NAC English Theatre Artistic Director Jillian Keiley speaks with playwright Trina Davies and actor Catherine Joell MacKinnon about the play Silence. This play tells the story of Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell.
” This love story is beautifully told by a cast made up of both Deaf and hearing performers, each one at the very top of their game.” – Jillian Keiley
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JIllian: Thanks for coming to Points of View for Silence. My name is Jillian Keiley I'm the Artistic Director of English Theatre here at Canada's National Art Centre. Its is my great pleasure to welcome you to the Talk Back for this particular show. All the Talk Backs for all the shows are great, oh this is Point of View, different thing. It's a kind of pre-show thing. Some of you have seen the show though. So, you'll know more of what we're discussing. Part of what Points of VIew is for is to give you a more full experience of the topic that we talk about in the show. So you'll enjoy the show even more and come out of the National Arts Centre with an even more fullsome experience than you could have possibly believed possible. Okay, I'll stop talking. So, I'd like to introduce out guests today Next to me here is Cat MacKinnon. Catherine Joell MacKinnon. Catherine plays the role of Alexander Graham Bell's mother in the show. She doesn't look old enough to be Alexander Graham Bell's mother here. But they do a good job with makeup and costume. This is Trina Davies who is the playwright of the beautiful show. And these two women are joining me now. I'm going to speak to Catherine first because Catherine is going to go into those costumes and makeup to get ready for the show. We're going to have our talk with Catherine first. I would also like to introduce our dear friend Carmelle Cachero who is the ASL interpreter. Now today we are filming this for — we usually podcast this event. But today we're filming it for podcast as well for Deaf and Hard of Hearing audiences. So we're really happy to do that and continue our relationship with the Deaf community who are wonderful in Ottawa. Please don't hesitate to raise your hand if you are having trouble hearing and you can't read sign language. Please let us know just in case there is an issue and we don't know about it. Before we begin I would like to acknowledge that the National Arts Centre is situated on the traditional Algonquin territory and traditional Algonquin lands and we are grateful to do our work here. So, let's start with a conversation with Catherine. Hi Catherine! I'm just going to tell you a little bit about Catherine, just a little quick run-down. So, Catherine has worked with theatre companies all across the country but she's been very focused in Toronto. She's done work with Soul Pepper, Rare Theatre, Cahoots Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille, Deaf West, Antaeus (I don't know that word) Theatre. She's done quite a bit of work on television with Murdoch Mysteries and Widow's Web, Silent HIll, Kenny vs. Spenny. Some moving work in the Kenny vs. Spenny show, and Fargo. She's the co-founder and festival director of the Toronto International Deaf Film and Arts Festival. And she was awarded the ACTRA Woman of the Year of all the women in ACTRA. That's pretty good! Come on! [applause] The ACTRA Woman of the Year Award. If any of you have seen Christmas Carol you know this is the way to applaud for people from the Deaf community. Okay, so, I'm just going to continue my conversation with Catherine and then I'll give a bio for Trina when we get to Trina. Okay. Cat, you grew up in PEI and didn't learn ASL until you were eleven. That's a long time to go without that. Can you tell us what happened in your life that moved you. You had to move away to go to ASL. How did that change your life? Catherine: Well, when I first learned sign language, until I learned it i didn't feel like a complete Deaf person. I wasn't sure about my identity. I knew I was Deaf. I couldn't figure out who I was. So, at that time, in PEI, this was in the 70s, we weren't permitted to use sign language. There is some sign language used out east, but we weren't allowed in PEI. Nowadays it is better but back in the 70s it was very much an oral approach in the schooling system. When I learned sign language, I felt really, more like a complete person. My social skills improved as well because I was able to communicate with other. In my younger years at school I was quite isolated, I couldn't communicate with my peers. The more I learned sign the better it was. I was able to experience both worlds because of it. Jillian: Did your family learn sign as well? Catherine: My mom can sign a little bit. But more of the rest of my family did not. Everyone else is Hearing. I'm the only Deaf person, actually my great-grandfather was Deaf. So there were a few people who had that experience but you know I grew up in a rural area and everyone spoke. I had to communicate using spoken language. Jillian: And you lip read yourself now. You lip read? Catherine: Yes, I can. I learned how to lip read at a very young age. Really, with my grandmother that was the foundation that I was brought up in. I was home every day I had lessons and I was exposed to that education at a very young age and I had the support. So that was really key. For any young child to grow up in that in environment in order to thrive. JIlian: What drew you to theatre? Coming from a rural community and going into that kind school. Catherine: I'm sure most of you have heard of Anne of Green Gables. I'm sure, in PEI of course! As a young girl, I would pretend to be different characters. I would play with my cousins, we would role play with each other. Very visual, theatre is very visual. So, my first live theatre experience, I was five. I went to a show called Johnny Belinda. So that show, there was signing on stage and i was quite fascinated. Looking at the stage, and that day, that's when it happened. The theatre bug hit me. Jillian: What was the experience like in the rehearsal room in this piece where–some of you may know. There's deaf characters playing hearing characters, and a hearing actor. Sorry deaf actors playing hearing characters, and a hearing actor who is playing a deaf character. Can you tell us what experience was like in the rehearsal room? Catherine: Well the rehearsal process was very interesting and fun as well. I'm just trying to understand the question. So, with the Deaf…so to clarify Do you mind repeating that? Just repeat it again. Jillian: What was the experience like in the rehearsal room in this particular piece where deaf actors, because I believe the girl who plays Berta is also hard of hearing or Deaf. Is that correct? And she plays a hearing person. And we have Tara Rosling who plays a deaf person. Were you…what was that like in that room? Where people had to share those experiences back and forth? Catherine: Well, there were a lot of conversations that happened. Sometimes a a person who knows how a lived experience as a deaf person is different. At some level there is some understanding you have to have as far as communication is concerned. As a hearing actor who doesn't have that lived experience they have to know that eye contact is important. Being a deaf character is a visual experience. So, communication and a visual sense and to have that understanding. That's part of our world as a deaf person. As well as attention getting devices. You know, tapping someone on the shoulder, stomping on the floor, using lights. To be aware of those general rules of behaviour in the Deaf Community. Learning how cues work in a visual way. For me, I always watch visual cues. Whether an actor is standing up, that's a cue for me to do my thing. Or a certain lights turns on, or how actors move on stage. We also have cue lights backstage that we use. It's not that hard as long as you figure it out. But the most important thing is we work together in order to be successful. It's great with having hard of hearing and deaf actors and hearing actors working together and looking at the characters and how they portray that. Jillian: Did you use a Deaf consultant? Because I know you've been a Deaf consultant on the show. Did you use a Deaf consultant who was different from you? On this particular production. I would be great to tell the audience how a Deaf consultant is put into use for a production like this. Because we used one recently ourselves, it was a really good experience to understand. like how to do cueing, how to do those things. Catherine: For this one, the rehearsal was so tight. We only had about two weeks this time around. So, to hire a Deaf consultant in that short amount of time didn't seem plausible. So, we had two options. We also use Facetime, technology is on our side here. To have those discussions with others. With my friend in London especially, I spoke with them. I also have a friend in California who I conversed with to talk about lines and how we could modify certain things. Asking questions that we might have. And then, I would bring that to the rehearsal room. After getting feedback. Asking the director for their permission as well as the playwright to see if this was appropriate and the direction that we were moving was in line with their vision. So, important again is communication with the director and the playwright in order to do that. Jillian: Speaking now, on a political level that has come up. We've heard some negative reaction to Alexander Graham Bell from the Deaf community. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Catherine: To try to summarize this… What's happened in history, this was prior to the 1880s. Around that time. They would hire deaf individuals to teach at the schools, to use sign language. This was all over the world. It was very much the common approach for education. In 1880, there was a huge congress, and international congress in Italy. In Milan. They had voted to use the oral approach in education. Not use sign language at all. Alexander Graham Bell was part of that movement and advocated for spoken only approach to education. Finally, at the international congress of education for deaf and hard of hearing teachers, this was in 2010, this is quite recent where they formally apologized to the Deaf community for what had happened back in 1880. So, that time throughout history had a huge effect on deaf children and their education, their communication skills, the lived experience of oppression. It was a domino effect from there. Finally sign language has come back and recognized again in the recent past. But it has been a struggle for the Deaf community. Sign language is what's needed to learn and they need to include it in the education system, again. Jillian: Thank you. That's great! And so things have changed quite a bit in that since Alexander Graham Bell's time for sure. Yes, go ahead. Catherine: And also to add, the ironic part, it's interesting because Alexander Graham Bell's mother was deaf and couldn't speak and used two-handed British Sign Language to communicate. It's interesting that shift happened and that he was such a big supporter of the oral method considering his family. Jillian: But his dad was a speech guy, I guess he followed that. Catherine: Exactly. Jillian: What is the difference between British Sign Language and the two-handed alphabet that she uses in the play and ASL. Catherine: Well, I did research on the language and BSL was used in Scotland as well. In 1760s 1770s, they had started using BSL. At that time, they would use the two-handed alphabet. This was very much in the UK. ASL is one-handed this is the alphabet in ASL: A, B, C, D,E, F, G….. In British Sign Language, this is the alphabet. H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O…. P, Q ,R, S etc. There are some signs that are different as well For example, this is the sign for NAME, in ASL. In BSL, this is the sign for name. coming off the forehead. There are some differences. I'm from Nova Scotia, and the eastern part of Canada. Back in the day there were Deaf teachers who came from Scotland who came to Canada who taught sign language, and we have developed a different sign language called Maritime Sign Language, MSL. So, it's a mix of BSL and ASL that you'll see in the eastern provinces of Canada. If you every meet any Deaf seniors from the community that grew up at that time you'll notice their sign language is very much strongly influenced from the British Sign Language. I did that research to see what the sign language would like for this play. Jillian: Thanks Cat, it's so amazing, it's so interesting to see. There's a beautiful scene–well you'll see it, it's gorgeous. The show is so beautiful. There's a beautiful scene where she's speaking to Alexander Graham Bell and she's quite emphatic. I would love to know what she's really saying that he covers up. So, I'd love to know if you have any questions for Catherine. Anyone? Oh, hello! Audience member: Is this the same cast as was in the Grand Theatre? And was she in that theatre production? Catherine: Yes, I was. I was involved in London. Audience member: I noticed that Catherine is moving her…sorry I noticed that Catherine is moving her lips. So, is she mouthing the words as well as doing the signing? Catherine: This is how I communicate. I grew up as an oral-deaf person. I actually learned spoken English first. That was my first language. One-on-one when I chat, I will speak for myself. With a bigger audience I do use an interpreter. On stage it will be different you'll see that my facial expression is very much straight faced. You'll see a difference there even. It depends on the situation. Jillian: Yeah, a really big difference. Any other questions? Can you tell me one thing that I would love to know? About the character. Alexander Graham Bell says his mother became deaf gradually, she didn't learn like you did. What was her story? What happened to her? Catherine: Well, I tried to do some research and I asked Trina as well about the background Eliza. There is such little information about her background. The library congress' website would be great. Because they have a lot of information on the Bell family. A lot of articles. Apparently, she was profoundly deaf. She would sit there in church even, and not know what was happening. After church was finished she would have to ask her family members what did they say in the sermon because so much of the information, her sons would take on the responsibility of explaining that to her. That tells me that she was profoundly deaf she didn't have any audible information accessible to her. But the exact age of where she lost her hearing is not clear. I'm pretty sure she was quite young, but that information is not out there. Jillian: Thank you Catherine. Go and get into your costume. Catherine: Thank you so much! [applause] Thanks everybody! Jillian: We're going to move on to the wonderful Trina Davies of Vancouver. I'll just tell you a little bit about Trina. So Trina is a Vancouver based playwright and has award winning plays including Shatter, Multi-use Dungeon, The Auction, and The Bone Bridge and the Romeo Initiative, which is the one I know about, was a finalist for The Governor General's Award for Drama. That was a big big deal. She's had plays performed in Canada, the United States, Germany, Italy, and India. She's participated in residencies at Stratford Festival, the Banff Centre, The Playwright's Theatre Centre, and the Bella Vita Playwright's retreat in Italy. Not a bad spot to hang out writing books, writing stuff. Okay! So, Trina. Trina: Hi. Jillian: Hi! Jillian: Hi, Trina, I've prepared some questions for you. So, you and I share a dear friend, who is Iris Turcott. Trina: Yes. Jillian: Iris died quite suddenly. I mean she died of cancer, but she died quite quickly. A couple of years ago. It was a profound shock, and many of the shows that would have seen on stages here over the years have been–and not just from Toronto, productions that have happened from right across the country were influenced or inspired or even seeded by Iris Turcott. So tell us about your relationship with that dramaturg. Trina: You have to forgive me if I get a little emotional this is still a little bit raw. Even thought it was two years ago. Iris was a mix of a mentor, a friend, a cheerleader. She was the person I could call when I doubtful about what I was working on or even something in my life. And we could have a frank discussion about it. She would always put me into a direction that would lead me to where I needed to get to. So, she's been involved in most of the things that I've worked on. But particularly this play was initially her idea. She was in play development at CAN Stage in Toronto and we were working another play at that time, a play of mine called Waxworks, about the life of Madame Tussaud. It was October, in about 2006, so this was a while ago. She said, "Okay, I want you to write play about Alexander Graham Bell." I thought she was calling about Waxworks. What are you talking about? Why Alexander Graham Bell. She goes, "Just do it, just read the stuff and I want you include–" — so the reason she was obsessed with it. There was a moment when he was a child, where he and his brothers taught the family dog to talk. They had apparently taught the terrier to say, "How are you Grandma?" By providing treats and sort of helping the dog adjust its jaw so it could make these sounds. She was convinced that because I work quite visually that I could find a way to put that on stage. So, that was the challenge she set me at the time and she was talking then about a potential commission. I thought well I'm working on other things, but I'll start to to look into that. So, I did start to do reading and you'll notice if you have seen the play or if you're about to see the play that that moment is not dramatized on stage exactly. I guess I failed in that way. Jillian: It's so great to have her. And she will be on our stage several times this year. She was also very important in Between Breaths. How closely does your play resemble the true story? Trina: It's pretty close. I'm a bit of a history nerd. A lot of my work is historical or set in historical times. So, I have a reverence for history that I know some other writers don't have. I kind of have to talk myself into doing something that I know didn't happen, if it has to happen sometimes. I always say I'm not a historian or a biographer I'm a dramatist. Part of my responsibility is to make sure that I have a tight, strong, concise story and so sometimes I have to thread things in that might not be 100% historically accurate. But I love the little pieces. There are many things that Mabel and Alec in the play say that they did say to each other. A lot of that, I excerpted some of the letters between them. So that they are saying their exact words that they said to each other. That makes me happy. Most of the events are well documented. They were an incredible couple as far as paper trail. It's exhausting the amount of paper and things that they left behind them. They got really used to documenting everything. Part of that was the trials that they went through about the telephone. If they had any ideas, or they were discussing anything, there's alot of personal letters. So, there's just a lot of material. There's a couple of moments that are not true to their life. But for the most part it's pretty spot on. Jillian: Nice, nice. The play shows us the obstacles that this crazy inventor, speech therapist guy, hit going through his life and certainly the larger obstacles that she had, did you have any major obstacles. Trina: ha ha ha I think every play development process has obstacles. That's part of the journey. As I said, the play started in 2006 so it's been 12 years before it gets on the stage here in front of you today. It started with the idea of this commission while things changed, as they do and there was no longer a play development department, there was no longer the possibility of a commission. So, this play became a bit of a back-burner project for a while. I didn't drop it. I thought there was something in there. When I discovered Mabel, and Mabel is my way into the story, then I was very motivated to continue. So, trying to find a home, to find another theatre, or another group of artists that was interested on going on this journey, that was definitely one of the obstacles. Then it was getting the first draft done. The first act is four years of their life, the second act is forty. I had an okay time with the first act. But trying to come up with how I was going to get to where I knew I needed to get to in the second act. There were times I was pulling my hair out and calling my friends who are actors. I can't, I can't, forty years I just can't do it. So, yeah internal struggles. External struggles. Both. Jillian: Yes, so one of the overwhelming themes in the show or recurring things that comes up that is like a theme. Is when Mabel wants other people, particularly Alexander, to hear her to listen to her. Can you tell us what's the difference between communicating and understanding when it comes to the Bells' relationship. Trina: One of the main things I wanted to dig into with this play is communication. Particularly communication between a couple throughout their life, but also between family members, friends, everyone who touches our life. One of the main things, when I knew Mabel was my in to the story, I also knew it was going to be inherently theatrical because, as Cat was saying, I have to say it was such a gift to have Cat involved in this process. I was in London for the entire rehearsal process. I was in the room every single day. It was such a fantastic learning opportunity for absolutely everyone in that room. She really, she taught the other actors how to use the sign that they used in the show. She actually created the kind of hybrid language that they used in the show. It was absolutely astounding to have her in that space. There are many types of communication going on in the show. One of the main things because Mabel has to make eye contact to have, to understand what is being said. There are moments where I had to work it through, and we did this in rehearsal as well. When do people connect? Just because you're looking at each other, as we all know, doesn't mean you're understanding, or really listening to what the person is saying. When people turn away, physically, in this show, the question is: Are they doing it intentionally? Are they shutting someone out of the conversation? Are they doing it for their own internal reasons? It's a conscious choice. Or are they doing it in an unthinking way. So that they're just, they're turning out of the conversation or out of communicating with the other person because they're just not aware of the fact that they're not communicating and the other person can't understand them. The other thing I found interesting about communication. I was just thinking about this the last couple of days, actually. Is, there are all types of communication in the show. There is verbal communication, there is a lot of non-verbal communication. Tere are telegrams there are letters, but the one thing that got cut was the telephone call. So, there was, in quite a late draft, there was a telephone call and it was a joke that I loved a lot and it got cut because it was just a joke I loved a lot. It was based on something that really happened. Which was that when they were in Beinn Bhreagh in Cape Breton, someone called the house during dinner time and it was a telephone solicitor. So, Alec answered got really angry, hung up the phone, and said, "I regret ever inventing this." See it's a good laugh, right? But ultimately it didn't fit the moment of the show. And the way staging happened it didn't fit either. So, I still love it but I'll just hold it in my pocket. So, there is no telephone call in the show which I find interesting. Jillian: Awesome. How could you say that Mabel Bell was ahead of her time. She seemed to be in the end. How was that? Trina: Whenever I dig into, as a said I do a lot of history plays, but I don't think there's any point in doing a story about history unless there's some current relevance. So, there has to be something modern about it. There has to be something that is continuing something that is in human nature that we seem to be cycling through and doing again and again. What struck me about Mabel and Alec is that in the latter part of their life, they had what we would consider, I think, a very modern partnership, a very modern type of relationship. They were very supportive of each other's work, they had their independent lives, and then they had their points of intersection where they would support each other in their mutual goals. It wasn't one person being there just to support and bolster the work of another. It was a real partnership. She also, when she did sort of discover this part of herself, and I think that was a journey for her as well. I think she really did begin her life trying to have what she called an ordinary or a normal life. Which, for a person of her class, which was, we're talking a member of the Bostin Brahmin, which is basically artistocracy in the U.S. Alec was nowhere near her level as far as the class goes. But a normal ordinary life for her would have been: she would have been released into society she makes a good match of someone who makes good money, she goes on she has her own children, she raises them, and she manages the social affairs of the family. I think she did set out to have that life. I think she struggled a bit even in the beginning of her marriage because she was trying to create this. When she let go of that, her life just blossomed into this amazing thing. She went in all these directions. She did her own scientific experiments, she established the public library in Baddeck, she helped women to be able to make money by giving them sewing machines and setting up a craft cooperative. And then she would take them and sell them to her rich friends so that people in the area could get money. There's a beautiful, beautiful thing, if anyone's ever been to the Baddeck museum, which I was lucky to spend some time in, and there's actually a joke at the end of the play that is a verbatim joke from one of his notebooks that I found, I have a photo of it. That's another little piece of something that I love. But on the wall it say, "A simple, free, and unconventional life". I have that photo of that sign and I kept it when I was writing this play. Because that was her comment of what she thought an ideal life was. In the latter part of her life. She moved from wanting this very conventional life to going, oh wait there's something better. Jillian: And it was better for them. Trina: Yeah. Jillian: Can you tell us, now we see and it's a lot of the publicity that's gone out. We see a sign that says, "You are the girl for whom the telephone was invented." That's an interesting curiosity because of course she's stone-deaf and can't use it. Can you tell us about why you focused on that? Trina: There's this beautiful irony about that of course is that he created this device that he couldn't use with the two people he was closest to, which is his mother and his wife. But I think for Alec it was more of an intellectual curiosity that drove hime to create this device than of any kind of practical intention which I think is shown by some of the other things that he goes on. He's just really interested in making things and seeing how things work, and moving forward with that. Can you repeat? Jillian: A question about the, "You are the girl for whom…" Trina: Yes, good, thanks, that's where I was going next. So, in Baddeck, I said they were very kind to me at the museum there and gave me private access to the archives. I had white glove, I couldn touch Alexander Graham Bell's clothing that they had, go through his notebooks. One of the items that they have, which they do show to the public, is a photo that sat on his desk for the entirety of his life. It is a photo of Mabel. On the back of it, in his handwriting it says: This is the girl for whom the telephone invented. I thought, oh, there we go. That's another little piece I took. That is going to be there. Jillian: It's funny it stays, it's something you'll see in the play too. Technically, he invented it for her in order to get hand in marriage. I think there's something deeper, than that, there's something deeper in that. And certainly her provocations to him forced him to do the full thing. The theme of isolation. This is where I like talking about the lighting and the design in this show. The lighting projection in this show is extraordinary. It's done by a woman named Beth Kates. If you saw Vigilante, you saw her work in that production as well. Beth is an extraordinary lighting designer. You'll see all throughout the play, people in individual little lights showing their isolation and the isolation of, you know, certainly Mabel and her deafness, but can you talk a little more about what that isolation, the resonance of that isolation in the show? Trina: Yeah, well it's, as I've talk about before in communication, I was really looking for the points of connection and disconnection. Where we, individuals, where we connected to the people around us. What drives that internally, externally, all those kinds of things. This is just a dream team as far as cast goes, as far as the design team goes, Peter was amazing to work with. I was very lucky that he wanted to take this project on. But, and I told Beth this in London before we opened, I said that her addition of the lighting and of the projection to me, it added another poetic language to the entire show. It was another full experience of that. And so I love seeing how that idea of connection and disconnection has been threaded into what that looks like visually. And it's interesting because there was a number of people who came to see the show last night who had seen it before but in January. That's one of the things that they noticed. They noted very clearly. It's like I didn't notice that they were in their own lights, I didn't notice where they were in combined lights. There was all sorts of things that they, symbolism and design aspects, that they pick up on in the second viewing which was very, it was a great thing to hear. Jillian: You can always know with a Peter Hinton show that whatever you see has been thought about and thought about and thought about and chosen, quite deliberately. It's good, it's almost a game. If you go to see his work again and again, the same production over and over again, it just reveals itself, reveals itself. there's nothing there with, not on purpose. So, you mentioned, this is personal, it's a personal question. So, you met your own partner on Silence writing your love story. Trina: It did. Jillian: And did Silence influence this for you? Or did your burgeoning love story influence Silence. Trina: A bit of both. My partner is not involved in theatre, so I didn't meeting him doing the show. But because this was a twelve year process along that way I did meet my partner. He was literally along for the ride on this show because he did come with me on my research trips. He came with me into the museum in Baddeck, he took photos of everything for me, he's a wildlife biologists and photographer. So he's like, alright I'll take photos what can I do here? He visited those places, he discussed the kind of things I was discovering at the time. He also came with me to, I went to Boston to look at approximately where Mabel had lived in Cambridge. I sort of tracked down where Alec's office would have been and the graveyard that she talks about in the show that she actually looked at. He was along with me on all of that. But, so part of the experience of this relationship, and writing a play about a relationship, is that I was also processing, okay what does this look like long-term? When am I connecitng and disconnecting from my partner? I became very aware of that as I was writing a play about it. There is bits of it, of our relationship. Not much, this isn't about me, this play is about something totally different. But there are certainly things I can relate to. There's a game we play with each other, called What If? A way of stopping each other from going down a negative path. So, he'll say, what if this happens? The other person would pick it up and say, what if this other thing happened? We would play that game for a few lines and then realize that maybe it's not as bad as the other person thought or maybe there weren't terrible things that would happen that there could be great things that happen out of that. So that pattern of dialogue is in the play in a couple of places between Mabel and Alec. Jillian: It's a really, um, I was meeting with Peter Hinton the other day, I had to tell him how convincing, it's hard to believe that Graham and Tara don't go out as a couple. It gets very difficult to believe it because their connection and chemistry is so strong on stage. But they're both, I mean they're not in a relationship, but it's a very convincing chemistry there. Okay! Can I pass it to the house? Anybody have any questions for Trina? Jilian: Yes, hello. Audience member: I would like to congratulate the director of English Theatre and the director of the play, and the playwright, and all the cast for the extraordinary efforts they're making to provide an inclusive experience for people who have profound hearing loss. I wondered if any thought had been given to making it an even more inclusive experience for those of us who have profound vision loss. Through audio description which is used widely in the theatre in the States, London, and Sydney, Australia, and many other places. But has not really become very popular here in Canada. Jillian: Yes, thank you, thank you for that note. It's something we are working towards. There are, Andy is that something you want to speak to? Andy's on it! Andy: Hi. Jillian: Andy is our producer and acting Managing Director Andy: It is something we're working on but if what's a bit difficult right now when all the show we're bringing in this year are shows being brought in, we haven't rehearsed them, that sometimes it's a matter of the time. There are very few people who do this professionally. It's still being developed in Canada and it is a real skill. So, it's a bit of a catch up game right now. So people trying to be trained to do this. I'm not sure how successful it will be this year. We were able to do it with A Christmas Carol the past two years. Next year when we're producing, we'll be able to roll it back in. I'm going to see maybe we can do it for The Hockey Sweater, but we're not sure. It's a matter of finding someone who can come in and be with the script, because you have to be backstage and, it's hard to explain. It is something we are working towards. Within the next year or so, as much as we're able to say to people here are the ASL performances, here are the audio described and we want to build that further on also to relaxed performances. But it is a matter of just catching up here in Canada and getting people trained for this. Audience member: I've had a fair bit of experience as a theatre consumer with AD. Trina: If I could say, I have experienced that with one of my productions in Vancouver it was really lovely because I wasn't aware of the process so I got to learn a bit about how that would happen to make it accessible in that way too. I think it is coming and I am I'm especially happy to see that these changes are happening. And that people are paying attention and that they're trying to make it for everybody. Which it should be. Jillian: But, thanks very much. We're working towards it for sure. Jillian: Okay, anybody else? Yes, hi. Audience member: I just wonder if you work independently as a playwright or if you're associated with any particular theatre company? And if you're not associated with any particular company how hard is it to be a playwright in Canada and make your way independently? Trina: That's a big, that's an hour long discussion right there I think. There aren't any to my knowledge, there are no playwrights on staff at any theatres in Canada. That is not a relationship or an engagement situation that exists. Jillian: Venued Theatres, yes. I mean not in venued theatres you're right. But creation companies do. Trina: Creation companies who are working together collectively to develop their own work. But when you're going to, you have your own project, as a writer, then you're essentially most of the time trying to find likeminded artists who are interested in going on that journey with you. Is that a challenge? Absolutely. Sometimes I find in my career it gets easier as I develop relationships with people and I find people who share my aesthetic who are interested in going on those journeys as well. I'm very fortunate right now this is the first time. I have a commission with the London Grand for a play that I know is going up in two years. That is the first time I have every had that in twenty some years. So that's a great gift and I don't take it for granted. It is definitely challenging. What makes it worthwhile for me are experiences like this and I don't mean the podcast, I mean sharing the story with the audience. That's the reason I do it. The more people that get to experience this story the more satisfying that is for me. Jillian: Great. Anyone else. Thank you. Audience member: Where did you find the first group to help you develop it? Trina: This play in particular? This play, it ended up being commissioned by Theatre Calgary in about 2014. And I still haven't written the first draft by that point, let me tell you. So I did it in 2014. So, then, we worked with a group in Calgary mostly, except for Peter Hinton came in as well as Iris and we worked with some actors mostly from Calgary to do the first workshop. Which is a situation that is about five days where we do readings then I rewrite over night and then we do it again the next day. And then, this was pretty fast because the next thing was that we were planning on producing it at the Grand. So then it was about, it was Peter, he was committed. He wanted to direct it, and he had some ideas about who he thought would be a good match for the piece. Then we just went with that. As I said it's been a little bit of magic with this particular group of people. Jillian: Okay, I think we have time for one more question and then we're done. Anybody? Audience member: I'm just curious why you said that you have a non-hearing actor playing a hearing part and a hearing actor playing a non-hearing part. In a day and age where, if you have an aboriginal part, you have an aboriginal person playing it. Why did you choose to do it that way? Trina: That's not a question for me because I have limited input, I have some input into casting but it's not my decision. It's a decision of the producing company, it's a decision of the director. They will ask me for my opinion if I have one, often I don't know who they're speaking of if it's on the other side of the county, so I'll take their advice. What I understand about this process is that there was a again I wasn't in it, so I'm just speaking to it, is that there was a concerted effort to find and audition Deaf and Hard of Hearing actors for the production. The challenge in Canada is that that system is not as supportive or developed as it is in the United States. So, I have a friend who works with Deaf Theatre Festival in Edmonton and I was discussing the show with him and he said, yeah you'd have a lot easier time finding actors in the United States becaue there are more of them. So, part of that casting decision was that they were trying to find people who were who would have all of the aspects that were needed for that particular role. So it's a balancing act of trying to have that. There's definitely what we wanted with this show was to provide opportunities for people and to create the best mix of people to put on that stage. Jillian: From what I understand that is the reason why when they couldn't fill immidiate, Tara came in, has worked with Peter quite a bit and I think if you see the show you might agree she's fantastic in the role. But then just because there are two deaf people in the show, there are two deaf characters in the show. Peter insisted there be two deaf actors in the show. I think it works out very well. But that was, that's the politic behind it. Probably a successful one. Okay thank everybody, I have to wrap it up. It was really great to have you here. Thank you so much, Trina. And thank you for your beautiful play. [Applause] Thanks everybody. Enjoy the show today.