Co-written by Toronto-based writer, designer and music artist Ian Kamau, his father writer Roger McTair and with composer Njo Kong Kie, LOSS confronts a family history of mental illness and uncovers the touching story of Kamau's paternal grandmother.
Presented in partnership with
Ian Kamau is an artist, writer, and designer from Toronto. He has independently released six album projects including the 2011 self-produced album One Day Soon that receiving a critical reception and seeing him tour in seven countries. Ian has published his writing in several anthologies including The Unpublished City curated by Dionne Brand that was a finalist at The Toronto Book Awards. He is currently a Masters student at OCAD University’s Strategic Foresight and Innovation program, and holds both a masters in Environmental Studies and a BA in Fine Arts from York University.
A picnic and ping pong enthusiast, Njo Kong Kie enjoys composing for dance, opera and theatre. Compositions include concert-theatre Picnic in the Cemetery and music-theatre work Mr. Shi and His Lover (text: Wong Teng Chi), the first-ever Chinese production at the National Arts Centre English Theatre. Long-serving music director of La La La Human Steps, Kong Kie has also composed for choreographers such as Anne Plamondon, Aszure Barton and Shawn Hounsel.
In development: The Year of the Cello, a play with solo cello music set in 1920s Hong Kong (with Marjorie Chan); The Futures Market, an opera exploring the complex implications of organ transplant (with Douglas Rodger) and I swallowed a moon made of iron, set to the haunting poems of Xu Lizhi (Canadian Stage, 2019).
Roger McTair is a Trinidadian-Canadian writer, pioneering documentary filmmaker, and poet whose stories and poems have been published in the Caribbean, Canada, and the U.S.
An alumni of Ryerson University’s Film and Photography program, he taught media writing at Seneca College at York University in Toronto, and has a keen critical interest in literature, theatre, and philosophy.
- Written by
- Ian Kamau, Roger McTair
- Music by
- Njo Kong Kie
- Tiffany Hsiung
"In 2013 I returned to Toronto after touring through Africa with my last record. A few weeks later Ravi Jain called me and asked if I had ever thought of performance beyond what I normally did. I told him I hadn't thought clearly about how to evolve my art and performance which was mostly music and poetry at the time but that I was bored with what I was doing. He was at The Theatre Centre, a small theatre on Queen street, Downtown Toronto that did live arts and experimental/innovative performance work. He asked if I would pitch something; a few months later I was invited into the residency program at The Theatre Centre.
Before I went to South Africa I had lived through a winter of depression. I didn't feel appreciated or safe in Toronto. I felt rejected. I was confused, hurt, and wanting to do and be something different.
I dropped almost everything. I got off all boards I was sitting on, declined work in community where I was so present, distanced myself from many people, and decided to focus more on my family and my self.
My father's health became more of an issue around this time. I wanted to make sure he was okay as best as I could and keep in better contact with my mother who was living in Philadelphia at the time.
Pitching to The Theatre Centre was easy because I only had a few things on my mind; family, mental health, and actualization.
My paternal grandmother died mysteriously twenty-five years before I was born, this loss weighed heavily on my family. I had gone to Trinidad, where both sides of my family are from, many times but never really asked any questions. Just as I had lay in bed for months during my winter of depression, I learned that she lay in bed for months suffering with something before her untimely death; she had just had a baby, my youngest aunt Annemarie, my father, the oldest of four, was ten years old.
Due to my experience working in community development and my experience with family and close friends I decided to ask two questions:
1) Why do some of us live with depression and mental illness?
2) Can art change anything? and..
3) How did my grandmother die? These questions have occupied the last four years of my life.
LOSS is an attempt at finding some resolution for an event that shifted the direction of my family forever. It is an attempt to confront issues that are often hidden and stigmatized. It's still in development, but I'll be performing only two nights of the latest incarnation in Montreal, Quebec on Nov 1 & 2, 2018. Two small audiences will have the opportunity to be a part of this journey with me. Special shout to Aislinn Rose Kong Kie and Tiffany Hsiung for their work and collaboration. If you are in Montreal (or know anyone in Montreal) that you think might be interested in attending please direct them to the La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines site (in the comments below) to purchase tickets.
I'd love to see you there."
- Ian Kamau