Directors Sheronna Osbourne and Troy Crossfield speak to Close-Up Culture about their brand new play, Ninety Four.
Inspired by one of the most influential and iconic eras in art and culture, the story begins in Brooklyn, New York, in the summer of 1984 and follows a charming yet reserved Toronto native Marcus Brown and a feisty and poetic Tawni Dixon. The two teens hit it off right away and bond over hip hop vibes and Caribbean culture. Forced to move forward with their lives, ten years later it is now the summer of 1994 when Marcus and Tawni reunite. They quickly realize things aren’t as simple as they were back in the day as they try to navigate their complex friendship and feelings by holding onto the memories of the music that once held them together.
This highly anticipated production is set to have its Toronto premiere this November 25th – 26th at Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street).
What are your memories of the ‘90s and how did they inspire your new play, Ninety Four?
Sheronna/Troy: Some of our most distinct memories definitely come from a combination of music, tv shows and fashion. Groups like jodeci and SWV not only gave us the soundtracks to some of our most memorable life experiences but they also influenced the way we dressed. Family bus trips to New York were a tradition for most Caribbean families living in Toronto and we all wanted to bring back the styles we saw in tv shows and music videos.
For Ninety Four we really didn’t have to reach too far for references or inspiration. We thought about our true experiences and built characters around them.
Can you tell us more about the story of Ninety Four and what it explores?
Sheronna/Troy: Ninety Four is our interpretation of one of the greatest eras from the lens of Canadian-Jamaicans. The story follows two young people as they navigate love and the fast changing world around them while holding on to the music and memories that brought them together.
As the story unfolds, we explore the complexities of family dynamics plagued by deportation, dying dreams and the harsh realities of life’s curve balls that often go unspoken about. Though we introduce some heavier subject matters, at the core of Ninety Four is Black love in all its complexities.
What can the audience expect from this play in terms of the staging, sound and overall experience?
Sheronna/Troy: As soon as you enter the theatre you are greeted with the sounds of the Nineties. A curated dj set helps set the tone and energy for what is about to be presented. The show has a minimalist set design but includes authentic props from the era like walkmans and brick cell phones as well as a projected video component (designed by Troy) that brings our audience down memory lane through classic music video and film references.
Costume is also a gateway into the world of Ninety Four (costume design by Sheronna) and we use it to not only tap into the nostalgia of the era but to also allow the characters to travel through time.
Can you tell us how you met and what your working dynamic is like?
Sheronna/Troy: We actually met in Atlanta through a mutual friend back in the early 2000’s. We were both chasing our artistic dreams in our respective fields. Sheronna was a stylist at the time and Troy was a songwriter with Sony ATV and Disturbing the Peace. We quickly learned that we both had an interest in acting and would go on to co-star in Troy’s first written play A Little White Lie in 2017.
After the success of the first play, we decided to join forces and continued to create several plays and films after that. Working together is great because we’ve learned to identify each other’s strengths/ weaknesses and pivot or shift where we need to in order to produce the best content. Troy has a natural ability to flow freely in his writing and Sheronna’s attention to detail helps to refine the stories.
What do you hope audiences take away from this play?
Sheronna/Troy: Joy, laughter and appreciation for a time that shaped so much of the culture we enjoy today. We love when audience members either say “yes I remember that” or “I wish I was there” lol.
What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?
Sheronna/Troy: Collectively and individually we hope to continue to create stories, direct, write and produce not only for ourselves but also in support of fellow artists.
Follow Sheronna on Instagram – sheronna osbourne (@yoursheronna) • Instagram photos and videos
Follow Troy on Instagram – Troy Crossfield (@troycrossfield) • Instagram photos and videos