British Columbia

Award-winning play My Funny Valentine tackles homophobia in classrooms

Award-winning play My Funny Valentine, which explores the issue of homophobia in schools, returns to the stage Feb. 7.

The play is set to return to a Vancouver stage Feb. 7

Dave Deveau is the resident playwright at the Zee Zee Theatre in Vancouver. He's bringing back his award-winning play My Funny Valentine on Wednesday.

The award-winning play My Funny Valentine is set to take the stage at the Zee Zee Theatre in Vancouver on Wednesday.

The play was created by celebrated Vancouver-based playwright Dave Deveau, the man behind Elbow Room Café: The Musical.

Deveau says of all his plays, My Funny Valentine is closest to his heart.

"For me somehow, this show is I think my most personal work," Deveau said during CBC's North by Northwest.

My Funny Valentine tells the story of gay U.S. teenager Larry King.

In 2008, King was shot and killed by another student during a computer lab class in California when he was 15 years old. Before the shooting, King had asked his killer, then 14-year-old Brandon McInerney, to be his Valentine. 

"He passed away on Valentines Day, 2008," said Deveau. "So here we are, 10 years later, bringing the show back to the stage."

Larry King was 15 when he was shot to death in a California classroom.

McInernery was sentenced to 21 years in a state prison. The case raised questions about how to handle sexual identity issues in schools.

"When I first read about it, it just hit me in the solar plexus," said Deveau. "It was something that just caught me off guard and I needed to know more."

After hearing about the killing, Deveau researched hate crimes in schools and then wrote My Funny Valentine, which premiered in 2009.

Deveau described writing the play as particularly "gruelling." He said the killing had a stark and confusing contrast of innocence and hostility. For the innocuous act of asking someone to be your Valentine to trigger such a brutal response was disturbing to Deveau.

"There's something so harmless and innocent, and also in a weird way, absurd and meaningless about asking someone to be your Valentine," he said.

"Whatever it was, to lead to this, it was so deeply confusing."

My Funny Valentine is a solo show; actor Conor Wylie plays seven people surrounding the killing. It's meant as a look at homophobia in North America, an issue that Deveau says is still too relevant a decade after the event.

"Sadly, the play and the case continue to be extremely relevant to the times we're living in."

The play opens Feb. 7 and runs until Feb. 18.

With files from North by Northwest