Emotions flood Halifax theatre for musical honouring Viola Desmond’s legacy

It’s been a week of celebration in honour of a Nova Scotia civil rights icon becoming the first black woman to grace the cover of the $10 Canadian bill.

“You know what, I was looking at this and I was thinking, my mother would not believe this, my aunts and uncles that have passed would not believe that there is a black person on a $10 bill in Canada,” said Dorothy Fletcher, a woman who attended the musical, while admiring her newly acquired banknote.

Viola Desmond has cemented a lasting legacy in the hearts of Canadians from coast to coast, for her refusal to move to a “whites only” section in the 1940s.

Desmond, a businesswoman at the time, paid for a ticket to watch a movie at a New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, theatre.

She was told she had to leave the section she was sitting in because it was for whites only.

She refused and her story has since inspired a nation to celebrate those who stood and continue to stand, in the face of racial prejudice.

“When we heard about the bill being released and Viola Desmond, the North End Business Association obviously reps the North End of Halifax and we felt as Viola Desmond being a community member of the North End, we thought we should be able to produce something for her,” Marika Paris said, of the North End Business Association.

The production Paris is referencing to comes in the form of an original musical that was created by the Charles Taylor Theatre Group.

“We were talking just play but I find that people no matter what language they speak, no matter what cultural background, they come together through music and so if you don’t get her story, if you’ve never heard of her story, you’re getting the music,” Tara Taylor said, the director of Viola: An Original Musical.

Taylor is not only directing the musical, but she also wrote all the songs from scratch and hopes to shed a new light on Desmond’s celebrated past.

“No one knows this but we actually wrote an original Halifax explosion song because Viola was three when it happened. So, we thought that was extremely important to have it as part of it. So, it will just touch your heart,” Taylor said.

Viola: An Original Musical runs until Nov. 25.

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