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Residency: Announcing the World Premiere of Loss by Ian Kamau

April 25, 2023

“Children get attached, their eyes search when a parent leaves a room; loss makes us scared to let go.”

Luminato Festival Toronto presents

Loss by Ian Kamau

Produced by The Theatre Centre

World Premiere

Created by Ian Kamau, co-written by Ian Kamau & Roger McTair, with Composer Bruce A. Russell

Developed in Residency at The Theatre Centre

On stage June 14 — 18, 2023 at The Harbourfront Centre Theatre

Two images of Ian Kamau are next to one another, Ian is a Black man with a cropped beard, in the first image he sits on a chair holding red hibiscus flowers planted inside a cracked kintsugi bowl. He is wearing a Black sweater and red hat in front of a white photo backdrop. In the second image he is not wearing a hat, but is standing still with his eyes closed, standing sideway.

Photo by Bryan Brock

Toronto, ON — The Theatre Centre is thrilled to announce Loss by Ian Kamau, featuring poems by his father, writer & filmmaker Roger McTair, music composed by Bruce A. RussellKamau, and Njo Kong Kie, video by award-winning filmmaker Tiffany Hsiung, and environmental design by acclaimed installation artist Javid Jah. The world premiere of Loss will be presented at the 2023 Luminato Festival Toronto.

In 2011 Ian Kamau got sad. He had lost a job and an important relationship. He released an album to an excited community, but found himself isolated. He spent the winter alone in bed. The question “why do I feel like this” led him to ask “how did my grandmother die”, which led to an almost 10-year investigation of the story of how his paternal grandmother died when his father was just ten years old in Trinidad. 

This investigation became Loss, a multi-media performance that begins as a mirror into a winter of depression, and slowly unravels a multi-generational family story of loss through an orchestration of memories using live music, film, and storytelling. Loss is an exploration of grief in Afro-Caribbean communities, and a collective move toward healing shared with the audience.

In this way, Loss uses storytelling to examine how the impacts of mental health and depression manifest through the lens of communities who are marginalized and mistreated by institutions such as hospitals and mental health facilities.

“At some point in my artistic practice I began telling my own stories. When I did that, people started coming up to me afterwards, sharing their stories with me, too. My experience was reflecting something within themselves. Loss is a mirror in that way: my story, relationships, and communities can reflect parts of your story, relationships, and community. For some people, this is how healing could begin.” — Ian Kamau

Photo by Cassandra Popescu

The Theatre Centre’s General & Artistic Director, Aislinn Rose, was one of the individuals who approached Ian after an early Residency showing of Loss in 2015. 

“I felt I had to tell him about my own family, and why his story meant so much to me – not realizing at the time that this is exactly what happens with audiences when and wherever Ian performs. I’ve witnessed it every time elements of the work have been shared.

Ian is an incredible artist across many forms, but most importantly he is a brilliant thinker and storyteller. It has been the privilege of my career to work so closely with him over the last several years, and I cannot wait to see what stories audiences will want to share after experiencing the completed work.”  — Aislinn Rose, General & Artistic Director, The Theatre Centre

Residency is The Theatre Centre’s new work development program that provides artists with the necessary space, funding and mentorship over long periods of time to craft ideas still in their infancy into finished works that are provocative, innovative, and ambitious. The Theatre Centre has supported the development of Loss for 9 years.

The multimedia live-arts experience Loss is also a reflection of artist Ian Kamau’s interdisciplinary career that crosses music, film, poetry, city building, and design. But he says that ultimately, this is just a story.

Loss will be performed live at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre from June 14 -18, 2023, as part of Luminato Festival Toronto. Tickets are on sale now at

Luminato Festival Toronto presents Ian Kamau’s Loss, produced by The Theatre Centre June 14 — 18 at The Harbourfront Centre Theatre (231 Queens Quay West)

Loss is a deeply honest, live retelling of an intergenerational family story, written by Ian Kamau and his father Roger McTair.

This multi-media performance begins as a mirror into a winter of depression, then slowly unravels the mystery surrounding the death of his paternal grandmother Nora Elutha Rogers. 

An orchestration of memories using live music, video, and storytelling — Loss is an exploration of grief in Afro-Caribbean communities, and an immersive experience towards healing shared with the audience.


ASL (American Sign Language) Interpreted Performance will take place on Thursday, June 15, at 8pm

Relaxed Performance will take place on Saturday, June 17, at 2pm

Financial Accessibility: All tickets to Loss are “pick your price” starting at $15 inclusive of all fees and taxes. 


Media Contact

Deanne Moser, DM Public / Luminato Festival: [email protected]

Emily Jung, Director of Communications, The Theatre Centre: [email protected]

About Ian Kamau

Ian Kamau is an artist, writer, and designer from Toronto. He has released seven music projects including the self-produced album One Day Soon (2011) and has published articles, short stories, and poems in publications by Vice, Coach House Press, and Book Thug. The son of pioneering filmmakers, he was the founding executive director of Nia Centre for the Arts, has a Bachelor in Design and a Masters in Environmental Studies from York University, and a Masters in Strategic Foresight and Innovation from OCAD University. His research includes cultural production, storytelling, and critical city building with a focus on mental health and actualization.

About Roger McTair

Roger McTair is a Trinidadian-Canadian writer, pioneering documentary filmmaker, and poet whose stories and poems have been published in the Caribbean, Canada, and the U.S.

An alumni of Ryerson University’s Film and Photography program, he taught media writing at Seneca College at York University in Toronto, and has a keen critical interest in literature, theatre, and philosophy. He has lived in Toronto since 1970.

Creative Team

Ian Kamau, Creator and Performer

Ian Kamau & Roger McTair, Writers

Tiffany Hsiung, Filmmaker

Jeremy Mimnagh, Video Designer

Bruce A. Russell, Composer

Javid JahEnvironment Designer

Shawn Henry, Lighting Designer

Aislinn Rose, Dramaturge

David Mesiha, Co-sound Designer

David Heeney, Co-sound Designer

Cat Calica, Costume Designer

Tara Mohan, Stage Manager

Hazel Moore, Assistant Stage Manager

Rachel Penny, Producer

Beth Wong, Producer for the Theatre Centre

Daniel Bennett, Production Manager and Technical Director

Maya Royer, Associate Production Manager and Technical Director

“Just Us” performance dedicated to Black audiences

June 16, 2023 at 8pm is a Black Out Night in collaboration with Just Us Events Toronto. Just Us Events is dedicated to creating exclusively Black events, spaces and experiences for Black identifying folk. We love and appreciate our Non-Black POC and white partners, allies, family and friends. However, if you are not a part of the Black community, we welcome you to attend a performance on another night.

Thank you

Loss was developed in Residency at The Theatre Centre, and received support from the National Arts Centre’s National Creation Fund, Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, School without Borders, and TO Live. The Theatre Centre Residency Program is generously supported by lead sponsor BMO Financial.

Thank you to the Theatre Centre’s Major Programming Supporters: Toronto Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, The Government of Canada, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Toronto Arts Foundation, BMO Financial, Metcalf Foundation, The Slaight Family Foundation, Kingfisher Foundation, The Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation.

Luminato Festival Toronto

Luminato Festival Toronto, the city’s international festival of arts and ideas, returns this summer from June 7th to June 18th with an exceptional program set to invigorate Toronto with creativity. Luminato Festival Toronto is a convenor and catalyst for big, bold contemporary works of art. Each June, Luminato kicks off the summer with a festival to welcome the world to Toronto, commissioning, producing, and presenting exceptional Canadian and international artists. Throughout the year, Luminato works with artists from the diverse cultures and communities of the city’s region, supporting creative development, and bringing their art to the world stage. We connect local voices with global conversations and ground our work in equity, inclusion, accessibility, and sustainability. Most importantly, we believe in the power of art to start conversations and inspire audiences.

About The Theatre Centre

The Theatre Centre is a nationally recognized live-arts incubator and community hub. Our mission is to offer a home for creative, cultural and social interactions to invent the future.

We make work that spans disciplines and genres; work that pushes the boundaries of what is considered “art”. Our programming and our role as a community space are inextricably linked. Art is not made in a silo: it is connected to the world around it. 

About Residency

Residency is The Theatre Centre’s structured two-year program (sometimes longer!) providing groups/artists with the necessary space, funding and mentorship to craft ideas still in their infancy into finished works that are provocative, innovative, and ambitious. We look for good ideas, drawing us to projects led by directors, designers, composers, choreographers, architects, visual artists, and even a neurologist. Residency facilitates a highly collaborative artistic process that starts by asking: “what do you need?”