• Artistic director charles c. smith

Searching for Eastman is a full-length, multidisciplinary performance in four acts based on the interpretation of four of Julius Eastman’s compositions through poetry, theatre, music, dance, and video. These pieces are: (1) Evil Nigger; (2) Prelude to St. Joan; (3) Stay On It; and (4) Gay Guerrilla. This work is a choreopoem whose roots trace through the African griot tradition, the Harlem renaissance and the Black arts movement. 

Eastman was a ‘notorioius’ Black/queer minimalist composer, musician, singer and choreography closely associated with the growth of American minimalism in his years at the University of Buffalo and in the burgeoning minimalist scene in New York City. He was a startling artist and provocative character who was outspoken about his social identities which he infused into his compositions.  

Each act reveals something of Eastman’s life, from childhood on with particular attention to his being caught between worlds, neither home in Black or queer spaces during times of turbulence related to these identities.

Project description provided by charles c. smith.


The wind in the leaves collective is a dynamic and diverse group of accomplished, passionate artists who come together to create rich and evocative multi-disciplinary performances centered on the poetry of Artistic Director charles c. smith – performances that take artistic risks, push genre boundaries and engage artists and audiences from diverse backgrounds and artistic practices. 

The collective is guided by the belief that art leads change, and community outreach and engagement is at the very core of the collective’s mission. They are deeply engaged in a variety of projects designed to inspire and to support the teaching of cultural literacy and creative expression in the underserved communities across Ontario. 

Creative team

  • Artistic director charles c. smith
  • Music Julius Eastman
  • Performers Kevin A. Ormsby, Yui Ugai, Shannon Litzenberger, Ana Groppler, Ben Russell, Bakari Lindsay, Claire Whitaker, Morgyn Aronyk-Schell, charles c. smith, Jillia Cato, Katie Couchie, Aryana Malekzedah, Jadon Trelour
  • Video artist S’quire Johnson
  • Production manager Sharon DiGenova
  • Producer Jenny McCowan
  • Project coordinator Jillia Cato

National Creation Fund investment

The National Creation Fund’s investment of $149,000 makes it possible for the collective to gather for a four-week workshop to further develop the work, including the video and costume design, as well as an extended final rehearsal process that will bring all of the production elements together. 


Canadian Stage, Citadel + Compagnie, Atlantic Ballet, Ontario Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, Toronto Arts Council, Community One Foundation Rainbow Grants. 

Developed with support from the National Arts Centre’s National Creation Fund. 

Performance dates

Past performances

Presented by Canadian Stage Apr 4 - Apr 7, 2024 Berkeley Street Theatre (Toronto)