In Late Company, Kerry Sandomirsky and Michael Kopsa are a couple who has lost a son to bullying. (photo by David Cooper)
“One year after a tragedy, two couples sit down to dinner. Far from finding the closure they seek, the dinner strips bare their good intentions to reveal layers of parental, sexual and political hypocrisy.”
So begins the promotional material for the award-winning play Late Company, being presented by Touchstone Theatre later this month. It continues, “Loosely based on the true story of the son of a Tory politician who killed himself after being extensively bullied, Late Company imagines what a restorative justice dinner held a year later might have looked like between the parents of a dead gay son, his chief tormentor and that boy’s parents.”
Kerry Sandomirsky takes on the role of the grieving mother. She spoke with the Jewish Independent about the part – and other topics – via email.
JI: The subject matter – and small cast – of Late Company combine to make what seems like a very heavy, intense role. How do you prepare for such roles in general and this one in particular, especially as a mother yourself?
KS: I put my attention on the things that are important to the character, and the world starts to inform you via synchronicity. I was riding on a bus to Kerrisdale and I saw an ad above me for the Josh Platzer Society. It’s for teen suicide prevention and awareness. I contacted them and I’m now communicating with a mother who lost her son. I am also using their recommended reading list for research.
At the same time, my character is a sculptor so I’m reading a biography of Barbara Hepworth.
Earlier this year, I did a similar maternal role in Clybourne Park for the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton. When it comes to intense parts, your nervous system doesn’t know that the grief on stage isn’t real, so there’s a cost. Your adrenal system gets depleted. Being a mom, you have to guard against the play contaminating your life.
I got through Clybourne Park by exercising every day and not drinking any wine. Maybe for this one I’ll have to do the opposite.
JI: The last time the JI spoke with you was in 2011, before The Philanderer. At that time, you were returning to the stage after a two-plus-year hiatus to recover from a head injury. In what ways did that period of being away from theatre change your work/life?
KS: I became a teacher at Studio 58, I accepted an offer to direct, and I decided to take more holidays! I also gave myself permission to be a writer. I turned down playing Cleopatra for Bard on the Beach and instead attended SFU Writers Studio to work with Ivan E. Coyote. After that, I was chosen to go to the Banff Playwrights Colony to work on my one-woman play called Wobble.
JI: Your directorial debut (… didn’t see that coming) was a Pick of the Fringe this year. What were some of the highlights and challenges of directing? Can you see yourself doing more directing?
KS: It was a delight to direct one of my favorite people on the planet, Beverley Elliott, and we had Bill Costin doing our music. So, it was a privilege being in the same room with that much talent for almost a month. I’d definitely do it again. I loved not having to learn all those lines.
JI: When I met you at a recent Museum of Vancouver event, you mentioned having just filmed with Denys Arcand. Is there anything about that you can share?
KS: When you work with someone that gifted, there’s no fear on the set. There’s no ego. There’s just creative collaboration. Denys Arcand and the director Adad Hannah both welcomed input from their actors. Denys is quick to laugh. He was a joy to be around.
JI: What are some of the projects on which you’re currently working?
KS: I want to finish writing Wobble. And, of course, doing another new Canadian play is always fulfilling. I dream of collaborating with Crystal Pite. I’m not a dancer, but I did a workshop with her anyway. I was a troll among the whippets. And I’m hoping to work with Jovanni Sy, the new artistic director of Gateway Theatre. I met him at the Playwrights Colony. He’s a great addition to our Vancouver theatre community.
JI: In what part of the process from idea to stage is Wobble?
KS: Katrina Dunn, the director of Late Company, came to Banff and helped me workshop it. We’ve got a solid first draft. I value her intelligence, her feminism and her compassion. As the artistic director of Touchstone Theatre, she champions new Canadian work. The playwright for Late Company, Jordan Tannahill, just got nominated for a Governor General’s Award, but Katrina chose do a play by him long before that. Her instincts are superb. This will be our fifth production together. It’s a treat to be directed by her.
Late Company is at the Cultch, Vancity Culture Lab, 1895 Venables St., from Nov. 21-30, 8 p.m. (Tuesdays to Sundays), plus Nov. 22, 29 and 30, 2 p.m. There is a two-for-one preview Nov. 20, 8 p.m. Tickets ($27/$22) are available from the Cultch, 604-251-1363 or tickets.thecultch.com.