A Dark Horse in Low Light (Students of Loretto College for the NTS Festival Ontario) 2019 SummerWorks Review

A Dark Horse in Low Light, playing at SummerWorks 2019 is an intricate dialogue about race collectively crafted by a group of female students at Loretto College.

Let me begin by saying that this was a staged reading of this play and not a full performance. Yet, I found this show to still be poignant, insightful and at times funny.

Jade, Thalia, and Bella, are three high school girls of color, with different cultural backgrounds, grappling with extremely complex issues of race and identity. The story kicks off with a photographer failing to take a decent school photo of Jade and Thalia. We quickly find out that this is because he is using his camera’s default settings which are calibrated using the skin tones of Shirley Kodak.

Thalia’s mother is disappointed that her daughter’s skin doesn’t appear as white as she wants it to be in pictures. Jade plays around on Instagram to create a glamorous online persona of herself that soon starts to erode her real personality. Bella, who is lighter skinned, is perceived by her friends to have it easier than themselves but she struggles with being accepted as “not really Black.”

What I really enjoyed about this play is that it doesn’t provide easy answers when it could have very easily fallen into offering platitudes. At one point Thalia lectures her little sister, Grace, on using the whitening soap that their mother gave her. It feels a little predictable and simplistic until Grace responds by asking why Thalia uses Instagram filters to make herself look whiter and distort her features to match the “ideal” of white beauty.

Another striking moment in the show comes when Thalia complains to Jade about her mother Photoshopping her images to make her skin look whiter and she says “you of all people should understand.” Jade, who is darker skinned than Thalia, is hurt that being considered the expert at “blackness.” She struggles to find the words to express why she is upset. This interaction also highlights a lot of politics that go largely ignored when we treat race or privilege as one specific definable issue that impacts everyone in the same way.

I do not want to comment too much about the actual performances because this was a staged reading with the young actors reading off scripts except to say that I found these performers to be extremely engaging. Not only have they written and performed a complex show about a thorny subject but they have also composed original music for the show performed live.

Here comes the preachy bit; this show is a case in point of why we need arts education in schools. Not only do they help young people present their lived experience regarding extremely complicated issues but there are incredibly talented artists that need to be supported. We need our arts education programs. Doug Ford take note.


A Dark Horse in Low Light is playing at the BMO Incubator (1115 Queen Street W.)

  • Sunday August 18th 12:30pm – 1:30pm

Information on Tickets and Passes:

SummerWorks tickets uses a Pay What You Decide system for every show: $15, $25, or $35, whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission and there are no limits to any price level.
Advance tickets are available up until 3 hours before show time and can be purchased as follows: Online, using the Buy Ticket link found on every show page; In person at the main SummerWorks Festival Box Office the Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West) – open August 8-18 from 12 pm-8 pm. Tickets purchased in advance are subject to a convenience fee of $2.50/ticket. Any remaining tickets will be made available for sale at the performance venue starting 1 hour before show time. Venue box offices accept cash only.
Money saving passes are available if you are planning on seeing at least 4 shows.

Photo provided by company