Rehearsals for Mulatto Nation
(left to right: Vanessa Schmit Craan, Mike Payette, Sara Cohen-Fournier, Sky Marley, Tiernan Cornford, Ranee Henegan Comeau)
What does it mean to be mixed? If you are mixed but identify as being just black, are you denying a part of your heritage?
by Valerie Cardinal
Marika Scwandt’s Mulatto Nation asks its actors and audience to face some hard questions concerning racial identity. What does it mean to be mixed? If you are mixed but identify as being just black, are you denying a part of your heritage?
According to the eponymous military-style organization at the heart of this production, the answer to that last question is yes. Mulatto Nation is set in an alternate world where “mixed is the new white” and it’s unusual to be just black or white.
Trying to find a place in this world is Maizey, who spends the play coming to terms with her white father with some help from Mulatto Nation’s militant members. Vanessa Schmit-Craan dominates the stage as a black woman who is clearly sick and tired of her identity being questioned. But in this world, no one is listening when Maizey tells them she’s just light-skinned.
Granted, the organization itself is a little creepy, considering the military aspect, but their goal is interesting.
Jeremy Lacombe matches Schmit-Craan’s force of character with his portrayal of a Mulatto Nation leader who spends his days trying to convince people like Maizey to accept themselves. Granted, the organization itself is a little creepy, considering the military aspect, but their goal is interesting.
Maizey’s internal struggle is overseen by her two grandmothers, one white and one black, played by Jo Joffre and Warone Setshwaelo. The rest of the actors are all part of Black Theatre Workshop’s YouthWorks program, and do an admirable job with the tough material they are given.
No matter what your identity, the powerful script and the commitment of the actors stays with the audience and leaves them thinking. The questions put forward by the playwright and director Mike Payette are ones that should spark a lot of discussion, since underneath it all our world is not so different from the one where Mulatto Nation is set.
Run time: 55 minutes