DANDELIONS IN THE WIND will soon be available as AUDIO THEATRE: a 6-part anti-racism program for schools, book clubs, library groups, churches and more. Complete with a toolkit, it is perfect for Black History month, and for year-round courses in History, Social Science, English, Creative Writing, Dramatic Arts, and African Canadian / American studies.
Based on the original stage show, this program looks at racism in North America No matter your ethnicity, we believe you should know the history of systemic racism in North America because understanding the past is key to understanding the legacy today. Although the story-line is set in the past, Today's Generation shed their light on history, comparing it to today's reality, showing how far we have come in eliminating racism, but how far we still have to go. The content is also meaningful to those caught up in the prejudice, bullying and hatred that comes from being different in any way.
THE REAL LOVE STORY
Keith and Jennifer met in 1966, at the University of the West Indies where they were both students. It was there that Jennifer learned the academic side of colonialism and slavery. She was appalled. After graduation, the couple moved to England where they soon became personally acquainted with violent racism: Keith was attacked by Skinheads.
"They fractured his skull," Jennifer says, "broke multiple ribs and ruptured his spleen. Then left him for dead. But he wasn’t dead, not quite. Eventually, he made what we thought was a full recovery and we moved to Canada looking for a safer place to raise our biracial children, but shortly after our arrival … shockingly ... unexpectedly ... Keith died. A complication from the earlier head injury. Joanna was three, James not yet two. And I was 5-month pregnant."
"Four decades have not faded the image that was seared onto my soul the day of Keith's funeral: our three-year-old clutching dandelions she had picked for her daddy, the October sun transforming the lowly weeds into filigree globes of silver, and her curls into a halo of gold. The funeral had taught her that flowers mean 'I love you', but she was perplexed as to how to give them to her father. Trying to help, I blew some of the parachutes heavenwards. She watched them float back to earth, her bottom lip trembling. And then she said,
"If I think really hard, can I think the flowers to daddy?'' "
WHEN IS CHANGE GOING TO COME?
Jennifer's university studies showed her the horror of racism in the Americas, but it was the deeply personal tragedy of losing Keith that demanded an answer to the haunting question: When is change going to come? That question pushed her to write Dandelions in the Wind. It took decades, but with successful stagings under her belt, she felt that the obstacles were finally clearing away. Then came Covid-19! Live theatre was no longer an option. A friend suggested turning the stage show into a podcast
HOW CAN LIVE MUSICAL THEATRE WORK AS AUDIO-ONLY?
"It seemed crazy at first," Jennifer recalls. "Theatre, is an audio-visual experience, so how can you do it without the visual ... without sets, props, costumes and lighting! But when I tried adapting the script for audio, I remembered my childhood ... before the days of television, when we would gather around the radio to listen to the next episode of The Archers. It was magical. Youth today have grown up on fast-moving images. Radio engages the imagination far more ... we see with our minds! And that can be a very good thing."
NOTE: In the making of this musical, Jennifer has transported her personal story of racism from Trinidad and England to the States because she wanted to shine a light on the appalling racism in America.
The musical love story of an interracial couple caught up in the turbulent times of America’s Civil Rights era. The message however is not limited to black-white racism. It is for all people separated by the rift of ignorance, hatred and bigotry. It is for today!
Jennifer Dance is an Award-Winning and Best-Selling Canadian author and playwright with a passion for justice and equality. She is also a social change artist. As a Forest of Reading author, her YA novels, Red Wolf, Paint, and Hawk are used in classrooms across Canada, where they address issues of injustice against Indigenous people, increasing understanding and empathy in young people who will be tomorrow’s leaders. Her fourth book – Gone but still here, is an adult novel about Alzheimer’s Disease.
Over the years, Jennifer has travelled across Canada, researching her stories. She has been a guest speaker at several conferences and, more importantly, has been invited to address many thousands of students in classrooms, libraries, and gyms nationwide. She was awed to speak at the Forest of Reading Festival in Toronto with 6000 students in attendance which she describes as a rock-star experience.
In recognition of her significant contribution to young adult literature raising awareness about racism, Jennifer received the 2016 Ontario Achievement Award. She was honoured to b nominated as a Woman of Excellence in the J.S. Woodsworth Awards for Human Rights and Equity. She was also awarded a prestigious Creative Writing grant from the Canada Council for the Arts for Gone but still here, and now a second CCA grant to convert Dandelions in the Wind to digital format.
Of Jamaican ancestry, Canadian-born Quisha grew up listening to Reggae, Motown, Gospel, and R&B. She graduated from the jazz program at Humber College, established herself as one of Toronto’s most sought-after session vocalists, and has performed around the world with many well-known musicians. With a bright personality and strong emotive vocal abilities, Quisha also inspires others to live out their dreams.
She launched QW productions in 2014 as a platform for black musicians and singers to showcase their gifts. Since then, she has produced several large music shows each year, delivering outstanding professional entertainment in a classy and nostalgic atmosphere. Until recently, she was also the Music and Creative Arts Director at a large GTA church, planning and executing all drama, music and video for both Sunday worship and special events, a job that entailed directing a diverse church choir, children’s choir and musicians.
Quisha has not forgotten her roots. She credits Tropicana Youth Services for her music career and her passion for helping black youth pursue their dreams. Volunteering at Toronto’s United Way, Quisha created relationships with black youth, helping them develop music skills. Fifteen years ago, with the birth of her son, Quisha shifted her vision towards black children. “They are our hope for change.” Quisha is committed to Dandelions in the Wind and to using her skills to teach Black children, youth and adults about the past, and help them forge a stronger identity. She sees Dandelions in the Wind as an incredible opportunity to promote positive change for the future among a multicultural audience.
PRESS REVIEW of the stage show in Toronto 2017
Using potent, sometimes brutal images from the era as a backdrop to the story unfolding onstage, Dandelions in the Wind offers an honest and at times heartbreaking assessment of how far we still have to go before true equality is achieved. Given the dignity and peaceful demeanour of the Alabama bus boycott protesters, the violent response of their oppressors is doubly shocking and the play forcefully reminds you of the dangers of complacency in a world that is, once again, becoming increasingly hostile to immigrants and minorities.
With a score that ranges from slave chants to gospel songs, the show also has its moments of humour and empathy, including the beautifully-drawn bond between two fast friends, one black and one white, who refuse to be cowed by the ignorance and hatred of their racist neighbours. It was a fitting addition to Black History Month events and a reminder that we can never afford to be complacent
- Kate Gilderdale, Stouffville Free Press
The feedback from students was overwhelming, they absolutely loved the play! They particularly enjoyed the aspect of connecting history with the current events of today's political climate, highlighting how discrimination is still evident. They enjoyed the rich history of the Civil Rights Movement, and putting context to civil rights activists such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Students expressed that they were able to empathize more to the Civil rights activists as opposed to just learning about them via a traditional classroom setting. Students were moved by the fight and pain derived from a 'true life' story, particularly Jennifer's story, and felt a sense of empowerment via the collective stance.
- Natalie Lapko, Teacher: Victoria Park Collegiate Institute, Teacher, Toronto District School Board
A fantastic learning experience for my students and myself … the students were touched by the play and many were moved emotionally to tears. As an educator, I liked the fact that the message was blunt, in your face and it was undeniable. And to know that this was in part Jennifer Dance's life story ... it took away the opportunity for people to say that it's just a story and that it wouldn't happen in real life. The message is an important one for students to see and experience.
- Careen Thompson, Teacher, Emery Collegiate Institute, Toronto District School Board.
I brought my grade 7 classes to see the show. It truly helped them understand some of the social challenges that have been part of the black experience. We had so much rich discussion on issues of social justice - racism, prejudice, segregation .... and what to do about it - advocate, protest, educate, accept. Amazing experience!
- Brandy Henry, Teacher, Thomas L Wells PS, Scarborough, Toronto District School Board
"I really enjoyed the play. I also learned a lot of history. Now I will strive to make the world a better place any way I can. I will try to help more people because the play made me realize something, something important about people and how we should treat them. With love!"
"Dandelions in the Wind was breathtaking and I was deeply touched, in fact certain parts had tears welling in my eyes. My mind is just boggled."
"The play was immensely thought-provoking and meaningful. It gave me a completely different perspective. There were scary moments, enlightening scenes, deep sayings, and encouraging moments. I was educated in an unusual way. "
"It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget … an emotional roller-coaster with a heartfelt message. I learned that everyone is equal and different, but to embrace who they are and not be afraid."
"We talked about social issues in class, then we saw this play, and now I understand more ... Judging people is not right because everyone is a human and should have equal rights, everyone should have a voice. Watching this play improves people by changing the way they think about others."
"It really made me think about how bad racism is … makes me want to make a difference … made me emotional."
"It was like I was really there!"
BEHIND THE SCENES
The making of the musical