Writer / Director / Actor, Theatre Archipelago, Toronto, ON. Born: Trinidad & Tobago.
Rhoma Spencer is an actor, director, storyteller and broadcast journalist who began her career in Trinidad. Her company, Theatre Archipelago, seeks to present, promote and develop theatre from the Caribbean and its Diaspora through new and existing works. The first production was Mad Miss/Just Jazz in 2005.
Highlights: Rhoma has produced, directed and acted in a number of productions, including the acclaimed Jean and Dinah (2002), on which she also collaborated in 1994; was Resident Director for the AfriCan Theatre Ensemble, directing the 2001 production, And the Girls in Their Sunday Dresses, and Anowa in 2003. She also directed Just Jazz, Twilight Café, Our Lady of Spills, I, Marcus Garvey (Toronto); Shango: Tales of the Orishas, UWI, Trinidad; Between Me and the Lord (in Atlanta and Trinidad); guest Director, Boise State University; Artist in Residence, Indiana State University (2004).
Other: Staged readings at 2003 AfriCanadian Playwright’s Festival; Artistic Director, Caribana (2003).
Honours: Co-Recipient, Dora Award, Costume Design, Anowa, (2004); voted one of the top ten artists in Toronto by NOW Magazine (2005); best actress in Toronto, Stageandpage.com (2005); profiled in Who’s Who in Black Canada 2 (2006).
Works: In Canadian Women’s Studies; Testifyin’: Contemporary African Canadian Drama.
Reviewed in: Eye Weekly; NOW Magazine; National Post; The Globe and Mail; Caribbean Camera, Pride Newspaper; and online.
Education: Master of Fine Arts, Theatre/Directing, York University (2001); University of West Indies (1992, 1988).
Favourite book? Lately, it is The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. I like how he uses Mena, its protagonist to tell a slave narrative; tracing her freedom as child living among her people in Africa to capture, slavery and then used as an instrument for abolition in her voice. So it is not told by an observer or any abolitionist. Another thing that I liked about the novel is how Mr. Hill uses all the elements of history and weaves it into her story, and so giving slavery, and even the war of independence, a feminine voice. It is truly a marvelous book of fact and fiction never before told on slavery in North America to my mind.
Favourite quote? “You never miss the water till the well runs dry.”
Given the chance, what would you love to do that you haven’t done yet? Direct an award-winning film, or be the leading lady in an award-winning film.
Who inspires you? The people of Haiti inspire me. It is their resilience that humbles me.
Why do you do what you do? It is a God given talent and even when the going gets tough and I feel despondent, I still press on. I do it because it gives me a kind of satisfaction that tells me that I am contributing to the well-being of a society by allowing them the opportunity to enjoy the finer things in life. Whether it is through laughter, the spoken word or music.