For Canadian playwright Trina Davies, staging a public reading of a new work is an invaluable part of a play’s development.
“This is the first time I have had the chance to have a wide audience present [which] is a totally new experience for the play,” said Davies. “I’ve learned so much in a very short period of time from the audience’s reactions tonight.”
This November, Davies was announced the winner of the 2014 Uprising National Playwriting Competition for her play The Bone Bridge. A joint initiative between Downstage and the Consortium for Peace Studies at the University of Calgary, the annual competition recognizes plays that “dynamically [engage] with social and political issues and/or [promote] peace, social justice and human rights.”
Set in the aftermath of the Bosnian War, The Bone Bridge follows several characters who struggle to move on with their lives and reconcile with both family and neighbors. When the charismatic ‘Leader’ is captured and charged with war crimes by an international tribunal, the characters are called to confront the past and testify at the trial. Relevant and insightful, The Bone Bridge is a poignant reminder of the invisible damages of war.
Davies shares what the research process looked like in developing the play which is based off real people and events.
“[I read] books on…the Bosnian conflict and the post-conflict. And then, I pulled trial transcripts from The Hague. I actually went through them and watched pieces of the trial. Then, I went broader. I looked into the social psychology of war and peace, reading on people who have worked in conflict resolution and have published [on] what they’re finding around the world.”
For first place, Davies’ play received a two-day workshop, followed by a public reading which was held at U of C’s F.R Matthews Theatre on Dec. 12th.
“I always sit in the back [because] I feel like I get the best read on how the audience is reacting,” said Davies. “It’s an energy you feel from the audience. If there’s fidgeting, something’s gone on too long. So, you get a good read on what’s hitting, what’s working, and what’s not working.”
After the reading, the audience was invited to ask Davies questions and to share their responses to the piece. Audience members were later invited to a reception where they could speak with Davies one-on-one.
The actors who participated in the workshop and reading, Davies says, were also very important in terms of feedback.
“The first day [of the workshop] was very discussion based,” said Davies. “We did a read of the play, and then we had a really engaging discussion about what their personal response was to it, and then their character response. And then we went from that and moved into a second read of the play [where] we talked about technical specifics like structure and image.”
The input from both the actors and the audience have helped give Davies an idea of how she wants to move forward with the script, but still, she says, the play’s future remains uncertain.
“Right now, I don’t know where this play is going to go next. It’s a bit of a tough play. It’s a large number of characters and well, it’s not Mary Poppins. So, it is something that will have to be a labor of love and a passion for the theatre who agrees to take it on.”
But Davies says the audience’s response from the reading has left her feeling encouraged.
The staged reading of Trina Davies’ The Bone Bridge was held at the University of Calgary’s F.R Matthews Theatre, December 12th, 2014.
Paul Cowling – The Leader
Valerie Planche – Mevla
Ellen Close – Ankica
Dawn McCaugherty – Blanka
Kevin Rothery – Dragan
Shawna Burnett – Danika
Brian Jensen – Judge/Male Voice/Husan
Director: Simon Mallett
Assistant Director: Azri Ali
Competition Director: Dawn Mari McCaugherty