The first-ever performance of Kevin Loring’s debut play Where the Blood Mixes was in his hometown of Lytton, British Columbia in 2008. It was a staged reading of an earlier draft of the script—part of a British Columbian workshop tour by the play’s producers, the Playhouse Theatre Company and the Savage Society, in conjunction with Western Canadian Theatre in Kamloops.
Back then, a national Indigenous Theatre department at the NAC was merely a dream.
At that first reading in Lytton, Kevin enthused “The people got to see themselves on-stage; they got to see a play about them. They saw their own story for real—for the first time.” Since that first reading, the play has received a prestigious 2009 Governor General's Literary Award for Drama. Not only that, Kevin has become the inaugural Artistic Director of the NAC’s Indigenous Theatre department, the first of its kind in the world.
Where the Blood Mixes was one of the first productions of Indigenous Theatre’s first season. It was performed in French, as part of Zones Théâtrales, and in English, reaching a wide audience.
The play is about healing and about place. Kevin, who is a member of the Nlaka’pamux First Nation, explained “Lytton was a significant venue for the play, which not only is set there but takes its title from the town’s Nlaka’pamux name, Kumsheen. The name comes from the name of my village, which is ‘the place inside the heart where the blood mixes.”
That first reading in the small town of Lytton which sits where the Thomson and Fraser rivers meet was special because it told an Indigenous story to Indigenous people. Today, Kevin champions Indigenous storytellers across the land. He promises them “I am here to support your work. I am here to make the circle strong. It is my job to help raise you up as best I can. I will fight for your place on our stages, and support your voice in the chorus of this country.”
Shail Verma and Myles Kirvan are two generous supporters of the NAC’s Indigenous Theatre. “In this 50th anniversary year of the National Arts Centre, the Indigenous Theatre Department is taking centre stage: generously sharing stories in words, song and dance; giving voice to pain, truth, courage, strength, resilience and healing,” they say. “As we all watch and listen, as we laugh and cry, our minds and hearts are opened and we can become part of the circle. Participation in this inaugural season and ongoing support for the future of Indigenous Theatre gives all of us the opportunity to continue to learn and grow.”
Thank you to all NAC Foundation supporters who helped to make the dream of a national Indigenous Theatre department a reality, and for helping us celebrate Indigenous stories.