By Stephanie Wesley
“Crees in the Caribbean was a great pleasure to write,” Drew Hayden Taylor says about the upcoming Magnus Theatre production set to hit the stage in late January. Taylor, who is Ojibway from Curve Lake First Nation, has donned several hats in his career. He has made his mark as a stand up comedian, journalist, short story writer and novelist, and as a documentary filmmaker. He has also become an award-winning playwright with over 70 productions of work, including Crees in the Caribbean.
The play was originally written for the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company (SNTC) as the anticipated opening show for their new theatre in Saskatchewan, Taylor explains. But there was a delay in the opening of the playhouse, so the production was put on pause.
“I wrote it, but things happened with SNTC, and while waiting for the dust to settle, the years passed and finally they called me with interest in revitalizing a possible production,” Taylor says. “To make a long story short, they did the play and it was a lot of fun. The following year, I sent it to Mario Crudo and he liked it, and here we are today.”
Crees in the Caribbean is a heartwarming comedy about two middle-aged First Nations seniors, Evie and Cecil, and their first trip out of the country. At the behest of the couple’s children, the twosome is sent off to a Mexican resort for a second honeymoon to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary. During their stay, Evie and Cecil reminisce and squabble while discussing their lives, tourism, and old age, and also form a connection with their courteous housekeeper Manuela.
Taylor explains that while normally he writes from the Anishinaabe perspective, because of the fact that the play was created for the SNTC and its audience, he decided to walk the Cree path while writing the play.
“One of the ironic things about this play, which marks my return to Magnus Theatre after a few years, is at about the same time this play is being produced in Thunder Bay, a similar production will be going up in Mazatlan, Mexico,” Taylor says. “I do not know how successful they will be in casting Cree actors, but I feel fairly confident they will have little difficulty casting the third role, that of a Mexican maid at a resort.”
The writer states that he is eager to collaborate with the director Thom Currie at Magnus Theatre. “I am looking forward to working with Thom, and hope this will be the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial relationship,” Taylor says.
Crees in the Caribbean runs from January 30 until February 11. Ticket info can be found at magnustheatre.on.ca