In conversation with Rhoma Spencer
In a state of limbo
By Stephen Weir
Rhoma Spencer is an actor, director, storyteller and broadcast journalist who began her career in her native Trinidad.
Up until the virus lockdown, Spencer was one of the busiest live performers – on stage, in TV shows, movies parts, and public events. She was even seen in costume at a high profile Scarborough funeral last year.
Over the weekend, she did a Question/Answer with Stephen Weir:
STEPHEN WEIR: Where are you staying while in quarantine? If you are alone, do you have ways of communicating with friends and family?
RHOMA SPENCER: I am at home in downtown Toronto with two other family members in my three bedroom townhouse.
STEPHEN WEIR: As a performer, you seem to be always involved in very “cool” projects. How was 2020 shaping up before the shutdown?
RHOMA SPENCER: The year started off with a bang in January with Solitudes put on by ALUNA Theatre (a play staged at Harbourfront), then February and March in Trinidad with two comedy shows and a stint with my former colleagues in broadcasting, doing the commentary for the Extempo Calypso Monarch competition and the National Calypso Monarch Competition. I had to return to Canada in March for confirming and signing contracts for the summer season … Enters Corona from Stage Left.
STEPHEN WEIR: Have you been able to use this downtime to be creative? and if so what might appear when you emerge from Perdue?
RHOMA SPENCER: I had a writing project called the COVID Confessions with Convergence Theatre. I am one of 88 artists chosen to write a script based on confessions – sound bytes sent in by the public to the theatre’s hotline or via email. Right after this comes a writing residency with ALUNA Theatre that would showcase in September and a project called Queer Pride in Place by Buddies in Bad Times Theatre which will perform on Pride weekend in my community.
STEPHEN WEIR: What else does the future hold for you ? Will you be back on the boards here in Toronto? Or are you planning to go back to Trinidad and Tobago? Will you be back with the Caribbean Festival’s virtual broadcast? Any other gigs in the works?
RHOMA SPENCER: Like the rest of my artistic colleagues in Toronto and Trinidad, we are in a state of limbo. So it’s a wait and see situation. All our live performance projects have been cancelled, including my summer gig, the Pan Alive Competition, which I have done for the last four years. However, the creative process hasn’t stopped. So it’s just a matter of time before one can have a live audience view your work.
STEPHEN WEIR : What are your thoughts on the pandemic? How it is changing the world? Do you see theatre and performance art changing? Will the arts world return to the way it was,? Or what do you think the new normal will be in terms of the music and how people react to it?
RHOMA SPENCER: The present pandemic, no doubt, will inspire the art you create. I have already begun with Home Wreck for Convergence Theatre and my physical theatre project,
Queerantine which debuts on a downtown sidewalk in Toronto on Pride weekend.
The pndemic has already showed how the arts and cultural workers use the social media patform to entertain their audience. I want to think this might be a new normal post pandemic in light of rental costs for venues to present your work, using a pay per view live-stream access.