Playwrights, performers and best friends, Bianca Miranda and Keshia Cheesman met in the school of creative and performing arts at the University of Calgary in 2016 and since then they’ve just clicked.
The pair quickly became friends, and when they compared their childhood stories, they realized they connected on even greater parallels around weight and growing up as women of colour. With that, it unintentionally sparked the beginning of their success as playwrights.
“Bianca and my goal has never been to become playwrights, all we knew was that we wanted to create and perform our own work,” says Cheesman.
“Usually our creative process involves us up on our feet, doing something movement based with text, which is how ‘The F Word’ started.”
The F Word
The F Word is a play currently still in development, written and performed by Miranda, 26, and Cheesman, 25. It began two years ago as a part of another play with Handsome Alice Theatre entitled, inVISIBLE.
“We did a 10-minute piece focusing mainly on the word ‘fat,’ and why and how it led to its negative connotation,” Miranda explains.
“It ended with us chanting and singing, ‘we’re fat and awesome and beautiful’ and we encouraged the audience to join us and sing along.”
A story of joy, hilarity and hardship, The F Word, tells the lives of the two writers in a real and unapologetic way.
“When I think about this play, I wouldn’t consider it a play on body positivity, but a play about our lives and the journey we are on together to accept ourselves as fat women of colour,” states Cheesman.
Societal stigma on weight
The play focuses on standards in society about weight and race; the pair’s stories showcase how this stigma occurs everywhere.
“Weight stigma, or weight-based discrimination, also happens everywhere — at school, at work, in your own home, from your closest family members, and especially at the doctor’s office,” Miranda says.
She adds that one of the main issues is that people don’t always recognize the behaviour.
“It’s more common for someone to be ignorant of or complicit to this type of discrimination because after all, thinness is idealized, diet culture is deeply engrained.”
Although the media is getting better at being inclusive, Cheesman believes it’s not reaching far enough.
“My dream for our society would be for us to see a fat woman of colour — and I mean fat everywhere — be a model, be an actor, be a positive force in the world without her existence being a bold statement that makes certain people uncomfortable.”
Miranda and Cheesman not only focus on the societal perception around weight but also on race as well.
“Her body is just neutral. The same neutrality a thin white body receives. And if that happens, that’s when I know we are all moving in a positive direction.”
Growing success on the stage
From their 10-minute piece, their success continued to build. They were contacted to remount the piece for different platforms, then obtained a week-long residency at Arts Commons’ Pre-Amp Program.
Later on, their work was commissioned by Theatre Calgary to write the full-length, one-act play. With this commission, they had the chance to meet with Nina Lee Aquino, artistic director of Factory Theatre in Toronto. This led to an opportunity of attending another workshop by her, as well as the chance to present a reading for the Factory Wired program.
“Since university, it has always been our dream to create a show and tour it, whatever that show may be,” Cheesman states.
“And now that we have a show that has a bright future, it is so exciting that the universe has led us in this direction, and our dreams don’t seem so far out of reach.”
For more information and updates on The F Word, follow @thefword_show.
- By Mackenzie Gellner