Playwright Trina Davies on Theatre-Making

Trina Davies

Our Fresh Takes Series concludes this September with Waxworks by Trina Davies. Davies is a writer, director and actor. Her award-winning plays include Multi User Dungeon (Alberta Playwrights Network Discovery Award 2000), Shatter (Alberta Theatre Projects 24 hr Playwriting Competition 2003, Short List for International Prism Residency Prize 2003, Short List for New Works of Merit 13th Street Repertory Theatre NYC 2004, Short List for International Dramatic Literature Prize Media Arts Literature and Sound San Francisco), The Auction (Alberta Writer’s Guild Short Play Award 2002), and Waxworks (Alberta Playwrights Network Award 2007). Her plays have been read and/or performed at the Globe Theatre (Regina); Theatre Network (Edmonton); Citadel Theatre (Edmonton); Workshop West Theatre (Edmonton); Edmonton International Fringe Festival; Alberta Theatre Projects (Calgary); Ship’s Company (Parrsboro, Nova Scotia); Dancing Sky Theatre (Sask), Playwrights Theatre Centre (Vancouver); and CanStage (Toronto). She is currently a member of the Alberta Playwrights Network, the Playwrights Theatre Centre and the Playwrights Guild of Canada, and lives in Vancouver.

What do you do and why you do it?

I’m curious. I ask questions, I read a lot, ask more questions, talk to everyone I know – and then I make some theatre (‘RE’ ‘cause I’m a Canadian). Theatre drew me in at a young age. For me there is nothing more satisfying than working in a room with other artists to make a piece come alive, and then sitting in that audience when they get to experience the story for the first time. There is some magic involved, I’m quite sure of it. As a mid-career artist, I can look back now with some distance from my own work and identify my own obsessions, which seem to include leadership and accountability, communication and propaganda, community and the individual, and love and betrayal. So far.

What do you enjoy about working with WAM?

This is my first experience with WAM. When Kristen approached me with some interest in my work, I was thrilled to discover such an innovative company. Not only is WAM concerned about the underrepresentation of women in the theatre industry, their focus on ‘double philanthropy’ is admirable. It seemed like a great fit, as one of my playwriting goals is to create great roles for women. In my personal life I’m a big supporter of international charities who focus on providing services for women in the developing world.

What do think resonates the most with audiences after hearing Waxworks?

Hm. That’s speculative on my part, so difficult to answer. The best people to ask are the audiences themselves. I can only comment on discussions I’ve had with people who have experienced the play. Typically the first reaction is “Wow. I had NO idea.” I think what is fascinating about Waxworks is Marie Grosholz (Madame Tussaud) herself. She was an amazing woman who lived in very dramatic times. Not only did she survive the French Revolution, she perfected her art and her ideas of story and learned how to control the messages that were going out to the public. She acted as a kind of tabloid journalist for her time. Before I began Waxworks, I had assumed that Madame Tussaud was a kind of marketing ploy, like the imaginary “Betty Crocker”. To find out that she was this amazing woman who lived two hundred years ago, and that she created the first world-wide brand in entertainment history was a revelation. Maybe WAM can get back to me after the reading and let me know what resonated most with the audience? I’m always interested in feedback.

Why did Marie Grosholz’s (Madame Tussaud) story resonate with you?

One day I was killing time in a small city and went into a dusty wax museum on a lark, thinking it would be a funny diversion. I found myself staring at a tableau of Madame Tussaud holding a head and a plaster cast, and a sign that said only this: “Madame Tussaud was forced to cast the guillotined heads of people she had known from working at the Palace of Versailles” That sent me on a multi-year journey – through rare nineteenth century books, to London England where I visited a fantastic archivist at Tussauds London, and onto Paris to walk the streets where Marie (Tussaud) had lived. She was an extraordinary woman who lived through extraordinary times, who overcame dangerous obstacles and made the most of her situation. This amazing woman created the first world-wide entertainment brand in history.

What woman inspires you and why?

There are many women who inspire me. Artists and activists, public figures and very private ones. But I’m going to go all-sentimental here and say my Grandma D, who is 100 and ½ years old. She is wickedly smart, caustic and funny. She continues to observe and comment on the world, and she is ‘holding out for the next election’ so that she can vote and live to see a change in the current political landscape in Canada.

Purchase your tickets to the September 21 reading by calling 1-800-838-3006 or going to 

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