Evetta Thomas (Vetty) grew up in a large family with 14 siblings in North Preston- Nova Scotia’s largest Black community. Her family house was situated at the centre of the community and Vetty’s mother, Rosella ‘Mamay’ Fraser ‘kept an open house’ and so as a child Vetty was exposed to a continuous stream of characters entering her house ‘telling their stories’.
At a young age, Vetty became quite a storyteller and was known as the comedienne of the family. One of her skills was mimicry: imitating both the behaviour and style of talk of various community characters. This was a prized trait in this long-isolated community that was still rooted in Black oral traditions.
At her high school, Vetty joined the cast of the school play Freedom- an original play that portrayed the arrival and settlement of the Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia and their eventual immigration to Sierre Leone, Africa. Vetty was allowed to create the dialogue and characterization for her character Ginny, an enslaved woman, and she incorporated the language and personality characterizations mastered at home in North Preston. The play was a hit and Vetty’s performance was lauded by the audience. Freedom would later be presented as a teleplay by CBC (and win a national award for Multiculturalism).
Vetty’s performance caught the eye of David Woods, a young Dartmouth playwright and family friend who was putting together a new troupe called Voices (the precursor to Voices Black Theatre) in Halifax and one of the first theatre company’s to present original drama from Nova Scotia’s Black community. Woods felt that Vetty’s talent was a natural fit for Voices and he invited her to be one of the company’s actresses. Vetty performed with Voices for 7 years where she officially began storytelling- performing family stories and community tales about North Preston. In addition to Voices, Vetty also performed religious comedy and drama with the Baptist Youth Fellowship and sang with the gospel ensemble Focus in North Preston at that time.
In 1990, Vetty was cast in Woods’ CBC Radio drama Part of The Deal- an acclaimed play about Africville- the Black community controversially destroyed by the City of Halifax during the 1960’s in the name of urban renewal. Her character Crazy Lucy was a memorable tour de force performance that garnered critical praise from audiences. She would follow this up with roles in Woods’ plays The Aunt Jemima Story (1994), Nova Scotia Suite (1995) and Up Home (2001).
Woods also helped Vetty develop her storytelling performance and in 2001 she debuted Mamay’s Kitchen a collection of stories about community life in North Preston at the Preston Cultural Festival in Halifax. Vetty presents her stories in school and community events and became part of the Voices Black Theatre organized Talk That Talk Storytelling Series featuring top Black Nova Scotian storytellers presenting concerts across the province.