, which is a culmination of African centred plays on the Canadian stage.[1] It was held in Toronto in 2003 as well as 2006.[5] Sears also belongs to and is a founding member of the Obsidian Theatre "dedicated to producing works by authors of African descent living or working in Canada."[3]

Sears as an educator worked as an adjunct professor teaching drama at University College, University of Toronto.[5] Additionally she has held many positions like the international artist-in-residence at Joseph Papp Public Theatre, the writer-in-residence at the University of Guelph, and playwright-in-residence at Nightwood Theatre.[4]

Plays[edit]

  • Afrika Solo is primarily a one-woman show, along with a two-man chorus. It is a semi-autobiographical play that tells a story about a young woman trying to find herself getting through what new information she is learning along the way. The main character, Djanet and her experiences are the focal point of the play.[3]
  • Harlem Duet is considered to be a precursor to Shakespeare's Othello. The location is set on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X Boulevards. Sears choose this location because she wanted the audience to grasp the concept of race in the country, and the familiar streets were more tangible to the North American Audience. The story follows main characters Othello and Billie and there withering marriage as Othello begins to lean towards a white identity mostly because of his affair with a character named Mona, who is a white woman. The story paints a picture of the white dominated North America.[3]
  • The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God follows character Rainey, who is an African-Canadian Doctor and her hardships while experienced in Western Ontario. Rainey deals with losing a close family member, a failing marriage and tension between her and her father, who even with poor health and old age is on a mission to maintain his ethic pride in his community.[3]
  • Who Killed Katie Ross
  • Double Trouble
  • The Mother Project

Awards and honours[edit]

Sears full-length play Afrika Solo won the International Armstrong Award for Outstanding Radio Play (1991), and the Silver Prize at the International Radio Festival of New York (1991); its sequel Harlem Duet has acquired multiple Dora Mavor Moore Awards, and The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God was shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award (2004).[6] Sears's other distinctions include an even more extensive list including Canada's highest literary award.[4]

Directing credits[edit]

  • The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God', Mirvish Productions, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (2003/2004)
  • Harlem Duet, Blue Heron Theatre, New York, NY. (2002)
  • The Wonder of Man, Nightwood Theatre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (1992)
  • Dark Diaspora... in Dub, Toronto Fringe Festival, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (1990)
  • Princess Pocahontas and the Blue Spots, Groundswell, May Works and From the Ground Up, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (1989)
  • Ella and Jennifer, Groundswell, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (1989)
  • AStreetcar Named Desire, Canadian Actor's Equity Association, Talent over Tradition, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (1989)
  • CopperTin Can, Groundswell, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (1988)
  • Shakes, Cabaret Productions,York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (1982)

Discography[edit]

  • "Playsongs and Lullabies" Teds Records, Toronto Canada, (1989)
  • "Conditions Critical" Verse to Vinyl Records, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, (1989)
  • "Winterlong" Teds Records, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, (1991)
  • "Daysongs and Nightsongs" Teds Records, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, (1993)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Nicholls, Sandra. "Djanet Sears". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2016-11-25. 
  2. ^ a b "Djanet Sears". Playwrights Guild of Canada. Playwrights Guild of Canada. 2013. Retrieved 2 April 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Swerkstrom, Annie; Nelson, Joelle; Prieditis, Shelley (16 December 2004). "Djanet Sears" (PDF). Voices from the Gap. University of Minnesota. Retrieved 24 November 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Djanet Sears." In Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Literature Resource Center (accessed November 26, 2016).
  5. ^ a b Matzig, Catherine; Greenberg, Joel (12 August 2009). "Sears, Djanet". Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia. Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2 April 2015. 
  6. ^ "Djanet Sears". Playwrights Canada Press. Playwrights Canada Press. 2013. Retrieved 2 April 2015.