Amanda Nicholls graduated in 2008. She has many fantastic projects under her belt and on the go, but right now she's most excited about continuing work on her own play, Unknown Territory.
We spoke to Amanda about that play, what other projects she's worked on since graduating, and how her time at Humber helped her get where she is now.
2016 started off HOTT for me; I recently finished working with Volcano Theatre as Assistant Director on a development workshop of Treemonisha – who doesn’t want to listen to beautiful music by Scott Joplin all day?? I have the pleasure of working with The AMY Project again as Assistant Director and will also be directing Sasky Louison’s musical Dario et La Diablesse in the 2016 Fringe Festival!
But the project that I am most excited and nervous about is my own.
In 2013 I decided to take the leap back to creating my own work (versus community/youth work) and began the development process of Unknown Territory.
The concept for Unknown Territory was developed through a personal inquiry to track my family roots back to Barbados. I am a third generation Canadian and was curious about my grandparents’ life journey; they passed away when I was quite young. I was also intrigued by the stories of "back home", many of which spur a desire to reconnect to cultural distinctions in spirituality, language, and traditional family values.
I went to Barbados in 2013 to research and gather stories from my relatives. With the support of Humber College and the Piece of Mine Festival, I presented my first draft of Unknown Territory, which included Humber grads Dana Deoraj and Jennah Foster-Catlack. A year later I received two Theatre Creator’s Reserve grants to continue the development of the play and now, in 2016, I am excited to be a part of the Diaspora Dialogues Emerging Playwrights Program, and have Jennifer Brewin as my mentor!
2008 was the year that Paul De Jong asked me to work for Humber’s Jump Theatre Project (The Jump) a summer theatre program for "at risk youth". The Jump is where I discovered my love for working with children and youth and the power of arts education. I created and facilitated the Literacy through Drama program that was delivered to several social agencies through The Jump and worked at The Jump for 5 years as the Program Coordinator…and haven’t stopped working with youth since.
In 2015 I got certified as a yoga instructor and I now work for an amazing company called New Leaf Yoga where I teach yoga/mindfulness at a high school in Rexdale.
I am proud to say that I work alongside Natasha Morris running the Piece of Mine Festival, a theatre company that is dedicated to creating platforms for works in development by Afro/Caribbean-Canadian artists. This year we held Piece of Mine’s second showcase of Black Men in Theatre, which aims to educate and break the stereotypical roles and images of Black Men; the February showcase had a line-up of talented black male Toronto artists and musicians some of whom were Humber grads.
I helped create, and am currently co-facilitating, the Piece of Mine’s first youth program called Living Black Genius (LBG) in partnership with the Rathburn Area Youth Project. LBG is a free youth program for black teens that aims to promote Black Canadian leadership in the arts and business. The program emphasizes the excellence that is taking place in the present and introduces inspirational community figures to the youth. LBG also has a component that teaches youth participants basic collective creation theatre skills which will be showcased at the end of the program along with a documentary of the program’s process/journey. I am very proud to be a part of this LBG initiative and am excited to see it grow and run in multiple cities in the future.
I now couldn’t imagine going to any other school but, to be honest, Humber wasn’t my first choice. I wanted to go to the Sheridan College Musical Theatre Program and planned to apply to the program after I completed my first year at Humber. But, when I saw Humber’s third year students' production of Three Penny Opera, I wasn’t going anywhere! That performance still sticks with me today - great storytelling through movement, sound/voice and of course acting; I expect no less from the directors of that show, Maja Ardal.
Humber prepared me to enter into the theatre industry with realistic expectations but with also the tools to break barriers and to exceed those expectations.
Humber brings in a variety of artists to train the students, and those artists and Humber's artists/teachers continue to be an invaluable support for me.
Humber provided me with well-rounded training in a variety of theatre forms, but, most importantly, Humber provided a space that encouraged my fellow students and I to discover the type of art we wanted to create. Humber helped unveil the voice of the artist within.
This training program gave me the tools/knowledge on how to create my own work, which is a very important skill to have in this field, especially as a Black Woman and as a person of colour.