There’s one main reason why Kaitlyn Yott works in theatre — it’s real.
It’s not just about the product, as she found when acting in film and television. Plays are focused on a message of some kind and, with the work she is now rehearsing, she sees a missive that is about more than smiling, applauding and heading home to other things.
Instead, Yott sees Kamloopa as something that will entertain — it’s basically a female road trip to this city’s powwow — but that also speaks not only to the horrific backstory of the country’s First Nations but what happened after residential schools were closed and politicians tried to find ways to make amends.
That’s the intent of first-time playwright and long-time actor Kim Senklip Harvey. While telling the story of three friends heading from the Coast to Kamloops for the celebratory event, the words she has written delve deep into the reality Indigenous women — young women in particular — face in today’s world where reconciliation and understanding continue to play out as their community interacts with the rest of Canada.
Basically, Senklip Harvey said, it is Indigenous theatre that goes beyond the proscenium arch that traditionally borders theatre stages, extending the edges of her story in a way she hopes make her audience — she calls them witnesses — start to understand the Indigenous matriarchal world, the importance of ceremonies and perhaps hear the playwright’s call to action.
Simplified, she said she hopes people come into the opening play of this year’s Western Canada Theatre season with memories of sitting around a campfire and telling stories.
It was important for her to have not only an all-female cast — joining Yott are Yolanda Bonnell and Samantha Brown — but a creative team of only women. With a goal to help Indigenous women find their power, Senklip Harvey said it’s important for them to see women with power and a creative team of just women is one way to provide that inspiration.
“I wouldn’t be writing this story if I had had a life where I felt I had power,” Senklip Harvey said, and she’s reiterated that goal during rehearsals when the cast have said they’re weren’t sure they could do what she was asking of them.
They have every time, she said.
“This is a story about my generation” of Indigenous women, Senklip Harvey said. It’s about young women and the impact on them of earlier generations.
“It’s a love story to Indigenous women.”
That goal fuels Yott, too. She said her artistic career was influenced by “amazing women who carved a path for me to walk on and it’s my job to keep carving that path.”
For those who want to gather more information before the play opens on Sept. 15 at Pavilion Theatre, Senklip Harvey has been keeping track of Kamloopa’s progress online at kimsenklip.com/blog and anchor.fm/buildingthefire.
As for why she’s debuting the play at Western Canada Theatre before it heads off to The Cultch in Vancouver, the answer is simple. As a member of the Interior Salish First Nations group, she said “this is home. It had to start here.
“And there’s even a Senor Froggy joke just for the Kamloops audiences.”
A preview will be shown Thursday, Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m.
The play continues to Sept. 22. Friday and Saturday curtain times are 8 p.m., the other days are 7:30 p.m. and there is a Sept. 22 pay-what-you-can matinee at 2 p.m.
Tickets are available at the Kamloops Live box office, 1025 Lorne St., 250-374-5483, kamloopslive.ca.