Richardo Keens-Douglas

One of Canada’s best-loved storytellers, Richardo Keens-Douglas is a playwright, national radio and television host, and actor. He is a masterful narrator of the African-Caribbean experience, whose books engage children’s imagination.

Grenada-born Richardo remembers visiting a school when one child spoke up, “a little black kid, and she asked, ‘Do you know a story about a black princess?’” At the time he didn’t know one, and he realized she wanted to see herself in books. That inspired his first children’s book, The Nutmeg Princess (1992), which offers this important message to children: “Follow your dreams, and if you believe in yourself all things are possible.”

His second book, La Diablesse and the Baby (1994), grew out of the rich Caribbean oral tradition, and earned a Storytelling World Honor Award. Freedom Child of the Sea is an honest while hopeful story of the human spirit, set against a backdrop of slavery. Richardo explains: “Slavery happened, and when kids find out about it, they'll want to talk about it. Hopefully, Freedom Child of the Sea (1995) can be used as a springboard for discussion.” Tales from the Isle of Spice (2004) is a retelling of these three critically-acclaimed and award-winning stories.

The biggest influence in Richardo’s work is the oral tradition of storytelling. The sound of words is like a song to him, and he tries to make that song as beautiful as possible. He also shares his stories during workshops in schools and universities, encouraging the use of imagination and the expression of cultural pride.

As the youngest of seven children, Richardo has fond memories of growing up on the Isle of Spice. “At night, my family would sit on the veranda telling stories and jokes. We had picnics on the beach, and ate mangoes until our bellies were full. There was always laughter and a strong sense of living.” Keens-Douglas developed a love for literature, entertaining friends and playing the role of comedian. At age 17, he moved to Montreal to attend the Dawson Theatre School.

Since then, Richardo has appeared in films and on stage, radio and television across the country, including with the Stratford Festival. He was in the smash hit Playboy of the West Indies and performed his famous creation story Mama God, Papa God for Princess Diana aboard H.M.Y. Britannia during the 1991 royal visit. He hosted CBC Radio’s Cloud Nine, an anthology of folk tales, musical performances and poetry, and has written many radio plays, including Tell Me a Tale, Once Upon an Island and Caribbean Cindy. In 1985, Richardo won a Dora Mavor Moore nomination for best actor in the musical The Obeah Man, which he also wrote. His musical adaptation of The Nutmeg Princess, which celebrated its world premiere at Young People’s Theater in Toronto in 1999, won the 2000 Dora Mavor Moore award for outstanding new musical. 

In 2002, Richardo was inducted into the Caribbean Hall of Fame for Excellence.

Richardo currently divides his time between his home in Toronto and Grenada. His is the host of the Caribbean version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Annick Press books
by Richardo Keens-Douglas