I will never forget when one of my dearest friends (a blue-eyed blond) played my brother in a show. We didn’t think anything of it because we have such a sibling relationship until we heard a voice from the audience say, “Oh my god. THAT’S her BROTHER?”

We both just kind of deflated. That moment resonated with me because my family is very diverse. It made me wonder what people see when they look at us. My mom is Filipino-Chinese, my dad’s Jamaican and my partner is white.

It’s challenging when nobody’s casting you. Do you quit arts or make your own? I was doing a 20-minute piece for a festival in Calgary, and this beautiful mixed-race girl came up to me after. She said, “I’ve never seen anyone who looks like me,” and it just broke my heart. She was like, “I’m always the only black girl going into any space. Nobody looks like me on stage. It’s really hard to relate to some of the plays because it’s never about me.” There were other factors, but that night, I decided to develop a full-length play and just do it.

At the time (it was 2003), it seemed ridiculous to have an entire part of the population not see themselves represented. Then it became this conversation of “I don’t see myself in theatre, so why should I go to the theatre?” Also, the exhaustion of getting, "Why don’t you act more?" but feeling like no one will cast you because you don’t “fit.” It’s exhausting to create your own work and grind that out when you don’t have any support system in place.

That is why Deep Fried Curried Perogies was so important. There aren’t a lot of mixed-race stories; if there is a diverse cast, they are in a heritage story. You’re also out of luck if you're mixed-race because you’re not “enough” of something to fit a checkbox or fulfill a grant. 

I have done Deep Fried for 15 years, and I’ll be performing it for the 20th time at the Hamilton Fringe this summer. The audience always includes mothers of mixed-race kids, adoptive parents, or mixed-race kids themselves who are like, “You get it.” It’s led to a lot of heartbreaking, but important conversations.

–Michelle Todd (Theatre Arts ’97), Creator of Deep Fried Curried Perogies

(Part 1 of 2)
“I don’t know if all moms feel the way I did when I saw that fake gun, but I know that a lot of racialized moms do.”
Read part 2 of Michelle Todd's story.
Michelle Todd READ MORE
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