Lindsay Kyte

Writer, Actor, Playwright

Bachelor of Journalism , 2000

My ability to research, it’s something I’m so grateful for, and I owe that to King's because of the high, high standards I was held to.

When Lindsay Kyte met Rita MacNeil in 2012, she had no idea Cape Breton’s First Lady of Music would eventually become the subject of her next play.

Her friend, Chris Corrigan, toured with Rita and invited Lindsay to one of their concerts. During the applause after the show, he ran offstage, grabbed her arm and took her to the dressing room.

Lindsay is no stranger to meeting famous people—when she was awarded her MA from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, Sir Paul McCartney himself handed her the degree—but when Rita walked in, she admits she felt truly starstruck.

“You must be Lindsay,” Rita said. “Chris has been telling me all about Tompkinsville…” she added, referring to Lindsay’s 2011 play.

“…Then she proceeded to give me an artist pep talk,” Lindsay reflects. “She said, ‘Your work is so important. We have to tell Cape Breton stories, stories of who we are and where we come from.’”

As it would turn out, Lindsay would do just that for Rita. After her death in 2013, The Charlottetown Festival and the Savoy theatre commissioned Lindsay to write a play celebrating her legacy.

“It seems to me that my life is full of coincidence,” Lindsay says.

She grew up in Reserve Mines, Cape Breton and briefly attended NSCAD before transferring to UPEI to study creative writing and theatre. Then, she got her Bachelor of Journalism at King’s in 2000; a choice, she says, that’s helped her in all her creative pursuits since.

“My ability to research, it’s something I’m so grateful for, and I owe that to King’s because of the high, high standards I was held to,” she says. “If anyone wants to challenge any fact, any of my plays afterwards…I’ll bring out 400 pages of research and say, ‘Bring it on, you try and challenge this.’ My profs are still in the room with me when I’m researching.”

From Halifax, Lindsay moved to Toronto with some performer friends.

Every week, Lindsay sent comedic emails to her friends and family documenting life in the city, calling them her “Toronto Adventures.” People forwarded the emails to friends and Lindsay’s weekly missives made it into the Toronto Star. She was approached by a web series creator, and someone even offered to adapt it into a TV show.

For the first time—but certainly not the last—Lindsay had a story people wanted to hear, so she brought Toronto Adventures to the stage. After that, she wrote Tompkinsville, based on the real-life story of Reserve Mines in the 1930s. By the time Dear Rita rolled around, Lindsay was a seasoned performer and playwright.

When researching Rita’s life, something that stood out to Lindsay was the many different people who wrote to Rita.

“She got letters from all over the world. People of all different ages and identities and geographic locations, they were finding themselves in her songs,” she says. “I thought, ‘Why does a 65-year-old man in India resonate with Rita MacNeil—a Cape Breton woman—and her songs?’ Then I thought, ‘Well, that’s it, we can tell her stories through her words, and pour our own identities into it.’”

The resulting work is a shared monologue between six performers whose age, gender, sexuality, race and nationality don’t matter. Onstage, they each take turns telling Rita’s story in first person.

The play premiered in Prince Edward Island at the Charlottetown Festival in 2021 and travelled to the Savoy Theatre in Glace Bay, N.S., a year later.

“I was really nervous because I had two very critical groups to please, and that is people who work in theatre and Cape Bretoners,” she says with a laugh.

Her latest play opens in a funeral parlour with an empty casket and a sign reading “Open Casket.” Enter the funeral director, having clearly just come from a service. As the audience watches, he changes the sign from a collage of photos of the deceased to a sign reading “Open Mic.” Then, he takes a bag of ice and a few six packs of beers and dumps them into the casket.

Inspiration for Open Casket, Open Mic struck after Lindsay observed a local funeral parlour advertise an open mic night. Collaborating with local musicians Terra Spencer, ’99, and Gary Williams, the play is a lighthearted comedy that laughs at the absurdity of its own situation. It premiered last July.

The past couple of years have been a whirlwind for Lindsay—and she’s not done yet.

“…I’m ready to dive into something that I want to have full development on. A huge show like Dear Rita, or something takes at least two to five years to develop.”

Knowing Lindsay, she’ll have no trouble finding material.

Posted: November 2022