Game On!

When we last spoke with Nova Scotia playwright Mike Melski, his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs were crushing the hearts and hopes of millions of disillusioned fans yet again. On-ice enthusiasts won’t be disappointed with his latest adaptation of Hockey Mom, Hockey Dad, however, which takes the stage at Neptune Studio Theatre in Halifax until October 27.

What inspired you to write Hockey Mom, Hockey Dad?
MM: Just growing up in the Cape Breton minor hockey world, playing for about a dozen years. Along with its long held Celtic traditions, hockey is a very big deal back home, as it is in small towns across the country. My Uncle Ches was a big hockey star and actually died as the result of an on-ice accident. So it's very important in my family as well. It's a game about love and violence intertwined. And the play flowed from that thematic concern. 

Was it a difficult piece to write?
MM: Not as difficult as some. I usually roll my eyes at the 'writer as channeler' stuff that other authors speak about. To me writing is hard work and always has been. But that said, this one flowed more quickly and clearly than most, and it did feel that the story was out there and wanted to be written down. It was a lot of crafting from there, but the basic relationship allowed the characters to 'speak' earlier than I was accustomed to. 

How are you involved with the Neptune production?
MM: I'm directing this production with an amazing cast and team, with the usual great support of Neptune Theatre. We're having a lot of fun. Heather Rankin is just a sweetheart to work with and an amazing acting talent. She's not just gifted comedically but can really access the dark places the script needs her to go. She's quite courageous. And Kevin Kincaid is playing the role for the second time, he's a good pal and also a terrific actor; his Teddy is very dimensional. The set design by Vicky Marston and the lighting by Brent Frison work powerfully together. My concept for this production was 'the Church of Hockey' and that definitely has been realized. Also, the show has an excellent sound design courtesy of Jesse MacLean. So the right players are definitely on the ice. 

To what do you attribute the work's success?
MM: I would guess it's that the audience has a connection to these characters because they know that they are real people. It's not as much of a leap into a new world as other stories. The connection becomes more instant and sympathetic and they can just enjoy the ride, even though it takes them to some darker places than they might think they're going.

What can audiences expect from the Neptune performance?
MM: Well, for the first time the action has been reset to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia in the present day. It's the land and era of Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon, and the minor hockey environment is very heightened here now. When you see the dream coming true for kids like that, it really has lit a fire for a lot of parents and children that they can make it too. But that fire can get out of control in ominous ways, as we've seen recently in the media. And the play definitely explores what happens when obsession is carried to the extreme.  

What's next on your creative agenda?
MM: I'm back to the film world after this, starting the build toward production for two new features - one thriller and one horror. A couple of other new features are just starting development and I'm excited about that. Also I'm back into the television world, with a comedy series in the works and also a docudrama. There is one new play I'm working on, but it bears no resemblance to HMHD. I've got to keep it interesting for myself, with new challenges, and my current slate is definitely diverse. 

Hockey Mom, Hockey Dad
October 15-27
Neptune Studio Theatre, Halifax

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