Freedom Singer is a documentary theatre musical crafted by Toronto’s Project: Humanity and Juno-nominated singer-songwriter Khari Wendell McClelland. In 2015, McClelland retraced the steps of his great-great-great grandmother Kizzy and – using contemporary styles like hip hop, funk and soul – personalized the songs that likely accompanied her and thousands of others as they escaped slavery.
KHARI WENDALL MCCLELLAND
Directed by ANDREW KUSHNIR
Set and Costume Design JOANNA YU
Lighting Design OZ WEAVER
Sound Design DEBASHIS SINHA
A moving musical journey along the Underground Railroad … with a Hamilton-esque twist: [the songs] are reinvented as hip-hop, funk and soul numbers … A Must-See.
Freedom Singer asks intelligent, open-ended questions and balances them with emotional musical moments and McClelland’s indisputable musical talent.
Cast & Creative Team
- KHARI WENDALL MCCLELLANDPerformer/Co-creator×KHARI WENDALL MCCLELLANDPerformer/Co-creator
Khari is a diversely talented and ever-evolving musician. Originally from Detroit, he has become a darling on the Vancouver music scene with reviewers lauding his performances as a clever mix of soul and gospel. He has opened for Ms. Lauryn Hill and frequently performs as a member of the roots gospel group The Sojourners. His debut solo album, Fleeting Is The Time, was released in 2016. Khari facilitates youth arts camps and workshops around the world. He recently hosted a CBC national radio special entitled Walk With Me. www.khariwendellmcclelland.com
- TANIKA CHARLESPerformer×TANIKA CHARLESPerformer
Called “the most buzzed-about soul singer in Toronto,” Tanika is no stranger to stages across Canada and beyond. While Freedom Singer marks Tanika’s first foray into acting, she has previously been featured as a performer on Bomb Girls (Global TV) and Mamma Yamma (CBC Kids). Her Juno and Polaris Prize-nominated album Soul Run was released internationally in April, 2017. Tanika previously played at the Citadel in a solo show in The Club in March 2017. www.tanikacharles.com
- NOAH WALKERPerformer×NOAH WALKERPerformer
Noah is a guitar player from Vancouver, Canada. He received a Bachelor of Music from Capilano University’s Jazz Studies program. Since then, he has played music professionally all over the world, from Turkey to Tokyo and Dawson City to New York City. He is one half of rock n’ roll duo Kitty & the Rooster, and is a busy sideman/secret weapon of countless other bands. www.noahwalkermusic.com
- ANDREW KUSHNIRDirector×ANDREW KUSHNIRDirector
Andrew’s been creative director of Project: Humanity since 2009. As a playwright, his produced plays include The Middle Place (Project: Humanity, Theatre Passe Muraille, Canadian Stage, national tour, Toronto Theatre Critic’s Award), Small Axe (The Theatre Centre/Project: Humanity), Wormwood (Tarragon, as Playwright-in-Residence), and The Gay Heritage Project (Buddies in Bad Times, Dora nomination, national tour). He helms Canada’s first Documentary Theatre Creators Unit at Crow’s Theatre, where he’s associate artistic director-in-residence. Upcoming: Towards Youth, a cycle of verbatim plays. Andrew’s a graduate of the University of Alberta’s BFA Acting program and a Loran Scholar.
- JOANNA YUSet and Costume Design×JOANNA YUSet and Costume Design
Joanna is a set and costume designer based in Toronto; her various collaborations allow her to create designs primarily for new Canadian plays, a lot of which are pieces that focus on inclusivity and diversity. Her credits include collaborations with: The Stratford Festival, Why Not Theatre, Factory Theatre, Cahoots Theatre, Obsidian, Tarragon, fu-Gen, The Blyth Festival, Theatre Passe Muraille, Buddies In Bad Times, Young People’s Theatre, The Grand, Neptune Theatre, Mirvish, Lemon Tree Productions, Theatrefront, Signal theatre, Luminato. Joanna is the 2017 recipient of the Pauline McGibbon Award. www.joannayudesign.com
- OZ WEAVERLighting Design×OZ WEAVERLighting Design
Oz is a Toronto based lighting designer, production manager and producer who has helped create over 75 shows. Select credits include: Canadian Stage, Thousand Island Playhouse, The Globe Theatre, Western Canada Theatre, Drayton Entertainment, Tarragon Theatre, Kemi, The Sony Centre, Buddies in Bad Times. He has been nominated for a Brickenden Award and won two Dish Awards for his designs of Into the Woods and Phantom of The Opera. Oz is currently also the Executive Director and Producer for The Dietrich Group. www.ozweaver.ca
- DEBASHIS SINHASound Design×DEBASHIS SINHASound Design
Driven by a deep commitment to the primacy of sound in creative expression, Debashis Sinha has realized projects in sound art, theatre, dance, and music across Canada and internationally. A winner of two Dora Awards for sound, his credits include productions with: Project Humanity, The Stratford Festival, Soulpepper, Why Not Theatre, Peggy Baker Dance Projects, Doug Varone, The Theatre Centre, Nightwood Theatre, Young People’s Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille, inDance, Tribal Crackling Wind, Canadian Rep Theatre, Volcano, Pleiades, and Necessary Angel.
- ANDREA BAGGSStage Manager×ANDREA BAGGSStage Manager
Andrea is a Toronto-based freelance stage manager. Raised in London, Ontario, Andrea moved to Toronto to complete her BFA from Ryerson Theatre School’s Performance Production Program. Recent credits include: Stage Manager: Weekend Comedy (Orillia Opera House); Charlotte: A Tri-Coloured Play with Music (Theaturtle: Toronto/Taiwan Tour); Banana Boys (Factory Theatre); The Sound of Music (Opera on the Avalon); Assistant Stage Manager: Constellations, Hamlet/ All's Well That Ends Well, Botticelli in the Fire/ Sunday in Sodom, Domesticated, Tragedy of Caesar/ Comedy of Errors (Canadian Stage Company); and 2 Pianos 4 Hands (Marquis Entertainment).
- JODIE MARTINSONResearch Dramaturg×JODIE MARTINSONResearch Dramaturg
Jodie is an Emmy award-winning journalist and documentary storyteller. She traveled with Khari on his journey, and produced radio and television documentaries for CBC. She received her Masters in Journalism from UBC and makes her home in Vancouver with her brand new baby girl.
- DANIEL CHAPMAN-SMITHProducer×DANIEL CHAPMAN-SMITHProducer
Daniel is a founding member of Project: Humanity (PH) and leads the shelter programming that serves homeless youth across the Greater Toronto Area. He has spearheaded 14 events for PH, including Tokens4Change and Shirts Off, an annual clothing drive from 2007-11. In addition to producing plays with PH, Daniel has produced indie theatre in Toronto and has appeared on stage and TV since graduating with a BFA in acting from Ryerson Theatre School. Daniel’s non-professional passions include his family, ultimate Frisbee, and tango.