**Each month we interview member playwrights to share their work, stories and inspiration with the community. We recently spoke with Omari Newton, an award-winning professional actor, and writer. As a writer, his original Hip Hop theatre piece Sal Capone has received critical acclaim and multiple productions, including a recent presentation at Canada’s National Arts Centre.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Both of my parents are from Trinidad & Tobago, but I was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. I moved to Vancouver, BC in 2006 and have been a resident of the city ever since. I’ve been blessed with opportunities to work all across North America.
What inspires you as a playwright?
I’m inspired by honest work. Creations with a unique point of view where it’s clear the creator’s primary goal isn’t building consensus or appeasing a mainstream audience. Art should challenge us, and affect us on a visceral level.
If you were to reflect on your career, is there anything you would have done differently?
I have no regrets in my career, as all of my past experiences, both failures and successes, have culminated in making me the person I am today. I started off as an Emcee, slam poet and actor. My experiences as a writer performer have really helped me understand the nuances of storytelling in a more well rounded way.
Is there anything on the horizon for you at the moment?
A Speakeasy theatre production of The Shipment by Young Jean Lee which I had the privilege of acting in, as well as co directing with my dear friend Kayvon Koshkam, is being remounted at The Firehall Arts Centre in Vancouver September 24th to October 5th. We then head to The Presentation House in North Vancouver October 8th to 12th. Additionally, I was commissioned by The Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver to co-write a play with my wife, veteran playwright and fellow PGC member, Amy Lee Lavoie. The new piece is entitled ‘Redbone Coonhound.’ It’s a satirical exploration of the complexities of racial politics in North America throughout history. Our first public reading will be held on the evening of September 9th at the Arts Club’s New Play Festival, Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Centre, 7pm. Finally, I was commissioned to write a follow up to my Hip Hop theatre piece, The lamentable Tragedy of Sal Capone by Black Theatre Workshop. The companion piece is entitled, Black & Blue Matters. It is a Hip Hop theatre piece that explores the subtle but important distinction between legality and justice, specifically regarding law enforcement involved in the killing of people of colour. A public reading is scheduled for Monday October 21st at Playwrights Workshop Montreal.
What aspect of PGC encourages you to renew your membership every year?
As artists we are always stronger as a collective. I appreciate knowing that PGC is there to advocate for playwrights in what can often be a solitary, overwhelming artistic practice.
What are you passionate about outside of the theatre world?
As I approach the age of 40 this coming November, I strive to be a simple person with modest goals. I am interested first and foremost in being a fair and decent person who is there for his family and loved ones. I am passionate about teaching, comedy, and using whatever resources I have been fortunate enough to accumulate over the years to amplify the signal of things that are important to me. This ranges from great works of art, to issues of social justice. When this ride comes to its inevitable conclusion, hopefully many happy, healthy years from now, I hope those who knew me say some variation of: “He was a kind human that made my life a little easier.”
Disclaimer: Playwrights Guild of Canada (“PGC”) is a national arts service mandated to engage and grow an active Canadian writing community. We promote Canadian plays around the world to advance the creative rights and interests of professional Canadian playwrights for the stage. The views of our members are their own. The opinions of PGC as an association remain neutral.