Set against the backdrop of the COVID pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, First Métis Man of Odesa kicks off a world premiere tour in Kamloops this March

March 16 to 25, 2023 | Pavilion Theatre

A Ukraine love story will take to the stage in Kamloops.

Western Canada Theatre (WCT) will present Punctuate! Theatre’s world premiere of First Métis Man of Odesa this March. Playwright Matthew MacKenzie joins forces with his wife, award-winning Ukrainian actor Mariya Khomutova, to tell their personal story of love, family and war. 

A love story set against the backdrop of war.

“This is a love story, and like any grand, sweeping love story, our lovers are faced with grand, sweeping obstacles that challenge their fate,” says director Lianna Makuch. “And like the many great love stories that came before them, Matt and Masha’s story is also set against the backdrop of war.” 

Based on actual events, award-winning theatre artists and real-life married couple Matthew MacKenzie, of the Métis Nation of Alberta, and Mariya Khomutova, of Odesa, Ukraine, have created a contemporary love story shaped by unprecedented events.

The stage production follows Matt, a Canadian playwright interested in sharing the stories of internally displaced people on a research trip in Kyiv in 2018, where he spark up a romance with Masha, a classically trained Ukrainian actor who is “three handshakes away from Stanislavsky.” Their passionate connection grows into a love that spans continents, taking them from the beaches of the Black Sea to Northern Alberta, through the onset of a global pandemic and the eruption of a brutal war, plus many moments of joy through it all including marriage and the birth of their son. 

What started as a podcast (released as part of Factory Theatre’s You Can’t Get There from Here Audio Series in spring 2021) centred around MacKenzie and Khomutova’s COVID courtship, developed into so much more when Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.

Sharing their personal experiences in the form of a play has allowed the show creators to share an intimate perspective on the personal impacts of the current war in Ukraine. 

With a diverse and renowned creative team bringing this true story to the stage, First Métis Man of Odesa now embarks on a cross country world premiere tour—including stops at The Theatre Centre (Toronto, ON), The Citadel Theatre (Edmonton, AB), and The Cultch (Vancouver, BC), with Kamloops’ Western Canada Theatre being the first presentation in March 2023. 

“The ultimate goal of theatre is to provoke empathy and understanding by placing you in the shoes of other people—not just to know what happened to them, but to feel it,” says James MacDonald, WCT artistic director.

“Matt and Mariya could be any of us, and that is the power of their story. The darkness of the backdrop lends a wonderful contrasting poignancy and joy to the playfulness and romance of two unlikely people falling in love.”