THEM &; US by Tracy Dawson, directed by Ruth Madoc-Jones (Theatre Passe Muraille). Opens tonight (Thursday, January 8) and runs to January 31. Pwyc-$35. 416-504-7529. See Opening.
Tracy Dawson's year gets off to a great start tonight when she debuts her first full-length play, Them & Us, at Passe Muraille.
Two months later she heads over to Winnipeg (okay, not the choicest winter venue) to co-star in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton's musical The Boys In The Photograph, a revised version of their 2000 show The Beautiful Game. There are hints the show will move on to Toronto's Canon.
"I've been pinching myself," says Dawson during a blizzardy pre-holiday rehearsal break. "Even if the weather blows."
Now based in Los Angeles (that explains the windchill outburst), Dawson has helped create and star in award-winning Toronto Second City shows, delivered a solo tribute to Judy Garland and a half-dozen very good Fringe efforts. But as these two gigs demonstrate, she's now taking things to the next level.
Them & Us looks at relationships and was inspired in part by some dark times living in Manhattan in the early 2000s.
"It was a really lonely time. It was hard to make friends, and I came back to Toronto bummed that it hadn't worked out," she says with typical candour. "I started writing random pieces about connecting, this compulsion we have to come together and then run away and fuck things up. I finally got a draft together and began submitting it to people to look at."
One of those people was Andy McKim, then at the Tarragon, who saw its promise and agreed to develop it. After he got the top post at Passe Muraille, he casually mentioned to Dawson one day that he'd like to program it for his first season. It's the only premiere TPM has developed from the ground up this season.
Them & Us stars four actors, including Dawson, playing some 30 roles. She calls the scenes vignettes rather than sketches, perhaps afraid that the word sketch might connote a comedy feel.
"A lot of strong playwrights have come out of Second City and proved it's a great place to start," she says. "This work is indicative of who I am. It's funny but it's got a big heart. I didn't set out to write a funny play, but if you're exploring human foibles and even heartbreak, there've got to be some laughs. My favourite movies are those Danish Dogme films that are full of angst but funny as all get-out."
Additional audio clips:
On making the commitment to living in Los Angeles:
On Sam Shepard and the fourth wall: