The Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men will host two events in the upcoming week as part of their lecture series on imprisonment, which explores the many forms of incarceration. There will be an evening performance of “Letters from the Dead,” a one-woman show featuring Carol Lawes, at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 9 at The Headless Sullivan’s Theater, located at 427 Exchange Street, and a roundtable discussion with one of the play’s authors, Honor Ford-Smith, the following morning at 9 a.m. in the Fisher Center.
“Letters from the Dead,” authored by Lawes and Ford-Smith with Eugene Williams and Amba Chevannes, began as a collectively-created image event commemorating the murder of thousands of youth killed in inner city violence in Toronto’s Caribbean diaspora. The event comprises a silent funeral procession in the street. Bringing together the messages from the dead and media reports on violence, and the losses of living, the performance traces one woman’s attempt to bury her grandson and convey his demands for justice in the present.
The morning following the performance, Honor Ford-Smith will lead a roundtable discussion, “Memory, Urban Violence and Performance,” in connection with the show. Ford-Smith is a scholar, theatre worker and poet.
Lawes is best known for creating compelling female roles which combine satirical humor with religious iconography and linguistic creativity. She is identified with Lettie in the collectively created “Fallen Angel and the Devil Concubine,” Queenie in “Sufferer’s Song”; and Nen in “Ilawah.” She is also a director, popular theatre animator and arts administrator. She is currently developing the theatre arm of the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre, a women’s community based organization which has violence prevention as its main focus.
Ford-Smith was educated in Jamaica at St. Andrew High School and after studying theatre began teaching at the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston. She became co-founder and artistic director of Sistren (Sisters), a theatre collective of mainly working-class Jamaican women that works in community theatre and popular education. Ford-Smith was also a member of the Groundwork Theatre Company, created in 1980 as the repertory arm of the Jamaica School of Drama. Ford-Smith received her doctorate in education from the University of Toronto in 2004. She continues to write, work in performance and teach at York University in Toronto where she is an Associate Professor in the Community Arts Practice program under the Faculty of Environmental Studies.
The photo above features Honor Ford-Smith.