Syrus Marcus Ware is a visual artist, community activist, researcher, youth advocate, and a key member of Black Lives Matter Toronto. Now he's adding playwright and actor to his resume, co-starring in 'Bubble Trans Pride' at this week’s Rhubarb Festival.
Ware stars as Tyler, a queer Black Lives Matter activist, and parent. He drew inspiration for the character based on his own experiences with anti-Black racism in the LGBTQ community. Particularly, the response Black Lives Matter activists received after protests during the 2016 and 2017 Toronto Pride parades.
“We saw a lot of anti-black backlash from within queer communities, and it was pretty shocking. There was online violence, it was quite disturbing. A play like this really cuts to the heart of that...and asks people to think about what positions they're going to take when push comes to shove to support the lives of Black people. And in particular, Black trans people who need to survive.”
The content is timely considering Toronto’s political climate. From Bruce McArthur’s sentencing, and to narrowly winning the right to exclude the police from Pride, it’s been a very rough time to be a man of colour in Toronto. Especially a queer one.
Ware takes his feelings about activism in both the LGBT and Black communities and puts it into his art. Not only is he one of the main characters of Bubble Trans Pride, Ware also co-created and co-wrote the play. He admitted it was a bit of a departure from his usual visual artisty, but it was a beautiful process nonetheless.
He and fellow actor and co-writer, Hanlon McGregor, came up with the idea during the summer of 2018. Of the writing process, Ware said, “It was a really beautiful process where we took our time and tried to write out some of our memories after the pride protests that Black Lives Matter did and tried to think through some of our own experiences when it comes to relationships and dating. We talked that through over a couple of months and over the summer we built it into the play that you see today.” The two used experiences from their own relationships and dating to influence their characters as well.
The play, though almost double the 20 minute run time allotted by the Rhubarb festival, was first performed in Halifax. It was well received by audiences, though the content is very specific to Toronto.
Ware thinks the reception here in his hometown will be just as good. “It's interesting to have it in a queer arts festival. It will bring an important conversation about anti-Black racism in the city and within queer communities. I hope it goes over well and I hope people like it.”
Bubble Trans Pride will be part of the Rhubarb Festival this week at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
Photo credit: Jalani Morgan
Ashleigh-Rae is a queer Jamaican, writer and activist. Her work has been featured in Huffington Post and Daily Xtra. Follow her on Twitter @ashleighraet