Simone Dalton at Soulpepper
MFA alumna Simone Dalton shares the origin of her playwriting debut, part of RARE Theatre's Welcome to My Underworld, at Soulpepper May 8–25.
In conversation with my shadow self
I was sitting in a windowless room on Queen West, in a tight-knit circle of emerging creatives. We had been brought together by a simple flyer that promised a weekend-long boot camp hosted by trey anthony. A playwright, producer, actor, creator, and stand‐up comedian, anthony, is known for the groundbreaking television and theatrical production, ‘da Kink in my Hair. We were there to learning the basics of creating “great characters and fabulous dialogue.” Part starstruck, part just stuck, I scribbled a few notes and mostly tapped my pen at the edge of my notebook during the exercises.
At the end of the weekend, I approached anthony with what appeared to be my block. The characters I wanted to write were closer than fiction; the dialogue was an intimate conversation, one between me and a man named Vaughn.
Thrown out of his house by his father because he was gay, Vaughn was taken in by my maternal grandmother in the late seventies. He moved into our home in Trinidad and became an early father figure to me. I was two when we first met and a teenager when I rejected him. He died of HIV/AIDS a few years later, and I never said goodbye.
I have been haunted by Vaughn ever since.
Teju Cole has said writers are often preoccupied with the same concerns throughout their careers. Vaughn has become one of my concerns. I explored his life, my memory of it, and the conversations left unsaid between us through the MFA program at Guelph, both in Judith Thompson’s drama workshop and under the guidance of my thesis advisor, Dionne Brand.
Now, almost ten years since I first spoke about my haunting to trey anthony, “Vaughn” is being evoked in Toronto by actor Samson Brown for Rare Theatre’s production, Welcome to My Underworld.
My piece, entitled Vows, is one of nine short plays in the production. Each play is distinct, yet connected by their purpose to examine the “shadow self”: what do we leave unsaid, undone, and who/what remains as a result of the silence?
The play is driven by a female character, “Akeisha,” also portrayed by Brown. It is through her pursuit of absolution for a deed done in her youth that her struggle with self-hatred and internalized homophobia are brought to bear. And both are complicated by her own queerness.
Thompson, Rare Theatre’s celebrated artistic director asks: “Shouldn’t we see on the stage what we see in our world?” Vows is not only a glimpse into my world, but a chance to begin a new conversation through the play’s characters, as they seek closure, peace and unconditional love.
Welcome to My Underworld (Canadian Premiere)
On stage May 8–25, 2019 | Soulpepper Theatre Company
Simone Dalton is a writer and social change communicator. She holds an MFA from the University of Guelph, where she received the Constance Rooke and Board of Graduate Studies Research Scholarships. As a memoirist, she explores themes of grief, sense of belonging and place, race, class, and inherited histories. Her work has been published in The Unpublished City: Volume I, a 2018 Toronto Book Awards finalist curated by Dionne Brand, and in Black Writing Matters, edited by Whitney French. For two years, she was the co-host of Guelph’s Speakeasy Reading Series and completed a residency with Firefly Creative Writing studio in 2018. Her short play Vows in Welcome to My Underworld is her first foray into theatre. Simone lives in Toronto and was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago.