By Michael Van Cooten
TORONTO, Ontario April 4, 2019 – Described, honestly, as an “unforgettable theatre experience”, Virgin, a riveting play, in which one exceptionally-gifted, versatile actress vividly brings 29 characters to life, will open next Tuesday, for a six-day run in Toronto.
Written, performed, co-produced and co-directed by Canadian artist, Alyson Renaldo, Virgin — a production about a woman searching for truth, courage and love…only to realise that she actually already has them — premiered in Los Angeles in 2014 and then did a tour in Toronto.
The play actually chronicles a woman’s abrupt growth and maturity, when she examines her relationship to God, sex, purity and love. When she experiences a number of unwelcome, challenging situations that, apparently, happen in exactly the same way, she continually concludes that her life is missing something — that is, until one strange moment changes everything.
Renaldo, who was born in Toronto to Guyanese parents, has lived, most of her adult life, in the United States, working in the film and television industry, but returned home, two years ago, to donate a kidney to her mother, who is, thankfully, doing well.
While Toronto remains home, a good deal of her professional life is still in Los Angeles.
The holder of a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Southern California’s Film and Theatre school, Renaldo has also earned a Master’s degree from Columbia University, in history and cultural anthropology.
A professor in the English department at Humber College, Renaldo is also an experienced journalist, having written for The Toronto Star (about the experience of donating a kidney), The Huffington Post and The Root.
The multi-talented artist recently launched her own production company, Tache De Naissance Productions — which stands for birthmark in French — and Virgin is its first original production.
Referring to her reasoning behind writing Virgin, Renaldo says, philosophically, “We are oft times invited in art to laugh and identify with the human experience of abundance. We relish the opportunity to explore the ‘problem of plenty’ and imagine the many funny ways we would handle it.
“Virgin explores the conundrum of perceived lack. What do we do when we feel empty? How do we meet that challenge? And how funny are some of the solutions we devise to fill the void?”
Renaldo reveals that it was a friend of hers, Debra Ehrhardt, writer and performer of the critically-acclaimed, one-woman show, Jamaica Farewell, who provided the motivational spark and push for her to actually stage Virgin.
She recollects that Ehrhardt called on her birthday, in 2014, with a surprise suggestion: “Alyson,” she remembers her friend saying, “you have the material. You should do this. Look to write the show in the next two months. I’m here with any advice you may need.”
Renaldo confides, “Out of that exchange, was born utter shock…” and the initial staging of Virgin, in 2014, with Ehrhardt, Renaldo and Denise London Wong as co-producers.
In addition to Renaldo, the other co-director of the play is Chris DeCarlo, co-artistic director of Santa Monica Playhouse.
Virgin‘s Toronto production is being sponsored by the 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women (100ABCWomen) project, which fosters the arts and the entrepreneurial spirit in Black women and girls.
Former federal MP and Cabinet Member, Jean Augustine — co-founder of the 100ABCWomen, with Dr. Denise O’Neil Green and Dauna Jones-Simmonds — will introduce the production on the opening night of its encore run.
There will also be a bonus to the show — a question and answer segment, after the performance, which will be moderated by Dr. O’Neil Green, who is Ryerson University’s first Vice-president of Equity and Community Inclusion.
The play’s organiser says that a portion of the proceeds from the event will go to a non-profit organisation, whose outreach mission centres around the empowerment of Black women and girls.
Virgin’s six-day performance begins on Tuesday, April 9 and runs until Sunday, April 14, at the Aki Studio Theatre, 250-585 Dundas Street, East, in Toronto.