Ti Jean and His Brothers opens Theatre @ York’ s new season

Theatre @ York’s season opener is Ti Jean and His Brothers, a magical, musical parable by Nobel laureate Derek Walcott. Directed by Marvin Ishmael, this Caribbean gem runs until Nov. 13 at the Joseph G. Green Studio Theatre at York University.

The play, written in 1958, uses the structure of a simple fable to explore the complex issue of colonialism. Set in a tropical forest, it tells the tale of three brothers who contend in turn with the devil in three different guises.

Left: Marvin Ishmael

While it’s one of Walcott’s best-known plays, Ti Jean and his Brothers has rarely been produced in Canada.

“I was drawn to it by its poetry, imagery and the possibility of movement,” said Ishmael. “Not just the movement of action and gesture, but also the movement of story and plot, of emotions and time and space. I’m also drawn by the simplicity of Walcott’s characters, and am personally moved by the complexity of the issues they either face or represent.”

Complementing the production will be an exhibition of paintings by Philemon Campbell, Ken Daley and Cheryl Rock in the Alumni Fireside Lounge, located next door to the theatre. Ishmael discovered their work at Colourblind 2010 – From the Soul, an exhibit organized by the Association of African Canadian Artists at the Royal Ontario Museum, and invited them to display their work in tandem with the play.

Trinidad-born Ishmael has been involved in the Toronto and Caribbean theatre scenes for over 30 years: as artistic director of Theatre Fountainhead and We Are One Theatre Productions, as a Dora Mavor Moore Award-winning playwright (for My Father My Hero) and as a producer, director and performer. His acting credits include most of Canada’s major stages as well as tours in the United States and a leading role in the Broadway musical Bombay Dreams (2004).

Born in St. Lucia in 1930, Walcott is a poet, playwright, writer and visual artist. He has published over 20 plays including The Dream of Monkey Mountain and The Basement Theatre. In addition to the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature, his accolades include the MacArthur “genius” Fellowship, the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry and the St. Lucia Cross.

Walcott founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop and Boston Playwrights’ Theatre at Boston University, where he taught until 2007. He is currently Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the University of Alberta, Edmonton and professor of poetry at the University of Essex in Colchester, England.

Now in its 42nd season, Theatre @ York is one of Toronto’s longest-running theatre companies. Every year, the company features some of Canada’s most promising performance and production talent in a challenging and entertaining slate of plays drawn from the contemporary and classical repertoire.

Ti Jean and His Brothers previews Nov. 8 at 7:30pm and opens Nov. 9. The play runs until Nov. 13, with shows at 7:30pm nightly. There will be two matinees on Nov. 10 and 12 at 1pm. Single ticket admission is $17, tickets for students and seniors are $12, preview tickets are $5. The Come Play with Us! season subscription $40. The season subscription price for students and seniors is $25.

For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the York University Box Office at 416-736-5888.