One of the multitalented rising stars in the theatrical world is Chilina Kennedy. This native of Oromocto, New Brunswick, has cut her acting chops at Canada’s great theater festivals in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and Ontario’s Stratford and Shaw Festivals. Here she performed comedic, dramatic and musical roles with equal success.
Her U.S stage credits have been musical and dazzlingly successful. From small parts in “Mama Mia, ”to playing Carole King in “Beautiful” on Broadway and in Toronto close to 1200 times, she has clearly been identified as one of the noteworthy new talents of the North American stage.
Leaving “Beautiful” and Broadway behind, she now has assumed the female lead of Dina in the national tour of the 2018 Tony Award-winning musical, “The Band’s Visit.”
In between shows and getting ready to move “The Band’s Visit” to Toronto, she graciously took time to talk to buzz about this musical and her career.
buzz: You have played Carole King over 1000 times (you can fill me in on the exact number) and it looks like you will be doing “The Band’s Visit” for a while. What do you do to keep your performances and love of your character fresh?
CK: I use a couple of techniques. The first is I remember that every performance is special for someone in the audience. It may be someone’s very first Broadway show or show of any kind. It may be someone’s anniversary or birthday. The second is I listen. If you are actively engaged in listening to your scene partner, the music, the energy of the space, then you are present.
buzz: What special preparations did you do to play an Israeli woman for “The Band’s Visit?”
CK: I studied the dialect for a long time! We also had a crash course in history and geography. I have had many conversations with castmates and people who have spent more time than I have in Israel and heard from people with different points of view. I try to listen to music and watch film and TV from the Middle East.
buzz: This the second time you have assumed a role vacated by a Tony Award winner. Does this present any special forethought and/or challenges?
CK: Sometimes it can feel like a lot of pressure but that goes away when I remember that my goal is not to recreate a role or performance. What makes a performance so good is the originality and authenticity one brings to a character. My job is to be true to my characters and authentic to myself.
buzz: What is your take on the message of The Band’s Visit?
CK: I think it’s a piece about human connection. It could be a story about conflict and politics in the Middle East, but it’s not. Each character is changed for the better by someone from the other “side”. With the help of music as the common language, we begin to see that there are no sides. We all share loneliness, isolation, disappointment as well as deep love and happiness.
buzz: What attracted you to this part in “The Band’s Visit?”
CK: Dina is so very different than Carole. She is weathered and full of shadows. I love her biting humor and dry wit. It’s fun to dig into those parts of myself, even if they are sometimes painful.