TOSHANISHA – THE NEW NORMALS – From Kenya with Laughs!

By Ernest Kearney — We all know during these Covid years, the demands of restrictions, mandates, adaptations, procedures have encased all of our lives.

But gastronomes had a lifeline in “Grubhub,” Netflix and Amazon Prime provided the “fixes” craved by the cineastes, teachers could still teach, even, most, businesses struggled along via Zoom. If not at their fullest, these enterprises managed to exist in slender form.

Not so those in the world of theatre. No matter which side of the proscenium your “tribe” is on, whether the one that performs and creates or the one that experiences and ingests, for us, this has been an extraordinarily damaged period.

This is because our “rocket juice” is proximity and immediacy. The passion of the theatrical world is embedded in the intimacy between reality and imagination shared in the embrace of those on stage and the theatai. We are denied what is only manifested in arts performed live.

Various efforts at “virtual” theatre have been attempted, among the more successful was The Art of Facing Fear, a multi-national show by Ivam Cabral and Rodolfo García Vázquez, of Brazil’s Os Satyros theatre.

Toshanisha – The New Normals, a Hollywood Fringe Festival presentation, is a collaboration between South America’s Os Satyros and Africa’s Bold Theatre Kenya, and while the results are not equal to Os Satyros’ prior show, it does highlight one of the strengths of virtual productions, which is allowing theatrical companies from the world over, even those of third world countries, to reach a global audience, with limited or no means to travel.

Founded by Aroji Otieno at the onset of the Covid crisis, Bold Theatre Kenya undertook to maintain a creative connection to their community through workshops and performances.

Streamed live via a Zoom platform, Toshanisha – The New Normals would be filmed on iPhones and laptops in Kenya and San Palo, then magically transmitted across the width of Africa, over the deep Atlantic, to be projected on screen in Los Angeles.

The work is a patchwork of diverse pieces, conceived and performed live by seven Kenyans, a Congolese national living in the East African nation, and a Brazilian streaming from Sao Paulo.

The work weaves between satirical sketches poking at the failure of the African states to form a unified front against the pandemic early on to the difficulty of different generations forced by economic necessities to cohabitate.

Breaking the cohesion of the work, however, is a segment condemning the sexual victimization of Kenyan women in a powerful indictment of society’s failure. There is also the Congolese troupe member giving a guided tour of a refugee camp.

There are two massive refugee camps that Kenya hosts, both of which were established to provide shelter for those fleeing from civil war. There is Dadaab in the eastern part of the nation that hosts Somalis, in the Northwest is Kakuma a safe harbor for those forced to flee Sudan during its violent partition. Together they hold some 400,000 displaced souls.

It was in this segment that the technical format began to unravel, and we lost sound that left us watching our smiling guide film himself on his cell phone as he tried to explain what we were seeing in words we never heard.

In silence we were shown rows of sheets hung over ropes beneath which merchants conducted business in what served as the camp’s “shopping mall.”
In silence, we were led by a towering fifty-foot mound of the refugee’s debris.

It was Toshanisha – The New Normals’ intent to spin the misfortunes and denials that have weighed on us all during this crisis. Otieno and his cast wanted us to realize that by being denied aspects of life we had taken for granted —going out with friends, family dinners on Sundays, rubbing elbows with complete strangers in a audience at some cheesy Hollywood blockbuster — we could now understood their value.

With song, humor and the seductiveness of their unfiltered humanity, Toshanisha succeeds in putting a “happy face” on these grim times we live in.

The Kenya ensemble, I was told, had a 6:45 AM “Curtain Call” for the 9:00 PM virtual show in L.A. This left me pondering, if perhaps in live streaming and the other formats of “virtual performance” there is something more than simply a tool for surviving the pandemic.

Silver Medal (via The TVolution)

Perhaps in the efforts of the Bold Theatre and the other international companies to reach out to theatre communities in the U.S. of A. and the world over, we may, hopefully, see the beginning of a global awareness that what has the greatest value to humanity is never constrained by national borders.



* * *

An Official Hollywood Fringe Festival Encore Producer Winner

Toshanisha – The New Normals

will be presented next on

Saturday September 18 2021, 3:30 PM | 1hr


Pacific Time (US & Canada) virtual performance

Please Go To:

Hollywood Fringe Festival

to learn more about how to view the show

For Additional Information about the Ensemble and Future Updates Go To:

Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at and Follow him on Facebook.

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