When Floyd’s daughter, Christine, travels to Lytton to meet her dad, it unlocks a flood of memories for him and his friends about the abuses they suffered at residential school.
Although the emotions flow with painful, and sometimes violent, swiftness, Christine’s appearance provides the friends the opportunity to confront their feelings once and for all.
Such is the premise of Where the Blood Mixes, Kevin Loring’s Governor General award-winning play set to debut at Sagebrush Theatre on Thursday.
For its cast and director, Where the Blood Mixes is a chance to reunite following the success of their previous Western Canada Theatre collaboration Thunderstick.
And for co-star Lorne Cardinal, his role as Floyd allows him to pay homage to his parents, who were residential school survivors.
“My dad raised me and his rage I totally understood after he told me he was sexually abused. But he didn’t tell us until he was 60-something,” said Cardinal. “When he told me that, my whole life made sense. Everything, his behaviour, his rage, made total sense.”
Cardinal thinks of his dad and other residential school survivors often while portraying Floyd, he said. His goal is to do justice to their plight and keep the legacy of residential schools in the public eye. By doing so, he hopes more people have the chance to heal.
“I want the audience pulling for these guys,” Cardinal said of the characters in Where the Blood Mixes. “They are a damaged people and they are doing the best that they can. The best way to deal with that is to speak about it, to let it go.”
As the play unfolds, we learn Floyd’s wife killed herself shortly after Christine was born. He tried to raise his daughter himself but couldn’t because of his own emotions and guilt about his wife’s death and their own residential school experiences.
“He tried to look after the girl but couldn’t and she was taken away,” said Cardinal. “All these years he’s been harbouring that guilt and resentment.”
To pull off such weighty material, it helps to work with people you can trust, said Cardinal. Fortunately, he’s been reunited with Craig Lauzon, his Thunderstick co-star, and director Bradley Moss, who he met at the University of Alberta in 1993.
The two have worked together off and on since then, with intermittent breaks while Cardinal starred on TV shows such as North of 60 and Corner Gas.
Moss is proud to be directing the play in Kamloops. Where the Blood Mixes is set in Lytton, Loring’s hometown, and the play was “workshopped” by WCT during its development, he said.
He took the cast to Lytton so they could see the locales Loring describes and get a sense of the town. His is likely the only staging of Where the Blood Mixes that includes a recording of Lytton’s Singing Bridge.
“We actually have the town of Lytton in the play now. From my perspective, that’s super exciting,” said Moss.
Although Where the Blood Mixes is heavy in subject matter, Cardinal promises lighter moments as well, including an arm wrestling match for a fishing spot.
And the characters do get some closure and redemption.
“There is a step forward. A glimmer of hope comes through for these people,” he said.
Moss agrees, saying the play is about working through pain and having a desire to change. In the end, it’s up to the First Nations community to take that step.
“You can’t just be mired in pain, although the pain isn’t going to go away,” said Moss.
But it’s also up to the Canadian people to step up and take responsibility for residential schools.
“We caused that and that isn’t going to go away,” he said.
Where the Blood Mixes also stars Robert Benz, Sera-Lys McArthur and Michaela Washburn. It runs from Oct. 11- 20 at the Sagebrush.
Tickets are on sale now at Kamloops Live! Box Office.