In the summer of 2008, 18-year old Fredy Villanueva was shot and killed by Montreal police after being found playing an illegal dice game with his brother and three friends. It was from this tragedy, which was subsequently called legally justified but unnecessary, that writer Omari Newton draws inspiration for The Lamentable Tragedy of Sal Capone.
Originally from the same Montreal neighbourhood as Fredy, Omari was inspired to write Sal Capone after hearing of the shooting, but uses his own fictionalized story of a young DJ who is killed by police on the eve of his band’s record release and the reactions to his death by the remaining band members. It also provides an opportunity for the group to explore some bigger themes.
“It’s not just a play, it is a multi-media production with music, visuals, spoken word, rap, hip-hop and theatre,” says the queer identified Kim Villagante who plays the 17-year Filipina female rapper, Jewel. “It deals with a lot of issues regarding sexism, homophobia and racism in society, but more importantly in hip-hop characters.”
For Villagante it is in the exploration of those themes within the hip-hop community, a community that she has been part of for much of her own life that that gives Sal Capone its biggest strength. She says it is a way to bridge the gap between the perception of hip-hop and its reality.
“There is a perception of hip-hop being very misogynist and a dangerous thing where violence is glorified, but there is so much more to it,” she says. “It is not only a tool for expression, but is also how I learn about the world around me. Hip- hop is about representing yourself and representing yourself with confidence and pride. I am proud to be Filipino and queer and female.”
Originally written in Vancouver, Sal Capone premiered last year in the city where it was inspired, but Vigallante isn’t worried about it translating for a West Coast audience.
“When Omari wrote this play he had in mind all the big cities of Canada and the play itself takes place in a the fictional “Real City”, but with a lens on Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal,” she explains.
The production also features openly gay aboriginal actor Billy Merasty in the role of transvestite Shaneyney, a witness to the killing.
The Lamentable Tragedy of Sal Capone plays at the Roundhouse Community Centre May 22-31. Visit http://urbanink.ca for tickets and information.