With Black History Month under way , Beach area resident Dienye Waboso is looking to share an oft-overlooked story in the battle against slavery.
Waboso will be performing in Young People’s Theatre’s upcoming production of The Power of Harriet T! which depicts the life of Harriet Tubman, a woman who escaped slavery at age 29 but risked her own freedom to help more than 300 other slaves make their way to the northern U.S. and Canada via the Underground Railroad.
For Waboso, the chance to help share Tubman’s courageous tale was a fantastic opportunity.
“It’s significant to me as an African-Canadian,” she said. “It’s an important story that I feel needs to be told because not enough people know it. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t know who Harriet Tubman is.”
Waboso said the lack of education surrounding Tubman’s struggles may have to do with the fact the heroic former slave was a woman.
“You have somebody strong and powerful who leads people and it can be hard for some people to marry that with femininity,” she said.
Waboso plays an older Harriet Tubman in the play, portraying Tubman after the worst of her struggles were over but also looking back throughout the play at the events that led to that point in her life.
“I narrate, I look back and I’m in the thick of the action,” she said. “It’s a bit like patting my head, rubbing my stomach and stomping my feet at the same time.”
Born in London, ON, Waboso moved to Nigeria with her family when she was eight months old, returning years later to complete high school. From there she studied theatre at Humber College, leading to roles in such productions as Canstage’s Another Africa, Theatre Direct’s Binti’s Journey and a New Harlem production of Gas Girls.
While she said she loves tackling interesting and sometimes challenging roles, she finds her time off stage can be even more difficult.
“The challenge for me is just finding validity and purpose in the time I spend not acting,” she said. “I had to learn that it’s the time when you’re not on stage – life – that informs your acting.”
She added her upcoming role will enlighten young audiences about a long-overlooked heroine whose contributions to African-American and African-Canadian history should be better known.
“People who come see the play can expect to see a leader who’s very much an ordinary hero, and that’s what I’m drawn to is the ordinary heroes,” she said. “(Tubman) is a woman whose purpose in life was born out of a need.”
The Power of Harriet T! run Feb. 4 to Feb. 22 at Young People’s Theatre, 165 Front St. E. For tickets or information, call 416-862-2222 or visit www.youngpeoplestheatre.ca