Patricia Trinh found her tribe when she was at Alpha Secondary – in theatre, surrounded by other kids who were equally curious about the human condition.
“Theatre kids really become a family,” says the Burnaby native, who graduated Alpha in 2007 and who credits drama teacher Felicity Rudolph for setting her on the path she’s on today. “I didn’t realize how much it shaped me as a person. It gave me a safe place to be, where it’s not weird that you are interested in these things.”
“These things,” in Trinh’s case, meant pretty much, well, humanity. People, and how they get that way, and why they choose the paths they choose in life. For awhile she toyed with the idea of being a police officer, or maybe a lawyer, until she realized that it wasn’t that she wanted to be those things – she wanted to explore the characters of people who wanted to be those things.
In high school theatre, and in her subsequent theatre studies at the University of Victoria, she found people who felt how she felt: “It’s not weird that you are so curious about human psychology.”
Fast forward to 2018, and Trinh is no less curious about the human condition.
In fact, it’s her musings about people and how we got that way that led her to create the new work, Probability, that’s onstage as part of the rEvolver Theatre Festival May 24 to 27 at The Cultch.
It’s the debut production of Trinh’s new company, Dusty Foot Productions, which she bills as “an emerging, female-centric, multimedia, multidisciplinary, independent theatre company.”
Trinh wrote, directs and produces the show, which starts with the simple premise of two women meeting after midnight on a quiet Tuesday night. The two women are played by four actors – the two actual characters, and the two portraying what they don’t or can’t say aloud – and the story traces five possible paths their relationship could venture down.
“It’s a story about the space between certainty and probability,” Trinh says. “The story is about the ripple effects we see in life, how every tiny choice in life affects where you go.”
For Trinh, as a 28-year-old queer Asian-Canadian, the story also gives her a chance to explore less-heard stories in theatre. She hopes to use her company to help tell the stories of those who haven’t been represented in typical white, straight, male-dominated theatre – LGBTQ stories, immigrant stories, the stories of marginalized people.
She wants to do so by focusing on the philosophical and universal questions in everyone’s lives.
“What are the big questions that we all, as humans face?” she says. “How can we take those stories and normalize them, so everybody can connect to them?”
For Trinh, a big part of helping people connect to her stories is exploring new ways to tell them. She points out not everyone is drawn to traditional, text-based theatre, so she incorporates multimedia and multidisciplinary elements such as digital projections, movement and shadow play.
“I’m curious about how the new technological world affects this text-based art form,” she says. “How can we share a story with people who may not interpret story through text? I want to be able to capture their interest.”
The fact that she gets to use her voice to tell the stories she wants to tell, the way she wants to tell them, is something that Trinh is grateful for. She notes that there’s been a societal change over the past year-and-a-half or so, as the #MeToo movement has galvanized a new feeling among female performing artists – and women in general.
“It feels there has been a shift, that women are coming together to support one another,” she says. “I live in a time and place that I don’t have to worry about expressing myself freely. I never realized how lucky and privileged I am.”
It wasn’t until a backpacking trip to Southeast Asia and Bangladesh a few years ago that Trinh saw for herself what a difference that makes – when she found herself, in Bangladesh, required to ensure that she was covered up from head to toe even in sweltering temperatures and when she saw how people assumed that the male friend she was travelling with was in charge of her.
“It’s just so different on that side of the world,” she says. “It was a turning point for sure. I’m very glad I had that experience.”
All of those experiences inspire Trinh to keep going and to plug away at the potential to make theatre her life. She admits it’s not an easy life and says it’s taken her until this point, in her late 20s, to be convinced that she wants to commit to it.
“It’s very tough. I’m still navigating it. I’m very much emerging still,” she says.
For now, she’s focusing her efforts on festivals, like rEvolver, that give emerging artists a chance to share work that wouldn’t otherwise have the funding to hit the stage.
“I think it’s going to be an uphill battle,” she says.
But she says it with a confidence that suggests she’s more than up for the challenge.
What: Probability, presented by Dusty Foot Productions as part of the rEvolver Festival, a contemporary theatre festival dedicated to providing professional presenting opportunities to emerging artists
Who: Directed by Patricia Trinh, starring Rami Kahlon, Alexandra Voicu, Rachel Renaud and Marissa Burton
Where: The Cultch Historic Theatre, 1895 Venables St., Vancouver
When: May 24 at 7 p.m., May 25 and 26 at 9:30 p.m., May 27 at 5:30 p.m.
Tickets: $20, or $15 for people on limited income. Call 604-251-1363 or see tickets.thecultch.com.
More info: www.upintheairtheatre.com/probability