Manitoulin-set play off to PEI

Where Are You

Expositor’s requested and sent for authenticity

VICTORIA, PEI – Playwright Kristen Da Silva’s popular title ‘Where You Are,’ a play that takes place on Manitoulin Island, is fanning out to farther destinations this summer with upcoming dates scheduled for Brampton, Morrisburg, Orillia and even as far as Prince Edward Island.

“We’re really excited. It’s going to be a real great production and I’m sure people are going to enjoy it,” said Emily Smith, executive director of PEI’s Victoria Playhouse, located approximately one-third of the way between the Confederation Bridge and Charlottetown.

“Kristen Da Silva has been on my radar for a few years because she’s been writing the kinds of plays that we produce here. We typically like to do comedies with smaller casts, so I’ve been keeping my eye on her as a rising star in the Canadian playwrighting world,” she said.

‘Where You Are’ had its world premiere at Theatre Orangeville in early May of this year, the theatre where Ms. Da Silva serves as playwright-in-residence. The Expositor learned of the upcoming eastern stage run when the theatre contacted this newspaper’s office to request some copies of the paper to use as props.

Ms. Smith has never seen any of Ms. Da Silva’s plays in person and this is, in fact, the first time any of Ms. Da Silva’s titles have ventured east of Ontario. Director Ted Price and his partner Anne Laughlin, who serves as the rehearsal stage manager, have made several road trips from their home in Prince George, BC to PEI.

“On their fifth or sixth time they drove across the country to direct for us, they stopped in on Manitoulin Island to do some research. They got a feel for the place, what sort of shops we might have and what the newspaper on the Island was like,” said Ms. Smith. That trip served a similar purpose to Ms. Da Silva’s original trip to Manitoulin when researching for the writing phase of her play.

“One thing I think about Kristen Da Silva’s work is it’s often set rurally, and that works so well for our audience because PEI is quite rural overall. Perhaps only 30 percent of our audience are from tourism, so most of those people are probably looking for something that says, ‘rural Canada’,” said Ms. Smith.

When asked if there might be an extra special connection from a setting in one island community to another, Ms. Smith chuckled and agreed.

“It’s two of Canada’s great islands coming together,” she said.

“I think there’s probably some common threads that they’ll recognize in terms of the difference when you live in a small place, especially an island, when you’re geographically separated from the big city. I think there’s probably some stuff they will recognize and relate to, but I’m curious to hear from them,” said Ms. Da Silva.

Although Ms. Da Silva expressed her hope that the eastern audience would still identify with the themes in the production, she acknowledged that a lot of the central issues can be easily translated to people of all backgrounds.

“At the heart, it’s a human story that most people could relate to,” she said. “No matter who you are, where you’re from, (the play’s issues) hit home for you at some point.”

Ms. Da Silva has never been to PEI herself and, as fate would have it, she had previously planned a family road trip to the east coast of Canada around the same time. When she found out that the Victoria Playhouse was performing her play, it seemed to fit well with her schedule and she agreed to stop by to take it in and offer a Q-and-A session after the show.

She added that she was looking forward to hearing from the audience in person about their thoughts on the play.

“I’m hoping they embrace it and see themselves in the story as well as the audience has elsewhere. That’s my hope,” she said.