When Amon Beckles stepped out for a cigarette at a friend’s funeral in 2005, he couldn’t have known it was to be his final act. There to mourn the loss of Jamal Hemmings, a victim of gang violence in Toronto, Beckles was re-entering the church when he was shot six times in the chest. The 18-year-old, who thought he’d be safe in the confines of a church, joined his friend as another victim of the city’s gang violence, making headlines and shaking the city to its core.
AWAKE, a new play premiering at the Toronto Fringe Festival this week, incorporates spoken word, hip hop, gospel music and docu-theatre to tell the stories of those affected by gun violence in Jamestown, an at-risk Toronto neighbourhood and the site of the Beckles murder.
In development since 2009, the play is based on hundreds of interviews with the residents of Jamestown and its surrounding areas, and takes place at the Walmer Road Baptist Church. Attendees will arrive as though they are coming to a funeral for all the young men who have lost their lives to gang violence.
AWAKE runs from July 6 to 17 at the Walmer Road Baptist Church (188 Lowther Avenue) as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. Tickets cost $11 at the door, and $10 in advance. Advance ticket sales are available online at FringeToronto.com, or by calling 416-966-1062.