Guest Writer: A discussion on Fairview
March 02, 2021
As part of the PuSh Festival’s 2021 Youth & Emerging Artist Programming, we were excited to initiate a facilitated discussion about the Pulitzer Award-winning play Fairview by Jackie Sibblies Drury.
In this blog post, the talented writer Mikaela Joy talks about her takeaways from the discussion, which was facilitated by Omari Newton and Kayvon Khoshkam.
If there’s one thing I’ve grown to love this past year, it’s talking about my Blackness. Unfortunately, it’s not something I get to do often in the theatre spaces. So, when the opportunity arose for me to be involved with a discussion on Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Fairview, I was elated.
Wait… who are you?
Hi! I’m Mikaela Joy- I’m a fourth year UBC student studying Psychology and Theatre Design and Production. I’m from and currently in the petite island of Bermuda. In case you somehow read past it, I’m Black.
So about this discussion…
Myself and three incredible students were tasked with continuing the event started by PuSh, but on a smaller scale. We each read Fairview and shared some initial thoughts and questions we had about the play with each other.
Creating events where race is an integral part of the discussion is rarely an easy feat. There’s always the concern that someone will say something offensive, or people won’t engage because they’re worried about saying something offensive. Luckily for us, our guest speakers’ infectious smiles and vulnerability created a welcoming atmosphere that made it feel like we were simply talking with old friends.
Hold up, there were guest speakers?
YES! We had the honor of being joined by the incredible artists Omari Newton and Kayvon Khoshkam, who recently co-directed a workshop on Fairview. I would be surprised if anyone left our discussion not being completely enamoured with this dynamic duo. They shared their experience navigating theatre spaces as creatives of colour, and discussed how plays like Fairview and The Shipment can contribute to creating a more diverse theatrical landscape.
What did you learn?
It’s challenging to summarise the breadth of topics that Kayvon and Omari expertly explored, but there were certainly a few nuggets of wisdom that stood out.
Omari and Kayvon were transparent in explaining that they don’t have all the answers. As creatives of colour, we’re often expected to have all the solutions on how to create more diverse and inclusive performance spaces. For white artists, listen to POC, but don’t expect solutions to be handed to you. Find ways to create space for artists of colour to speak, think, create and engage. For artists of colour, find the people who listen and go for it – you may be surprised at the breadth of support you can get once you have your foot in the door.
Among the instances of support, the duo have also been met with instances of criticism and resistance when they’ve directed plays that centre around race. Kayvon is an advocate for authentic reactions on either side of the spectrum. He explained that fighting against radical apathy can be just as important as fighting for radical empathy.
Ultimately, Omari and Kayvon advised us that the best way to support POC creatives in the theatre industry is to ensure plays like Fairview are given the time and space they deserve. By reading, discussing, and buying tickets to go see these plays, it ensures that theatre companies get the feedback and reception that encourages the continuation of this vein of radical work. So, in the wise words of Omari, “Support productions like this so shows of its kind can rise in its path”.
Mikaela Joy is an artist and community builder from the petite island of Bermuda. She is in her fourth year at the University of British Columbia studying theatre design & production and psychology. Mikaela first crawled onto a stage as a toddler and has been in love with theatre ever since. She is currently the student representative for FABIPOC – a group of students and alumni dedicated to eliminating discrimination and harassment in the Department of Theatre and Film at UBC. Find out more about Mikaela on her Instagram @Mikie_Joy