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Memories still haunt in this heartening play
When Nlaka’pamux (Thompson) First Nation and Lytton playwright Kevin Loring set out to pen what would be his Governor General award winning play, Where the Blood Mixes, the financial compensation and apology to those abused in residential schools had been forthcoming.
Canada’s darkest secret was finally being unleashed to those who had no idea of the horrific abuses that took place years before.
Those forced into residential schools were from across this nation and close to home.
For the Syilx (Okanagan Nation), the B.C. residential school system was a harsh reality. According to the Okanagan First Peoples’ website, the majority of Syilx children were rounded up and sent to the Kamloops Indian Residential School or to St. Eugene Mission in Cranbrook, where many reportedly succumbed to the physical and emotional abuse, bringing the scars home with them.
While the residential schools were closed years ago, their legacy has endured through alcoholism, suicide and broken families.
And for the survivors, the memories still haunt.
Indeed, Loring’s play has resonated with those both of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal descent since it was premiered at Toronto’s Luminato Festival in 2008.
“It’s beautiful, it’s funny and it’s poetic,” said Bradley Moss, who directed Where the Blood Mixes for Kamloops’ Western Canada Theatre last year and has once again taken the helm to bring the play to theatres across B.C.
It arrives in Vernon on Tuesday, March 5.
“We don’t talk directly about the residential schools, but that era caused this kind of pain for people. It’s that repercussion that we’re working through in this play,” added Moss.
Where the Blood Mixes follows drinking buddies Floyd (played here by Lorne Cardinal of Corner Gas fame) and Mooch (Craig Lauzon of the Royal Canadian Air Farce), who wile away their time in the local watering hole when not fishing in the waters of Kumsheen (the Great Forks), where the Thompson and Fraser Rivers meet.
Both victims of residential schools, they are forced to confront their pasts when Floyd’s daughter, Christine, whom he has been estranged from for 20 years, finds her father in a search to discover her roots.
Her arrival forces Floyd and Mooch to confront their inner demons, and ultimately begin the healing process.
What has resonated with audiences is the way the story is told, in a brutally honest and irreverently funny fashion, said Moss.
“Believe it or not, it’s super funny. Floyd and Mooch are hilarious together. They just find the humour out of every little thing in life, which is really the point of life, to appreciate what you have. There’s a real joy in that.”
The production, which also includes Robert Benz as George, the bartender, Sera-Lys McArthur as the daughter, Christine, and Michaela Washburn as June, Mooch’s wife, is making only one appearance in Vernon.
Moss, for one, hopes the community will not shy away from seeing a part of our history through Loring’s eyes.
“I think the sense of someone who’s searching for their purpose or trying to find their roots is universal,” said Moss. “It’s beautiful that way. It’s hope, it’s a chance, and that’s all that anybody can really ask for.”
Where the Blood Mixes is part of the theatre series at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre. It takes the stage on Tuesday at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $40/adult, $37/senior $35/student at the Ticket Seller, 549-7469, ticketseller.ca. (The play contains mature subject matter and coarse language.)