Apocalyptic comedy Kitt & Jane comes to the Phoenix

Culture Events Theatre

Kitt & Jane at the Phoenix Theatre
UVic Pheonix Theatre main stage (3800 Finnerty Rd.)
Oct. 15–19, and 22–25 @ 8 p.m.
Oct. 26 @ 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

UVic alumnae Ingrid Hansen and Kathleen Greenfield partnered with Rod Peter Jr. for their play Kitt & Jane: An Interactive Survival Guide to the Near-Post-Apocalyptic Future, which comes to UVic’s Phoenix Theatre this month as this year’s spotlight on UVic alumni production.

Kitt & Jane first premiered at the Belfry Theatre during the SPARK Festival in 2012 and is a stand-alone sequel to the popular Little Orange Man. Those who have not seen the previous play will not be missing out, according to Greenfield. “Little Orange Man fans will get a couple little inside jokes, but anybody can see it and totally follow along,” she says. Hansen will play her popular character, Kitt, who is now 14, two years older than she was in Little Orange Man.

Kitt has turned from her internal struggle of dealing with her grandfather’s death to focusing on her external relationship with the world. Hansen draws on her own experiences for this role, saying, “I remember being 12 and reading National Geographic and looking at all the different looming catastrophes that my generation would be facing and adding them all up in my brain, and coming to the realization at the age of 12 that I might not live to be 70, and that the earth might not be liveable by that time.”

Greenfield and Hansen were invited to be a part of the Belfry Incubator program, where Kitt & Jane came to fruition. The program is described on the Belfry’s website as “a two-year process through which the Belfry provides support and mentorship for local independent theatre companies wishing to explore new work, new practices, or new artistic territory.” Those projects chosen for the program are then given a spot at the Belfry’s SPARK Festival. Hansen describes the process she and Greenfield used to create Kitt & Jane in the Incubation project. “She and I had started talking about what would it be like if we saw the same character two years later, and then we invited Rod onto the project and then we started jamming. And Rod is really fantastic to work with because he has a very different sense of humour than Kathleen and I. So he brings a totally new angle.”

Greenfield says that the focus of the play, which was originally supposed to be about body image, changed to the apocalypse theme because, “You know, global warming when I was 14 years old was a myth, and we were just talking about how crazy it must be to be a youth in this day and in this time, and experience all of these things for real instead. It’s really happening now, and so we really wanted to tell the youth that they had a voice.”

The play begins with Kitt and Jane (played by Peter), performing as part of a school assembly; however, they soon want to have their own voice, and take over the entire assembly, barring the doors and holding the audience captive to train them to survive the upcoming apocalypse. Greenfield says, “At the very beginning of the play, they talk about how this isn’t a zombie apocalypse and this isn’t a supernatural apocalypse in any way. It’s a very real apocalypse and they already kind of establish that it’s going to happen and it’s happening right now.” Hansen says they have changed the meaning of apocalypse. In this case, rather than the end of the world, it means a great change: the end of this world and the beginning of a new world.

Ideas for Kitt & Jane came from extensive research in the form of countless interviews with teens. Hansen says their interactions with teens, “reaffirmed what we already were feeling: that young people today are very intelligent and very well informed.“ The interviews with teens will be made into podcasts and accompany the play as a way to continue its message and encourage and inspire young people to  action. “I think that young people are really aware of the shitty deal they’re being handed by the people who are currently running the planet, and I think there’s a lot of promise in the upcoming generation,” says Hansen.

“I think there’s obviously a reason that there’s so much in our media right now about the different apocalypse scenarios. I think one of the reasons is that people are living, in some ways, such boring lives and we wish there was an apocalypse that would come, that would force us to go on this adventure and actually have to engage with our tangible reality,“ says Hansen. “I hope that it will light a fire under some of their asses and that people will feel energized to tackle these things that seem so enormous.” Greenfield furthers Hansen’s sentiments, saying, “I hope they walk away with a desire to inform themselves about what’s going on in our world right now. To stop talking about Miley Cyrus and start talking about the major problems that we’re facing and the major hurdles that our young people are going to have to deal with.”