When a teenage boy is killed for an innocent question, the answers are hard to take.
The Cowichan Performing Arts Centre, in partnership with Intrepid Theatre’s OUTStages, presents the masterwork My Funny Valentine, Friday, June 22, at 7:30 p.m. at the Ladysmith Little Theatre, 4985 Christie Rd.
Hailed as “exceptionally beautiful” (Vancouver Courier), this three-time Jessie-nominated play was created by award-winning Vancouver-based playwright Dave Deveau (Elbow Room Café: The Musical) in response to the tragic 2008 murder of Lawrence King, a 15-year-old shot by his male classmate after asking him to be his valentine.
Taking inspiration from this tragic hate crime, Deveau created this powerful and celebrated one-man tour-de-force that explores a community in mourning in a series of profoundly moving monologues.
Deveau says of all his plays, My Funny Valentine is closest to his heart. “For me somehow, this show is I think my most personal work,” he said during CBC’s North by Northwest. “When I first read about it, it just hit me in the solar plexus. It was something that just caught me off guard and I needed to know more.”
Brandon McInerney was just 14 years old when he shot and killed King in their Oxnard, California junior high school on Feb. 12, 2008. King reportedly asked McInerney to be his Valentine in the days leading up to the incident. King died two days later — on Valentine’s Day. McInerney was sentenced to 21 years in a state prison.
Deveau described writing the play as particularly gruelling. He said the killing had a stark and confusing contrast of innocence and hostility. For the innocuous act of asking someone to be your Valentine to trigger such a brutal response was disturbing to him. “There’s something so harmless and innocent, and also in a weird way, absurd and meaningless about asking someone to be your Valentine,” he said. “Whatever it was, to lead to this, it was so deeply confusing.”
Deveau wrote My Funny Valentine as a solo performance featuring one actor taking on seven diverse characters caught in the aftermath of this unspeakable crime.
For this performance, Jessie-nominated actor Conor Wylie takes the audience through the minds of teachers, students, parents, and other community members who find themselves caught in the orbit of King’s death. Each character embodied by Wylie is performed with tremendous technical skill and heartfelt authenticity. Ranging from an 11-year-old girl to a 67-year-old man, Wylie offers poignant and probing reflections on this tragic murder.
Director Cameron Mackenzie gives insight into why this play maintains its relevance.
“It has been a decade since the murder of Lawrence King and eight years since we premiered My Funny Valentine. Painfully, it is a work that has only gained relevance,” says Mackenzie. “It acknowledges and gives equal weight to a diversity of perspectives and opinions. Ultimately, it is a call to action reminding us that the only path to healing lies in a community coming together — not pulling apart.”
Tickets are $20 each with card carrying students able to pick up eyeGO seats at $5 each if they go to the ticket centre in person. Get your tickets at the Cowichan Ticket Centre, by phone 250-748-7529 or online at www.cowichanpac.ca