Zee Zee Theatre’s My Funny Valentine returns to Vancouver to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Lawrence King’s murder. Days after asking a boy in his class to be his valentine, he was shot and killed. Shortly after, playwright Dave Deveau started writing. My Funny Valentine went on to win the Sydney Risk Prize for Outstanding Original Play by an Emerging Playwright and was nominated for three Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards as well as the Oscar Wilde Award for Best Writing (Dublin, Ireland).
My Funny Valentine just wrapped its run at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times, but we connected with Director Cameron Mackenzie and Assistant Director Bronwyn Carradine to tell us a little more about the play.
Theatre Wire: This is the tenth anniversary of My Funny Valentine. Now that you are re-visiting it, how has your perspective changed?
Cameron Mackenzie: I feel exhausted by it truthfully. Exhausted and so, so sad. That in 10 years it feels like things are getting worse. This play is still so relevant and it deeply saddens me. What exhilarates me is the opportunity to be a part of a national conversation, to take this piece of theatre that I am very proud of not only to Toronto but also smaller towns and cities in BC.
Theatre Wire: What is your favourite moment in the show?
Bronwyn Carradine: The beginning of plays are often my favourite moments—our first impression of someone, of a space. And in My Funny Valentine, we see a man who has been so affected by a tragedy, and whose question of “why” has completely taken over his life. Newspaper clippings surround him, a shrine to a boy he never really knew. And, maybe it’s because I’ve had moments like this, after Sandy Hook, after Orlando, where I was scrambling to soak up as much information as possible, that I think it resonates so much—a simple moment of someone standing in the middle of so much information with no answer.
Theatre Wire: This is a one-man show where a single male actor plays, among others, the part of a woman, an 11-year-old girl, and a 66-year-old man. What are the directorial challenges of ensuring all these voices come through?
Bronwyn Carradine: This is a special show, in which the actor and the audience explore eight lives, eight people, and eight opinions that are all very unique. Because the writing is so specific and each of the voices are all very personalized, we started to build each character from the text, asking ourselves: how do they speak, what are their habits, what was their job, and how did that possibly affect their body, what is their cadence?
From there, Conor [Wylie] spoke the lines that resonated with him out loud and we found the character’s body through movement exercises and music. As we brought in more of the text, some things changed, but most of the foundations of each character are still the same as what we first discovered. I love working on shows like this because there isn’t really any “table work” time. A show that is this physically demanding has to be learned, memorized, and discovered on your feet.
Theatre Wire: Although My Funny Valentine addresses a tragedy, there are some humorous moments. Was it difficult showcasing these lighter moments in a play that essentially deals with very fraught topics?
Cameron Mackenzie: Sometimes in life you laugh so much you cry, and sometimes you want to cry so much you can only laugh. In the darkest times it’s actually quite easy to find the humour because our core craves it. As a director I always search for and try and reveal the heart and the humanity of the characters. Rather than specifically trying to inject humour, I would say we allowed the moments of fun to come naturally and honoured those moments.
My Funny Valentine runs February 7-18 at the Dance Centre, 677 Davie Street. Buy tickets now, or purchase tickets to this show and two more and your tickets are automatically discounted to Subscription rates! Check out all the shows that are part of the Subscription here.