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In Conversation with the Creators of BAAPII ROHO

This week, we sat down with our 2020-21 Banks Prize winners, Dillan Chiblow and Germaine Konji, to discuss their Banks Prize Cabaret; BAAPII ROHO, as part of The Musical Stage Company’s residency at the High Park Amphitheatre. We learn more about their mentorship and collaborations throughout COVID-19, and the deep, interactive intimacy that they hope to bring to their cabaret performance.

We are approaching your final project as part of The Musical Stage Company’s 2020-21 Banks Prize! How would you describe your year as a Bank’s Recipient?

Dillan Chiblow (RBC Apprentice & Banks Prize Winner 2020-21). Photo by Dahlia Katz.

Dillan: It has been a strange year overall, because of the pandemic. There haven’t been many chances to really network and meet new people – I would say at times it’s been isolating. Germaine and I have only had the chance to meet in person once, for UNCOVERED (2020: NOTES FROM THE HEART). Thankfully though, we have had many late night phone calls and zoom meetings, where we would share so much of ourselves with each other.

I also used this time to really reflect on myself. The conversations I’ve had with Ray Hogg (The Musical Stage Company, Artistic Director), have really reframed the way I think about everything. In an action plan meeting, Ray was so amazing at helping me see myself in ways that I might have avoided in the past. After those meetings I spent a lot of time reflecting on what I want to achieve, and how I want to go about achieving these goals.

With the support and love I have received this year as a Banks prize winner, it has given me the drive and hunger to achieve everything; this time waiting for the pandemic to end has only added fuel to that drive. I can’t wait til the pandemic is over, and we all can safely sit in spaces and share songs and stories! I couldn’t imagine going through the pandemic this year without the Banks Prize. With this mentorship, I feel like the time I spent with myself was so valuable, and I am so grateful for the experience.

Germaine: It’s been an enriching year. Through the pause, it’s been such a gift having gentle mentorship steering me inward and supporting me while I began dreaming critically. I’m still in awe of the sense of artistic community we were able to cultivate despite the isolated reality of this year. 

BAAPII ROHO is said to be a deep and disruptive dive into your joy – how does your joy translate into your performance personally?

Dillan: I would say the joy for me lies in giving myself permission to do the things I always wanted to do – I used to stop myself from doing it. The joy for me is being a storyteller who no longer stops themselves, and seeks the truth of self. I am very excited to explore that kind of joy in BAAPII ROHO!

Germaine: My joy translates into my performance through authenticity; giving myself radical permission to experience whatever arrives in the moment without judgment. All I have is my truth, and it is my gift.

What musical genres or artists are featured in BAAPPII ROHO?

Dillan: The way we selected our songs was centered around the story we wanted to tell and we JUST settled on a set list – I’m so happy with our choices. And because of the way we approach our song selections, I love that we ended up with a diverse mix of genres and composers/storytellers!

We have songs by Britta Johnson (The Musical Stage Company Crescendo Artist), Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sondhiem, some classic and newer contemporary musical theatre, plus an original song by our RBC cohort member Landon Doak (which I am the most excited to sing)!

Germaine: There’s a real fantastic blend of new, and old, and classics of all kinds- Sondy, Beyoncé, Lauryn Hill, Britta Johnson (featured in The Musical Stage Company’s PORCHSIDE SONGS), The Colour Purple, and many more.

This cabaret has been created collaboratively by all The Musical Stage Company 2020-21 RBC apprentices, can you describe the creation and rehearsal process for this piece?

Dillan: The pandemic of course has presented itself with challenges, but we are so lucky that within the RBC cohort, we have such talented, generous, and creative people. The answer to everything has always been a “YES AND” – which has been such a refreshing approach, especially when so many things are outside of our control. A framework I suggest we work under, is indicative of my culture – I suggest we work as a 3 piece braid; that we collect ourselves and our parts (our piece), and bundle them together to make one braid. After we have all collected our individual bundles, when the time is appropriate we come together and weave them as one!

Germaine: So far the process for this has been the definition of artistic generosity. Dillan and I, in fellowship, got to the heart of what this cabaret is, and what we would like to say. Then, through phone calls and zoom meetings and a few in person hours with the brilliant apprentices, all of us are building this thing together! I am truly so moved by the richness of this cohorts offerings!

A black and white photo of Germaine Konji, a dark skinned Black Femme in her mid twenties with warm brown eyes and black hair wrapped in a patterned headscarf. She’s looking meaningfully at the camera, dignified against the black background with her head tilted back.
Germaine Konji (RBC Apprentice &Banks Prize Winner 2020-21).

BAAPII ROHO’s overview asks that we join you in sitting, sharing and singing, and asks us what we see. What as artists do you hope the audience sees?

Dillan: My hope is that the audience – wherever you may come from or whatever your lived experience is – finds parts of themselves in the story we create. I’m Ojibwe, which means I am Indigenous to Turtle Island (some call North America). Sometimes Non-Indigenous people feel like they can’t sit and share with Indigenous ways of knowing and being, and that just isn’t true. I hope my Indigenous-silbings who see the show, see themselves in a way that makes them fiercely proud. I hope my Non-Indigenous-siblings walk away feeling like they were being shared with.

Germaine: I hope they see me and Dillan, truly; and the universality of our soft, open, beating hearts.

This is the first return to live theatre for many people, both as an audience and artist – what are you most excited about for this return?

Dillan: This will 100% be my first time performing live in front of people in, probably at least 2 years – I am beyond excited based on that fact alone! I am excited to sing with LIVE MUSIC – I will probably cry the first day we sing with our stunning, talented, Music Director, the one and ONLY Chris Tsujiuchi! I’m excited to experience the audience being there, hopefully laughing, and hopefully applauding!

As the voices of tomorrow, how do you hope the audience interacts with the future? What advice would you give to other voices of tomorrow?

Germaine: I hope audiences are ready to greet the future with an open heart, ready to close the space between where we are now, and where it is calling us to be. To the other voices of tomorrow, I say-trust who you are and who you’ve been. The truth fears nothing.

BAAPII ROHO will run on August 7th & 10th, 2021 – taking place live and in High Park Amphitheatre, in High Park, Toronto. Tickets on sale now.

Learn more about BAAPII ROHO by clicking here.