Vancouver songstress and performer Krystle Dos Santos, with the support of Steve Charles on bass and Alex Ward on piano, brings the life of Viola Desmond to the stage in Hey Viola! at Confederation Centre of the Arts this summer.
The Centre asked Krystle a few questions about her career, the production, and her relationship with Viola Desmond.
How did you start your career in the performing arts?
I always had a love for music, drama, and performing in school, but I started taking singing lessons at 17 and went to performing arts college at 21 and it just stuck. I released my first album in 2008 and my first professional musical was Dreamgirls in 2013.
When did the idea for Hey Viola! first come about, and how did you get involved?
Hey Viola! was an idea my co-creator/director Tracey Power had. She spoke to me about it while I was auditioning for her other musical, Chelsea Hotel, back in 2017. I was immediately excited by the idea and wanted to know more about “the lady on the $10 bill”—it sparked such passion in me. We workshopped it and developed it through 2018 and 2019. Miraculously, the show debuted during the pandemic in October 2020 to 50-person audiences, and I was fortunate to meet some members of Viola’s family.
Did you know a lot about Viola Desmond before you started working on the show? How has your relationship with her story changed?
No, I did not know a lot—that’s a huge reason why we developed the show. Her legacy as a beauty entrepreneur is incredible, and I feel that it should be celebrated and highlighted so much more. She was way ahead of her time! I greatly admire the strength and courage she had to forge ahead the way she did after what happened to her in the Roseland Theatre. This show helps me connect to her as real person.
What is the most interesting thing you learned about Viola Desmond during this process? Is there something most people wouldn’t know about her?
She founded an incredible beauty business with unique products for Black women in a time when there was nothing else on the market. She also opened beauty schools to provide training for young Black women to support their growth and employment. Similar institutions in the country did not allow Black women to enroll, but Viola gave them an education and helped them advance in the beauty industry.
Have you performed in PEI before? What are you most looking forward to about coming to the Island?
I’ve never been to PEI before, and I’m so excited to come and see this side of the country. Other than sharing Viola’s amazing story, I’m really looking forward to experiencing the beauty of the East Coast, as I am very familiar with the beauty of the West Coast. I can’t wait!
Hey Viola! runs at The Mack from August 3–13 as part of The 2022 Charlottetown Festival.