It’s never too early for story time

Actress Warona Setshwaelo plays the character of Maria Msondo, inviting audiences to relive her past, present and future.
Actress Warona Setshwaelo plays the character of Maria Msondo, inviting audiences to relive her past, present and future.

All the world’s a stage, so what happens when there’s only one player? This is the case with Stori Ya, a moving one-woman show about love, loss and everything in between.
Stori Ya is presented by the Black Theatre Workshop, which has been in operation for over 40 years. It was written by Toronto playwright Joan M. Kivanda and directed by Millie Tresierra.
Tresierra feels that the strength of the show lies in its ability to communicate with audiences.  “It’s magical all around,” she said. “It’s a very simple show and that’s where the power of storytelling comes in.”

Stori Ya tells the tale of an East African woman, Maria, facing the repossession of her home. Moments before this home is taken, she hosts a final dinner and invites guests from her past.
Throughout the play, Maria shares stories of her youth and journey from Tanzania to Canada. It proves a very personal experience, which at times threatens to overwhelm her with the bittersweet memories of her past.
Tresierra feels the main themes of the piece are relationships and personal development. “The play is really about truth and betrayal, and the inter-play of those two things,” said Tresierra.
“I found the script very interesting, culturally and from a female point of view,” she added.
She was impressed by the dialogue immediately, and hopes audiences will react the same way. “It definitely spoke to me,” she said.
Tresierra has experience with one-woman shows as an actress as well as a director. Because of the relationship the performer shares with the audience, she feels “it’s important to maintain a separation.” She feels that above all, audiences should expect to be told a story.
During the rehearsal process the production team had the opportunity to workshop the show with the playwright, Kivanda. “Working with the playwright was new for me,” said
Tresierra. “It was challenging, but overall a great experience.”
“Being able to workshop the show was very useful,” said lead actress Warona Setshwaelo. “It’s always nice to work with the playwright.”
Setshwaelo has never done a one-woman show before in her 15 years of acting experience. “I was kind of nervous because, basically, the whole show depends on you,” she said. Despite her initial anxiety, Setshwaelo said she was comforted by the familiar structure of the rehearsal process.
Like her director, Setshwaelo said she was immediately blown away by the script. “What drew me to the show was that it was written in a very poetic style.”
As part of the play, some traditional African songs were written into the script. “The show is by no means a musical,” said Setshwaelo, “and I’m not a professional singer.” The production team chose to incorporate live music into the show in order to better capture the feeling of it, she explained.
Considering that the show features more than one character, it’s no surprise that the setting jumps around between past and present. It also takes place in a variety of locations so the set is designed to be fairly versatile.
As opening night draws near, Setshwaelo hopes that audiences will take a chance to see something a little out of the ordinary. “The direction has been great, the set is beautiful, the script is tight, so why not?”
Tresierra shares this sentiment wholeheartedly. “It’s a beautiful show. It’s like stepping into a river. You’re going to take your canoe, get in it, and go. It’s a continual thread that will carry you through till the end.”Stori Ya runs Nov. 16 to Dec. 4 at the Mai centre (3680 Jeanne-Mance). Student tickets are $20, regular price $24. Check out for details.

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