Featured Playwright Q & A with Trina Davies

Featured Playwright Q&A with Trina Davies

Trina Davies answers questions about her involvement with the Canada 300 Project, defining moments in her career, and what to expect at an upcoming panel discussion at PGC's Conference in Edmonton this May.


Q: You are participating in Canada 300, a project of Watermark Theatre. Can you tell us how you got involved with the project? Why do you think this project, which aims to create a dialogue that envisions the future of our country, is so important? What are you most looking forward to with your involvement in the Canada 300 project?

A: Duncan McIntosh at Watermark Theatre sent out a call for submissions for Canada 300 in 2014. They were looking for pitches for short (2-10 minute) plays that asked questions about our country and its future. Writers were invited to be imaginative and comedic. From the more than one hundred submissions, 9 plays were chosen to be commissioned. My play Downsizing was lucky to be one of them. The project is exciting and innovative. It uses theatre and its stories as the basis for a wider discussion in each of the 21 communities it is travelling to. While my personal involvement is complete – having finished the play, attended part of rehearsal and attended the Vancouver performance – the project is only half-way through its cross-Canada journey. Check out the website (www.canada300.ca) for tour dates, and get involved if you can. 

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about Downsizing, the play you have written for Canada 300? Was this play inspired by anything in particular? Where do you find inspiration for your work?

A: When the call for submissions came out, it pulled something from the back of my brain that I had been mulling about for a while. I had been collecting articles about bizarre events that were happening quite frequently in the lower mainland: strange and endless court cases over strata parking spots that ended up costing the complainant $300K in legal fees and forced them to sell their condo, unimaginable feuds between condo residents that escalated to surveillance and physical violence, noise issues between neighbours that became all-out wars. I’ve put some of the links to these articles on my website. For me it brought up the question of how, when we are living in a society where we are finding ourselves living physically close together more often due to urban density and demographics, we find the space to live peacefully as individuals. Downsizing is a comedy that asks questions, and I’ve been excited by the response to the piece as it tours the country: lots of laughs, lots of discussion. 

Q: You have been involved with a number of residency programs, including residencies at the Banff Playwrights Colony, the Stratford Festival, PTC Playwrights Colony, and the Bella Vita Artist Retreat in Tuscany. How have these experiences affected your writing or your approach to your craft? Do you think that residency programs are an important part of the writing process?

A: I have been very fortunate to be invited to a number of short residency programs. These experiences were a gift in a number of ways. Firstly, they allowed dedicated time and space to focus on the work-in-progress. Secondly, and probably most importantly in my view, they always allowed for the development of a creative community. All of my residencies were group-oriented, so that a number of artists were present at the same time. The exchange of ideas, the dynamic energy, made the experiences memorable and significant. I have made life-long friendships and artistic partnerships as a result of these residencies. However, if residencies were critical to the writing process, very little finalized writing would be accomplished – as these opportunities are sporadic. When they are available, I snap them up.

Q: Can you recall any defining moments in your career as a playwright that has had an impact (whether positive or negative) on who you are as a playwright today? How do you think your work has evolved in the last few years?

A: This is a challenging question, so I will answer with what immediately comes to mind. One defining moment was the writing of the first draft of Shatter at ATP’s 24 hour playwriting competition in 2003. It taught me how I like to write a first draft – in a short, intense burst after having worked it out in my head over a long period of time. Shatter opening Off Broadway last fall was also an important moment. I feel that the years of experience leading up to that event enabled me to work effectively with the NYC team.

As far as evolving, I am better able to translate my instincts or the images that are floating around in my brain into something that is useful and articulate. I also trust my instincts more than I have in the past.

Q: In May, you are facilitating a panel at Playwrights Guild of Canada's conference in Edmonton about new perspectives of playwright-driven theatres. Without giving too much away, what sorts of ideas and issues can we look forward to discussing?

A: I am working on a study for Vern Thiessen at Workshop West Playwrights Theatre and funded by the Canada Council for the Arts to look at alternative models and best practices of playwright-driven organizations in Canada, the United States and Ireland. The study is looking into areas such as organizational structure, development and dissemination of new work, diversity and leadership. Asking questions such as: What are these companies doing differently? How do they successfully support and promote new playwright-driven work?  In May at the AGM in Edmonton I will present some preliminary results and points for discussion. I think it will be a very interesting discussion. 

Q: Do you have any new projects on the go that we should look out for?

A: I am currently working on The Bone Bridge, which won the National Uprising Award for plays addressing human rights and social justice issues in late 2014. I had a great workshop in Calgary in December with Downstage Theatre and am working on some rewrites.

I’m also working on the first draft of Silence: Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell which has been commissioned by Theatre Calgary. I have been researching this play for several years. I have become obsessed with the relationship between the eccentric inventor and his deaf Boston Brahmin wife. In our hyper-connected, hyper-noisy world, there is something shocking about absence of sound. Bell invented a device that has connected people all over the world in a way he could never have foreseen. However, this device was of little use to him, as he could not use it to communicate with either his wife or his mother, who were both deaf. I am excited to finally get this play out of my head and onto the page.