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Past EVENTS / 1851: Spirit & Voice May 18

1851: Spirit & Voice May 18

An online theatrical experience revisiting the 1851 North American Convention of Coloured Freemen, where past and present collide.

collage of many important black historical figures in 1851

Back by popular demand! Welcome to 1851: Spirit & Voice, a theatrical and playful revisiting of the 1851 North American Convention of Coloured Freemen. Through this work written by playwright Luke Reece, step into the world of a fictionalized digital conference where the past and present collide.

Live from St. Lawrence Hall, Marie and Anthony host a retrospective look at the gathering of 19th century abolitionists in Toronto, when their event is crashed by ghosts of conventions past. Together our characters grapple with the way history has been written, as well as issues that affect Black lives today. Watch leading historical figures Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Henry and Mary Bibb, and Frederick Douglass share their unfiltered thoughts on historical storytelling and 21st century anti-Black racism. Choose to join in depth conversations about racism, microaggressions, and the use of artistic expression as a means of inspiring change.

This event includes a talk written by Dr. Naila Keleta-Mae, “On Safety, Glass Ceilings, and Feminism,” followed by a live question and answer period with playwright Luke Reece and director Lisa Karen Cox.

Written by Luke Reece and directed by Lisa Karen Cox, with a cast featuring Amaka Umeh, Cameron Grant, Daren A. Herbert, Emerjade Simms, Kaleb Alexander, and Sophia Walker.

1851: Spirit & Voice will be presented on May 18 and June 8 from 7-8pm. We invite you to become an 1851: Spirit & Voice Delegate for the May 18 presentation by registering at the link in the sidebar, or visit the June 8 event to register and become a delegate for that date. See you there!


After registering, delegates will receive a link to the 1851 website. Prior to the event, we ask all delegates to explore the website in order to:

1. Meet the Speakers (past and present) by watching and reading their bios.
2. Look back at the 1851 North American Convention of Colored Freemen and the surrounding historical context of the abolition movement in Toronto.
3. Explore the glossary to better understand mentions of terms and historical moments, such as the Dawn Settlement, the Voice of the Fugitive, white supremacy, and abolition.

During the livestreamed event, please be prepared to participate by:

1. Interacting with speakers and fellow delegates using the chat.
2. Choosing to follow 1 of 2 side conversations following introductions: Anthony and Frederick Douglass chat about artistic expression as a means of inspiring change in Lounge 3, while Marie, Mary Ann Shadd, and Mary Bibb discuss microaggressions and the role of education in securing Black futures in Lounge 2.
3. Submitting questions for the Q&A with Luke Reece and Lisa Karen Cox.


Luke Reece is an award-winning spoken word poet, theatre producer and playwright, recently appointed as Soulpepper’s Associate Artistic Director. Through his work as an educator and artistic leader within the national arts community, he advocates for engaging and nuanced storytelling that challenges Canadian audiences. He is one of Toronto’s most decorated slam poets, and has represented the country internationally. In 2021 Luke was included in York University’s inaugural Top 30 Changemakers Under 30 list.

Lisa Karen Cox is a graduate of Concordia University’s Interdisciplinary Studies program, and she relishes work that combines music, movement and heightened language. Often playing men and other mythical creatures, credits include: Flo in Now You See Her (Quote/Unquote Collective/WhyNotTheatre/Nightwood); The Penelopiad (Royal Shakespeare Co/NAC); Brutus in Julius Caesar (Spur-of-the-Moment Shakespeare), and 2 seasons at the Stratford Festival of Canada. Lisa was also the Assistant Director for We Are Proud to Present…(Theatre Centre), and Salt-Water Moon (Factory Theatre), and the Associate Director for Why Not Theatre’s Like Mother, Like Daughter. Most recently, as a director, Lisa worked Anna Karenina for UTM/Sheridan and Beyere in Obsidian Theatre’s 21 Black Futures.


Dr. Signy Lynch is a theatre scholar, critical dramaturg, and educator. Her areas of research specialization include contemporary theatre in Canada, audience research, and theatre criticism. She has taught courses at York University, Toronto Metropolitan University, and the University of Toronto. Her published work includes articles for Contemporary Theatre Review, Canadian Theatre Review, and the Routledge edited collection Impacting Audiences: Methods for Studying Change. Her work as a critical dramaturg, which includes developing programs for the Toronto Fringe, seeks to push the boundaries of traditional theatre criticism to imagine critical and creative practices that can reflect our digital and intercultural present and futures. She is co-editor of Canadian Theatre Review volume 186, “Theatre After the Explosion” (Spring 2021), and is co-chair of the board of directors of Toronto’s Cahoots Theatre.


1851: Spirit & Voice was conceived and created by Myseum of Toronto and Soulpepper Theatre Company, with assistance from the Ontario Black History Society.

Lead Support:

The Estate of Mary Ann Marshall

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Ontario, and the Government of Canada.

Myseum is made possible by the generous support of Diane Blake and Stephen Smith.

1851: Spirit & Voice May 18

18 May 2022

7:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST

Please Note:

– We are offering two presentations of the same online event, the first on May 18 and the second on June 8. Attendance at both is not expected.
– The livestream will be hosted on Hopin.
– Reminder emails will be sent before the event with a link to the 1851 website and instructions on how to join the event.
– In case of any changes or cancellation, we will do our best to notify you in advance via email.
– These online events will be recorded.

Accessibility Info:

– Closed captioning and live captioning will be provided.
– Registration accessibility: Should you have any trouble registering or accessing registration through Hopin, please contact us at [email protected].

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