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Finding the Voice in Silence

© Graham Cuthbertson, Tara Rosling. Michael Gianfrancesco, Set and Costume Design; Beth Kates, Lighting and Projection Design. Photo Claus Andersen.

On Thursday, October 18, playwright Trina Davies described to NAC Foundation supporters how she created Silence from a host of voices from the past and present.

Fittingly, it all started with a phone call. Well, that, and a talking dog. In 2006, the highly respected dramaturge Iris Turcott (1954-2016) called Trina and asked her to write a play about Alexander Graham Bell. Iris was fixated on the fact that, before he created the telephone, Alexander tried to teach his dog, Trouve, to talk. Through a series of techniques, he taught Trouve to convincingly articulate the greeting, “How are you Grandmama?” Iris thought that Trina would be able to capture this incident wonderfully in a play, with her gift for communicating visually. Spoiler alert: the dog didn’t make the cut.

Trina set to work by reading extensively about Alexander Graham Bell while she completed other plays. She needed to find her way into the story, to find the voice that wanted to be heard. She found that voice through Mabel, Alexander’s wife and muse. Trina shared her thoughts with Iris, who championed the direction that Trina was taking.

After more research, including a special visit to the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic site in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Trina continued work on the play. In 2016, a decade after that first phone call, Silence was ready to be workshopped. Trina, Iris, actors and other artists worked together over a week of intense readings in Calgary. There, they shaped the play that came to be produced by London, Ontario’s Grand Theatre — where the show premiered earlier this year — and directed by Peter Hinton, past Artistic Director of NAC English Theatre, who also participated in the workshop.

Trina admitted to the audience of NAC Foundation supporters that as a playwright, she can only work until a certain point until other people are needed — creating a play is indeed a highly collaborative effort. One thing is certain, the many voices that formed Silence, from the past and present, resulted in a wonderful play about love and communication, both verbal and non-verbal.

A special thank you to our Open Rehearsal and Preview Sponsor, Rob Marland, Royal LePage Performance Realty who makes these chats possible for NAC Foundation donors.

Join more than 6,500 champions of performance, creation and learning by supporting Canadian artists, educators and students through the NAC Foundation.