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Belfry Theatre offers love story, dark comedy and adult fairy tale with world premiere of Kindred

New play from a new playwright runs in-person from May 19 to June 12
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Medina Hahn, left, and Stephen Lobo are among the cast of Kindred, which runs at The Belfry through June 12. Credit: Angela Funk

ON STAGE: Kindred

Where: The Belfry theatre, 1291 Gladstone Ave.

When: Through June 12 (in-person); May 31-June 5 (livestream)

Tickets: Pay What You Want through 250-385-6815 or online from tickets.belfry.bc.ca

For the cast and crew of Kindred, which has its world première at The Belfry theatre tonight, change has been a constant — and will continue to be up until the curtain opens.

Such is the case with a new play, from a new playwright, by a director working for the first time in the market. “Little known fact, [with a new play] you’re working right up until opening night,” director Lauren Taylor said with a laugh.

“It’s all systems go-go-go because it’s all untested. You have no idea if the lines are going to land with the audience, or what the response will be.”

Daily morning meetings were held in recent weeks, in order to run through changes and make edits and tweaks. The main difficulty, according to Taylor, was working without reference point. In the information-gathering stage of the rehearsal process, directors will often explore a variety of sources for guidance, from YouTube videos to news stories on previous productions.

Beyond the input of playwright Rosa Dolores, who was heavily involved in rehearsals and workshops, Taylor said, she left like a ship without a rudder at some points in the lead-up to opening night. “That is very much the place where this play lives, in a weird kind of way. The four characters central to the piece are all in the middle time of life, and who are parents to young children and struggling with separation and divorce. We’re with them as they go through that hard stuff.”

Taylor said said she was blessed with an experienced cast and crew for Kindred, and they worked through the process with a “dramaturgical hive mind” mentality. That shifted and changed as new aspects of the play evolved over time. “The audience is now the final piece,” the director said.

Taylor, who is from Melbourne, Australia, but now lives in Vancouver, is making her Belfry debut with Kindred, a love story, dark comedy and adult fairy tale all rolled into one tightly coiled 90-minute package. Medina Hahn, Stephen Lobo, Andrew McNee and Celine Stubel are the acting centrepieces, and their eagerness to collaborate was instrumental, Taylor said.

Dolores is a relative unknown in the theatre world (her bio says she runs a bed and breakfast on the mainland with her husband), but that wasn’t a deterrent at any point, according to Taylor. In his program notes, Michael Shamata, artistic director of The Belfry, said he chose Kindred as part of the company’s current season because “it was real and believable. I love this play—it surprises me—and it is unlike any other play I know.”

Taylor shares a similar opinion. Though she’s just making herself known to local audiences, she has a world of experience, having lived and worked in places such as China, Afghanistan, India, Singapore, and Thailand. Kindred is the type of play that audiences of all stripes can identify with, she said.

“Thematically, it deals with the concept of giving and taking, and what it means to receive and be seen and see others. Is there a sense of redemption past a low point in your life, and how do you build that back up? You’ll feel like a fly on the wall [in Kindred] listening to peoples’ deeply private conversations. But the playwright has structured it so it has that wincing comedy as well, where you’ll kind of cry-laugh and think: “I’ve been there.’ ”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com