The star of Sour Brides/Nakai Theatres upcoming co-production So Many Doors isn’t in the show.
In fact, she can’t even talk.
All six-month-old Chloe Babette Poch-Goldin has to do is coo and the cast turns to mush.
“The baby is like the mascot,” said Vancouver-based actor Derek Metz, nuzzling Chloe’s cheek.
Passed from one set of arms to another, Chloe and her stuffed lamb were spending lunch in the Yukon Arts Centre studio space with the cast.
Although she’s new to Celia McBride’s So Many Doors, Chloe may have picked up parts of the script while in the womb.
Her mom, Kelly Thornton, who’s also the production’s dramaturge and director has been working on the piece with McBride for the past two and a half years.
“Sometimes two-and-a-half-years of workshopping can murder a play — kill it dead,” said McBride.
“And sometimes it can help us nail it — like this one.”
Adding Chloe to the mix was the final coup.
“It has deepened it for me,” said Thornton.
“As a parent I now understand the play in a deeper way.”
Set in the territory, So Many Doors is about two local couples that have lost infant children in a tragic accident.
Previously estranged, the couples are reunited in a support group for grieving parents.
“It’s a heavy play,” said McBride.
But it’s also about hope, and about laughing.
“I know what it’s like to go to a play when there’s no relief,” she said.
“So there are moments of deliberate relief throughout the play. It takes people on a journey that hopefully includes laughter and pain.”
Coming out of a particularly tough, brutal scene, it is a great relief for the actors to be able to pass Chloe around, said Thornton.
“You realize how alive she is, and how much she loves life — you’re looking the stakes of the play right in the eyes.”
So Many Doors began as a play about two Yukon couples that have become estranged.
“I was looking for a way to bring them back together, with high stakes,” said McBride.
That’s when she came across the idea of a grieving parent support group.
“That’s the way ideas happen,” she said.
“They start off banal and boring then the layers come in.”
While writing the play, McBride met people who’d lost children and also came to terms with the grief following her own miscarriage.
“The idea comes and then sometimes the reasons for it come after,” she said.
After a couple years working on the script with Thornton, McBride is ready to let the piece go.
“Often with new scripts actors end up running back to the playwright,” said Sour Brides co-producer and actor Moira Sauer.
“But the script is so well written this is not an issue.”
When Metz’s copy of the script arrived in the mail, it was titled “production draft.”
“And I thought to myself, ‘Oh, I really hope so,’” he said with a laugh.
“But it turns out it was — the script hasn’t changed.”
It’s an actors’ play, added Metz.
“With the dialogue you’re actually communicating with someone. Often you do a play and the words aren’t connected to the piece, but this is a marriage between the two.”
Metz and actor Corey Turner were cast site-unseen by the brides and Thornton.
“We’re left with little choice because we’re up here and don’t have the luxury of holding open auditions,” said Sauer.
“There’s always the fear — what if he sucks?” added McBride.
“But they’re perfect,” she said, giving her male cast members a grin.
After being selected last winter to showcase the production at a national conference for Canadian arts presenters in Ottawa in November, the brides started planning.
It wasn’t a walk in the park.
“So many things have happened that made us think we weren’t going to be able to go,” said McBride.
“And we’d say, ‘OK, let it go,’ then a door would open.”
“So many doors,” added Sauer with a laugh.
Funding fell through, there were casting difficulties and emotional breakdowns.
“I’m so grateful doors kept opening,” said Sauer.
“I’ve never wanted to do anything as much as I want to do this now.”
At the November showcase in Ottawa, arts presenters from across Canada will potentially buy the show, sparking a national tour.
It’s rare for a piece that comes from somewhere remote like the Yukon to get this kind of exposure, said Metz, who thinks the play will get lots of buyers.
The cast jokes the production’s opened so many doors.
The title comes from the saying, “Death has so many doors to let life out,” said McBride.
“And the characters are at a crossroads and have to choose what doors to go through.”
With a simple set, contoured largely by shafts of light symbolizing doorways, the staging is very fluid.
A minimalist soundscape composed by Andrea McColeman that involves a steel bowl and the inside of a grand piano will add to the mood.
“I want to get the audience inside the characters’ psyches,” said McColeman.
The world premier of So Many Doors is Wednesday October 17th at the Yukon Arts Centre.
It’s a Nakai/Sour Brides co-production with the Arts Centre.
The production runs Wednesday to Saturday until October 27th.
Tickets, available at the Arts Centre and Arts Underground are $22 and $18 for students and seniors.
There is a $10 preview on Tuesday, October 16th.