Arts & Entertainment
3 min

On stage: I Am Not A Dinner Mint

Breakup blues colour all women's lives

THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS. I Am Not A Dinner Mint, starring Graziella Mastrangelo, Aktina Stathaki, cowriter Rachael-Lea Rickards, Jemeni and Mandeep Kaur Mucina. Credit: (Joe Simalya)

In 2001, comedian trey anthony wrote and acted in a little Fringe show called ‘Da Kink In My Hair. The play opened a window onto the lives of seven black women, and eventually opened doors for anthony, with celebrated runs at established venues like Theatre Passe Muraille, The Princess Of Wales and the San Diego Repertory.

‘Da Kink continues its success with a fall run in London, UK, as well as a television version executive-produced by the playwright herself. Anthony’s brother, Darren, is writing the ‘Da Male Kink, which trey will direct and produce next year.

With all of this on her plate, anthony also produces the annual comedy fest Dat Girl Sho’ Is Funny, has a new script in the African Playwrights Festival and has cowritten another new play with Rachael-Lea Rickards — I Am Not A Dinner Mint, which she’s directing, in case you thought she was starting to slack off.

What’s it like to live with a super-success hanging over your head?

“I try to not let the pressure affect me,” says anthony, “but it does. I really just want to do my best work possible and I want Dinner Mint to be judged on its own merit, not a comparison to ‘Da Kink. But I know it’s going to happen anyways.”

Dinner Mint, like ‘Da Kink, boasts an all-woman cast. The piece is similarly structured, monologue-driven and features a lesbian character. A large difference, though, is that two women wrote this play, and their focus is less on identity and more on relationships.

Anthony and Rickards have been best friends since high school. The impetus for finally working together was simple — breakup blues. As anthony puts it, “For the first time in our 20-year history, we found ourselves single at the same time. We were having similar heartaches and issues, even though she’s straight and I’m queer.”

The process was much like a good relationship — easy and fun, yet involving compromise. “We tended to talk out the stories aloud,” says anthony. “Then each of us would go away and write. We would meet and tweak each other’s work. Major challenges were deciding what to take out. We both have a lot to say and would battle it out to the end on whose monologue would [remain].”

In the end, eight monologues made it in, four by each writer, although anthony squeezed several spoken word pieces in, too. Five women, all fresh faces to Toronto theatre, will bring the characters to life.

“It’s really important to me to give new actors an opportunity,” says anthony. “The cast is also culturally diverse, Mandeep [Kaur Mucina] is South Asian, Graziella [Mastrangelo] is Italian, Aktina [Stathaki] is Greek, Rachael-Lea is Jamaican and Jemeni’s Grenadian. It was important for me to represent the average woman.” Each actress plays two to three characters from different backgrounds, exploring relationships with their lovers, children, parents, employers and even themselves.

Although anthony codirected ‘Da Kink for its initial incarnation, this is her first solo directing experience, and she stepped off-stage to do so. “Not starring in it has given me a chance to focus on just one thing. The experience has been great.”

So what’s the mint reference? “A dinner mint is something you eat after a main course, an afterthought,” says anthony. “In some of my relationships, especially near the end, I have felt like an afterthought. I allowed partners to take me for granted, treat me with little respect. I was really hurt yet I kept coming back for more.”

Anthony admits that, as with much of her work, she’s bringing her actual life to the stage. She finds it therapeutic, though absolute honesty can be frightening. “It really is about doing some soul-searching and healing. I truly believe people treat us the way we allow them to treat us, and this show is asking the question, ‘How do you allow people to treat you?'”

Besides delving into the depths, anthony finds humour, particularly in queer women’s breakups. “Who gets the copy of the lesbian sex guide?” she asks. “How do you divide up friends? And how many times do you go to therapy before you know the relationship is really, really over?!”