Soulpepper and TO Live’s ‘da Kink in My Hair Returns to its Roots for its 20th Anniversary

The cast of the 20th Anniversary production of 'da Kink in My Hair stands facing the camera. Each of the eight women wears a different style of black outfit, some with trains and intricate sleeves, others in sparkles and jumpers. They all look at the camera with confidence, standing tall and strong.

It’s been more than two decades since Trey Anthony’s hit ‘da Kink in My Hair premiered at the Toronto Fringe. Now, after 20 years and multiple iterations, including a television series and multiple international productions, the show is returning to Toronto to celebrate its roots.

Set in a hair salon on Eglinton West, ‘da Kink in My Hair follows a group of women in the heart of Toronto’s Canadian-Caribbean community. Through music, dance, and words, the women explore their individual and collective journeys in a story equal parts touching and hilarious.

The 20th anniversary production is helmed by Weyni Mengesha, whose history with both the piece and the playwright started long before the production touched the Bluma Appel stage. Mengesha is currently the artistic director of Soulpepper, but back in 2001, she directed the Toronto Fringe production. She went on to direct the runs at Theatre Passe Muraille (2003) and Mirvish (2005), and wrote the Dora-nominated score and lyrics for the 2003 production.

Mengesha had previously directed Anthony in her own work when the young playwright approached her with the monologues that made up the original script. Mengesha attended a reading and fell in love with the piece, leading to a successful run at the Toronto Fringe and well beyond.

Indeed, ‘da Kink in My Hair has undergone several transformations over the years. Originally written as a collection of monologues, Anthony adapted her script to become more of a traditional play. But since 2001, other directors have reinterpreted and reincarnated the piece into a television series and several musicals, including a production at BC’s Arts Club Theatre. Many actors have contributed to the piece, and their work has helped shape some of the characters and arcs. Now, in 2022, Mengesha is bringing it all back to the beginning with a production for a new generation. She and Anthony are reuniting with four of the original performers and several new faces for a fresh take on the story.

For Mengesha, the play isn’t the only thing that’s evolved in the past 20 years. She noted in an interview that both she and the returning performers have changed immeasurably since the original production, bringing new experiences and perspectives to the piece.

“I jumped back into this play not knowing exactly how I’d feel coming back to it as a woman who’s undergone her own change. 20 years is a long time. But I am still completely moved by this piece and excited to be in the world of this bold and celebratory play again. I’m really excited to share it with the city.”

In fact, many of the roles in the play were directly influenced by the actors who portrayed them, and several roles were added as the play evolved. For example, Anthony added the role of Miss Enid to the production for the 2005 run at Mirvish. Satori Shakoor was the first actor to portray that character, and she is set to resume her place as Miss Enid in the 2022 production.

Presented by TO Live and Soulpepper, ‘da Kink in My Hair will feature returning original cast members Shakoor, Ordena Stephens-Thompson, d’bi.young anitafrika, and Miranda Edwards. The four actors are set to reprise their original roles, with Stephens-Thompson — who played Patsy in the original stage production — returning to the role of Novelette, who she played in the TV series. Joining them are Olunike Adeliyi, Tamara Brown, Shakura Dickson, and vocalists Alana Bridgewater, Chelsea Russell, and Tiffany Deriveau. Brown portrayed Patsy at the NAC, while Bridgewater previously played Novelette in the 2021 musical adaptation at Arts Club.

When asked about the significance of the play’s 20th anniversary production, Mengesha reflected on the events of the past few years.

“This year has been a beautifully reflective period coming right off the heels of a global movement for civil rights and racial justice. I think it’s the right opportunity to go back to the story we told twenty years ago to see how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. Also, we need joy in our lives, and we need celebration, and we need healing. It’s been a tough couple of years, and although there’s been an incredible movement throughout society as a whole to understand each other better, it’s brought up all sorts of wounds. But storytelling can help us understand each other in a better way. Stories don’t try to change your mind: they affect your heart. And that’s what we need right now.”

‘da Kink in My Hair opens in Soulpepper’s Bluma Appel theatre Dec. 6, and runs until Dec. 23. To find out more about the show and to purchase tickets, visit the Soulpepper website.

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Written By

Jessica is an Associate Editor at Intermission, as well as a writer, classically-trained actor, and plant enthusiast. Since graduating from LAMDA in the UK with her MA in acting, you can often find her writing screenplays and short plays in the park, writing extensive lists of plant care tips, or working on stage and screen (though she uses a stage name). Jessica freelances with various companies across Canada, but her passion lies in working with theatre artists and enthusiasts.