The Blood Mixes Inside My Heart At The Kay Meek CentreFriday, May 30, 2008
Last year Harvard architect Abraham Rogatnick and I parked our car on 17th Street in West Vancouver. It was in the evening and we walked up to the place where we were going to see an advance performance of Lloyd Burritt's opera Dream Healer. The place was called the Key Meek Centre. Somehow this venue had sprung on us like a newborn baby from nowhere. It was up on the mountain. Jutting out were three flying saucer-like structures of metal and glass. We were awed. We immediately inquired and found out that the architects involved, Richard Iredale and James Emery, had an interesting connection with the city below. It was Iredale's father, Rand Iredale who had built the arresting West Coast Transmission building on West Georgia. In the lobby there was a colourful portrait of Kay Meek. We were told she wanted a theatre in West Vancouver so she donated one million dollars. By building the structure next to a school the city donated the land. It was only last night that, off the record, I was told that Kay Meek's money came through her husband's involvement in rum running. Last night Rosemary and I attended an unusual theatrical performance at the Key Meek Centre. In preparation to taking the play, Where the Blood Mixes (written by young Nlakapmux playwright Kevin Loring) to a Toronto theatre festival the Playhouse Theatre Company was persuaded to mount a production in West Vancouver. The play with its background of alcholism and Catholic boarding school abuse in Lytton specially hit home. Today we drive through Lytton to visit our daughter in Lillooet. We will drive across the very bridge that is central to this poignant play about a father (Floyd, played by Billy Merasty) being found by his daughter (Christine, played by Quelemia Sparrow) who was taken away by "the ministry" when her mother died of mysterious and tragic consequences. Most of the action happens in the bar of the Lytton Hotel that is presided by the benevolent bar man George, Tom McBeath who has a kind soft spot and is unable to prevent Floyd's friend, Mooch (Ben Cardinal) from spending his wife's (June, Margot Kane) money on booze. This play made Rosemary and I laugh even though the tragedy on stage was ever present. Ben Cardinal's performance of the ever drunk Mooch was so convincing I was worried he would fall from the stage on to the confluence of the Thompson and the Fraser Rivers below. It was almost hard for me to believe that the kind (in my studio!) Margo Kane could be so brutal with Mooch. But it was Billy Merasty's voice and slight Irish accent (learned from a school in Northern Manitoba, perhaps?) that enveloped me and charmed me. I hope to see more of this actor soon. His breaking down on his daughter Christine's lap just about made me cry. The whole play had the constant and unobtrusive playing of Jason Burnstick's guitar and weissenborn lap slide playing and singing. But it was the sweet tone of his Haida Gwaii made guitar that really made me notice. I had to, after the play ended, ask Burnstick to show me the instrument. This he did. I found it almost symmetrical for me to see Playhouse Director Glynis Leyshon (above left) direct her, perhaps, last play as she moves on. I first photographed her in my studio in Februrary 1997 when she had just arrived to town. Even then I had the fond but confused (had I been afraid of the man as he had posed for me?) memory of having photographed another Playhouse director, Walter Learning (right) sometime in the end of the 70s. The play has an important bar brawl and I was surprised to find out that the fight choreographer, Nicholas Harrison (right) managed without broadswords and dirks. As we left I had a short chat with Margo Kane (below) and she told me she sort of enjoyed "slapping" Mooch. I looked at her warm smile and I didn't believe a word of it. Today as we cross the bridge in Lytton I will no longer think that the old Native name for the place, Kumsheen, does not mean "the place where the Rivers meet" but in reality the far more poetic "the place inside the heart where the blood mixes". This play most surely did that. There are still two more performances of this play to be held at the Key Meek Centre.