Toronto | October 24, 2023
Cahoots Tips Its Hat to Childhood’s Sweeter Days
With its sole production of the 23/24 season, Cahoots Theatre makes an inspired foray into TYA and all-ages fare with the world premiere of Sweeter, by Alicia Richardson. Produced in association with Roseneath Theatre, Sweeter was initially penned in Cahoots’ Hot House playwrights’ unit in 2016. The play takes us to the American south in 1887, where we meet an African-American girl named Sweet Pea and her widowed father Ralph. Newly emancipated after years of enslavement, Ralph longs to fulfill the dream of a free future and a new life for himself and his daughter. When he finds promising work on a small farm, however, all is not as it seems. Meanwhile, his daughter makes a best friend that nobody expected, and the landowner has plans of his own.
Directed by Cahoots’ artistic director Tanisha Taitt, the production embeds the company’s GAP(s) training and mentorship initiative which was launched last season, welcoming Amaka Umeh to the role of assistant director. Sweeter boasts what has been called a “dream-beyond-a-dream-cast”. Featuring Daren Herbert as Ralph and Alicia Plummer as Sweet Pea, the play also stars Sébastien Heins, Uche Ama, and Emerjade Simms.
Those familiar with the director’s background with theatre for young audiences will find Cahoots’ stroll into this territory to be a natural if not inevitable sojourn. “Sweeter entered my orbit at an artist gathering seven years ago,” she recalls. “A young woman I’ve never met walks up to the mic and informs the crowd of the play she’s writing about a little girl whose bestie is a mango tree. That’s all I need to hear. I stop cold, my heart flutters. I go to her and ask if can please read her script. I’m completely enamoured and know that somehow, I have to be part of it.” One of many things that drew Cahoots to the play is how it operates as both a young people’s and an adult story. In recognition of its family demographic, the company is doing something new — ‘Opening Night’
is a Sunday afternoon matinee. Taitt asserts, “We want the 9-year-old, her parents and her grandparents there.”
The woman who excitedly told that roomful of artists about her piece, playwright Alicia Richardson, shares that Sweeter is fuelled in part by her many ruminations on life post-Emancipation, pre-Harlem Renaissance. “How did Black folks redefine their personhood?” What was it like to be the first generation born free?” Richardson ponders. “My play is set in Eatonville, Florida in the year 1887 — the same year that a collection of freed men founded the town. I am deeply empowered by these Black pioneers, the ones that my history books forgot.”
Bringing the Sweeter world to life are design team Sim Suzer, A.W. Nadine Grant, Shawn Henry, Miquelon Rodriguez and Amelia Blaine. The show will be produced by Lisa Alves and Samantha Vu, and stage managed by Kat Chin with ASM Farnoosh Talebpour. Production management is by Maya Royer, with technical direction by Anthony Allan and captioning by Caitlin Farley. Sweeter opens on December 3rd and runs to December 17th at Native Earth Performing Arts’ AKI Studio. Tickets go on sale Tuesday October 24th.
Taitt feels honoured to share the play. “Sweeter is a beautiful and compelling allegory that children will engage with in one way, and adults will experience on an entirely different level. That duality attracts and moves me.”
Written by Alicia Richardson | Directed by Tanisha Taitt
Featuring: Daren Herbert, Alicia Plummer, Uche Ama, Sébastien Heins, Emerjade Simms
Native Earth’s AKI Studio (in Daniels Spectrum) - 585 Dundas St. East, Toronto
Dec 2nd to 17th, 2023 (Opening Dec 3rd @ 1pm) | Tues-Sat 7pm; Wed 12pm; Sun 1pm (No Mondays)
Media Contact: Samantha Vu at firstname.lastname@example.org