Last seen at the 2019 Vancouver Fringe, where it took home that year’s Cultchivating the Fringe Award, Lili Robinson’s Mx returns to be presented later this month on The Cultch’s digital stage.
Written by emerging playwright Lili Robinson, Mx delves into questions of racial identity based on Robinson’s personal experience as a mixed-race kid growing up in Vancouver.
In this Q&A with the playwright, we find out more.
This interview has been edited.
Tell us about Mx. What can audiences expect?
Mx digs into notions of Black and queer identity and takes a deep dive into the question of what it means to be both white and Black. The show confronts realities of race and privilege and asks big questions of its audience in regards to relationships to Blackness and complicity in white supremacy. It’s heavy at times, but it’s also goofy and clowny and darkly comedic.
What was the inspiration for Mx?
Mx was inspired by the process of finding and understanding my place in the Black community as a queer, mixed-race person. It was also born out of a desire to challenge the consumption of Black performers and Black culture by white audiences in real-time, putting a lens on that dynamic and disrupting it inside the show itself.
How has Mx changed since it was first presented at the Fringe?
The play has evolved to reflect the world we live in now and everything that has occurred over the past year. The pandemic has obviously had a huge effect on the medium of the show, with the pivot to livestream being a huge consideration. Last year’s uprising in support of the movement for Black lives and the grief, rage, and clarity of that time period have influenced my rewrites to the script in a major way as well.
Mx being presented digitally for this run at The Cultch. Did you re-write the piece knowing this would be the case?
Yes. At first, there was discussion around potentially being able to have a small in-person audience, but as the winter went on, it became clearer and clearer that that would not be possible, so we began to brainstorm and make decisions around how best to present it fully digitally.
What has been the biggest challenge as you have developed Mx?
Exhaustion. The intensity of the past year is something I think most folks are still processing, and within the Black community, the grief and fatigue of the year have been particularly intense. Re-developing the script amidst all that, while staying conscious of taking good care of my mental and physical health as best I can, has been a challenge. Prioritizing rest is something I think is really important, but unlearning the capitalist normalization of burnout is not always easy. It takes practice.
The cast from 2019 is returning for this run. How important was it to have the same cast back to perform your words?
I am deeply grateful for the wisdom, passion and panache that Alisha Davidson and Emily Jane King bring to the roles of Mz Nancy and Samantha, respectively. They understand that the personal work of this show goes beyond simply filling up a character, and I feel honoured to collaborate with them in this way. It was also amazing to have xoma-leon phîlip babur step in to play my character, Max, for the workshop reading we did with Alley Theatre this past fall so that I could step back and listen to the show critically from my role as playwright before returning to play Max for this run.
Give us your elevator pitch. Why should someone tune in to watch Mx?
Using bold risks, sharp comedy, and African mythology, Mx explores what it means to be mixed-race and Black in the world today through the lens of a character stuck in the in-between.
Mx streams live from The Cultch’s Historic Theatre from February 18-24. Visit thecultch.com for tickets and information.