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Derailed: the Theatrical Experience

This video is a part of our award-winning digital exhibition Derailed: The History of Black Railway Porters in Canada. This theatrical experience is based on prominent figures and moments in the history of Black railway porters in Canada, presented through a contemporary lens. 

Written and staged by Meghan Swaby, directed by Byron Kent Wong, and filmed at Union Station, Derailed is performed by Derick Agyemang, Daniel Jelani Ellis, Laurence Dean Ifill. This digital presentation was produced in partnership with zero11zero, Iron Bay Media, and Union. Funding provided by the Government of Ontario.


Video Timestamps

0:00 – Intro
All aboard Derailed!

2:09 – George Pullman
A dramatic monologue about George Pullman, an American Engineer and inventor of Pullman Sleeping Cars.

3:47 – Training Day
A portrayal of a Porter Supervisor, the shining example of a Railway Porter.

6:04 – Derailed Sleepy Porters
A dramatic monologue portraying Charles Ernest Russell, a Senior Porter who is sent a letter from the civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph, to organize a Canadian chapter of The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

10:00 – Derailed Immigration Acts
A dramatic re-imagining of the Immigration Act of 1910 as a living person.

11:05 – Deadheading on Christmas Eve
A dramatic monologue portraying John K Crutcher, a Porter for the Canadian Pacific Railway, as he retells the events of Christmas Eve 1954.

17:27 – Derailed Porters as Cultural Ambassadors
A monologue portraying the charismatic dreamer “Reginald”, a character modelled after Billy Downie, a Porter and the owner of Halifax’s first Black club, the Arrow.

19:25 – Porters Go to Ottawa
A dramatic portrayal of the historic event of Porters travelling to Ottawa to demand greater citizenship rights for Black people.

26:00 – Passing the Baton
A dramatic portrayal of Stanley Grizzle, a Porter, activist, politician, and citizenship judge, who reflects on his accomplishments and looks to the future.

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