Fatuma Adar’s ‘She’s Not Special’ opens at The Tarragon

By Stephen Weir

Fatuma Adar

In the world of live theater, the line between truth and fiction often blurs. Actors effortlessly switch between roles, portraying star-crossed lovers one night and filming a soap commercial the next. It’s all part of the job.

So if going to see Fatuma Adar’s, “She’s Not Special,” at the Tarragon Theatre starting on May 24th, prepare yourself for a fib—a BIG one. This Somali-Canadian actress, singer, comedian, and writer is an expert in being special.

When she takes the stage at the midtown theatre with a five-piece band, Adar will combine musical theater and comedic storytelling to riff on the pressures of Black Excellence.

“We are not putting on a play; we are throwing a party. This is a concert, comedy show, and confessional all in one. Come celebrate your mediocrity with us!” explains Adar.

According to Adar, the show isn’t just about her but about the entire Black community, including Somalis. “I am just one person on stage (not counting the band), singing and wise-cracking between songs. I believe my upbringing shares similar experiences with the Caribbean community.”

While many Caribbean immigrants settled in Jane/Finch and Malvern upon arriving in Canada, Fatuma’s story unfolds in “Dixon”—three high-rise apartments on Dixon Road in Etobicoke.

“My dad came in ’88 when the government in Somalia was failing,” she recalls. “Dixon Road was his Somalian safe haven in Toronto.”

Fatuma Adar

Adar’s journey has been a unique one, marked by her pursuit of different paths. Initially on a track toward medical school, she studied in China at the age of 17 but soon realized her passion for writing.

 “Alone in China it was my first experience with the YA (Young Adult) culture. Twilight. The Hunger Games. I knew then I wanted to be a writer.”

She came back to Canada to continue studying medicine but switched over to the Arts. She won a $1,000 creative writing award at the University of Saskatchewan and almost didn’t come to the ceremony because she didn’t know there was a cash prize involved. She didn’t want to skip out on her paying gig – piercing ears at the mall!

She moved to Toronto, giving up ears to catch eyes. She is very good at it.

She was long listed in CBC’s Creative Nonfiction Prize and featured in Up Close: Young Black Women Making Canada Better. Her work has appeared in the Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail and Maclean’s Magazine. Adar’s autobiographical musical Dixon Road received the 2022 Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Musical.

With her signature comedic style, Adar says she aims to liberate audiences from the burdens of exceptionalism and guide them towards embracing the joys of mediocrity.

Because of the covid shutdown “She’s Not Special” had a successful on-line debut. This May the musical will now get its live premiere on the stage.

 “This time we have a band. (Our playlist will) run the gamut, all the genre, hip and hop, Disney, Punk song, Country song and R&B.” she said.  “We want the audience to think of this as a club and enjoy the experience.”