Last weekend, we had the pleasure of attending the closing night of The Journey: A Living History of the Regent Park Revitalization, sponsored by Evolv, the first purpose-built rental building in the Regent Park revitalization. The community performance was energetic and showcased the talent of many young, up-and-coming artists residing in Regent Park.
A few years ago, we enjoyed the first iteration of The Journey, back when the arts and community hub, Daniels Spectrum, first opened. This year, the cast and crew performed the fifth iteration of The Journey, focusing on supporting the arts, following your dreams, overcoming gun violence and improving a community by connecting with neighbours and friends.
The story bounced back and forth between a group of girls and a group of boys. Afiya is a teenage poet struggling with her cultural gender role as her parents refuse to allow her to perform her spoken word poems. Raffi and his friends take a trip to St. Vincent to experience life outside of Regent Park and the big city.
The Journey is inspired by real-life stories of Regent Park residents and is written by Daniels President Mitchell Cohen, co-produced by Heela Omarkhail, and directed by Kate Fenton. Proceeds from the performance went towards youth arts programming, and operations and capital improvements at Daniels Spectrum.
The leading cast consisted of Jackie Richardson, Jeremiah Sparks, Alana Bridgewater, Karen Jewels, Aadin Church, Trevlyn Kennedy, Limees Rizeig, Jael Jones Cabey, Zenab Hassan, Jahni Boodoo-Nelson, and Benjamin Williams.
Many builders contribute to their communities in many ways, but we’ve never heard of another builder writing a musical about the development, let alone numerous iterations and actually working with local artists to bring it all to life.
“As the work of the revitalization has unfolded, I have been blessed to meet many extraordinary people who have generously shared stories of their journey with me,” says Cohen in a thank you letter to everyone involved in the support and creation of The Journey. “Their stories of hope, fear, sorrow and celebration have evolved into ‘The Journey’ musical.”
The development of Daniels Spectrum and the existence of the musical has made a tremendous impact on the community. The closing night was sold out and there were so many friendly faces throughout the crowd from within and outside Regent Park.
Our favourite thing about the musical, aside from the fact that it provided young, local artists with the opportunity to perform, was that it didn’t pull any punches. Gun violence has been a serious issue in Toronto this year, and The Journey put it centre stage and presents how young, talented community members can stay safe and avoid becoming victims of circumstance.
Hats off to the entire Daniels team and everyone who made The Journey a huge success! We can’t wait until the next iteration!
Feature image via Daniels’ Twitter