Black Boys: An Interview with Thomas Olajide
Black Boys, a theatre performance produced by Buddies in Bad Times Saga/Collectif, is on at Espace Libre, in collaboration with The Black Theatre Workshop. The creators behind Black Boys describe their play as “created from the lives of three people seeking a deeper understanding of themselves, of each other, and of how they encounter the world. As they explore their unique identities on stage, they subvert the ways in which gender, sexuality, and race are performed.” We were able to interview Thomas Olajide, about the creative conception and meaning of the performance.
Tyson Burger: Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, Tawiah Ben M’Carthy, and yourself are all co-creators and co-stars of Black Boys. How did you approach the creation process together?
Thomas: We started each day with improvised movement which we called “jam sessions”. Out of these physical improvisations arose textual scenes that were later transcribed and incorporated into the piece.
You’ve been performing Black Boys since its premiere at the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in November 2016. What’s changed about the play for you since then?
The play is now an expression of where I was in my cultural, sexual, and gender identities. It acts as a kind of sign post or tag. “Thomas was here," in a sense.
What kind of contrasts or similarities were important for you to build between these characters, considering the lack of representation and the stereotypes of black gay men?
That was not our primary intention. Of course, we were aware of the lack of representation of queer black bodies on stage. Allowing our bodies and experiences to be the centre of focus in a theatrical piece, however, was our response to that reality. As our process unfolded we realized that our individual experiences both contrasted and coalesced with one another’s. That complexity became the kernel of our piece.
Interview by Tyson Burger.