If great minds think alike, then what do warped minds do? They create.
With 10 shows together and counting, you might wonder what inspires esteemed director Kevin McKendrick to keep coming back to the combo of Hit & Myth Productions and Ground Zero Theatre.
Simply put, the reason is Ground Zero artistic director Ryan Luhning and Hit & Myth artistic producer Joel Cochrane, both of whom he’s worked with repeatedly since 2006, when the three first collaborated on the award-winning Urinetown.
The tradition continues this month with the opening of A Steady Rain.
“It’s been quite a ride,” McKendrick says, calling the connection “serendipitous and quirky,” adding that he admires Luhning and Cochrane’s hard work ethic and attention to character and story development.
“We all believe it should be about a good story and if you have a good story you have great characters,” he says. “We believe the storyline is more important than pretty pictures and all that stuff. And I believe in letting the audiences focus on the actors, it’s no longer about drawing attention to the director.”
And anyone who knows these guys or their work knows they have beautifully dark, twisted minds.
“We share a very irreverent and odd sense of humour,” says McKendrick. “We like black humour and the dark side of humanity. I think we’re keen observers of the world we live in.”
Known for the wildly popular Evil Dead: The Musical (the threesome connected for both stagings of the musical here), the guys can often get serious as well, as evidenced by productions such as the macabre Pillow Man and, more recently, Race, which examined the role racism plays in modern society.
McKendrick says A Steady Rain is another one of those introspective looks at morals that will leave audiences questioning their own. The story follows two Chicago cops who are also lifelong friends — at least until a series of events leaves their relationship in tatters. McKendrick first saw the play in Chicago and says it’s been four years in the making to bring it to Calgary audiences.
“It’s a harrowing tale about friendship and what lengths people are willing to go to protect a friendship or sacrifice a friendship to protect others. I think it’s an examination of the friendship and the love that drives the friendship. And I think it’s something we’ve all confronted.”
McKendrick says the production will be intimate, not just because of the small theatre it plays in, but because there are four sides to the stage and audiences will be able to observe how others respond to the production.
“The audience won’t be able to escape and they will be locked into this incredibly engaging piece about these truthful characters for 90 minutes,” he says. “All four sides will be able to see each other’s reactions.”
Although the threesome might make theatre resonate while making it look easy and fun, it takes a lot of hard work and countless hours of rehearsal, which is another quality McKendrick admires about Luhning and Cochrane.
“They require more rehearsal time than most at four weeks, and they do incredibly detailed work,” he says. “It’s rigorous in text and character and they don’t let anyone off the hook.”
And that demanding ethic extends to McKendrick.
“Of course we challenge each other and that is part of the process of putting out the best piece we can. We all are very passionate about it. Collaboration isn’t always harmonious because people are fighting for what they believe in.”