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Queer, genderfluid theatre artist Tricia Trinh shares insights about Attachments

Tricia Trinh
Tricia Trinh's play, Attachments, is part of the Advance Theatre Festival, which takes place in Burnaby.

Vancouver playwright Tricia Trinh (they/she/he) is a queer, genderfluid, interdisciplinary, Chinese-Vietnamese-Canadian, theatre artist. The University of Victoria graduate is founder of Dusty Foot Productions. Trinh’s artistic practice “aims to examine the duality in intersectional lived experiences, specifically investigating intercultural socio-political influence on queer identity and gender identity”.

Pancouver asked Trinh several questions in advance of a staged reading of their play, Attachments, on Thursday (February 8) at the Advance Theatre Festival at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts in Burnaby. Read their responses below.

Pancouver: What would you like our readers to know about Attachments, which is part of the Advance Theatre Festival?

Tricia Trinh: Attachments follows six queer characters, from immigrant/refugee families, navigating an intersectional polyamorous relationship. It opens on the morning of Frankie’s thirtieth birthday on which she learns her best friend is throwing her a surprise party; on the guest list are all of her partners and her partners’ partners. In exploration of Attachment Theory, the lovers are double-cast as their partner’s parents to investigate how our first relationship with our parental figures bleeds into all of our future relationships. The play toys with dramaturgical form through two atypical dinner scenes that utilize simultaneous dialogue in English, Cantonese, Japanese, Spanish, and Italian to explore the struggles and privileges between class, culture, and gender.

Pancouver: How did you come up with the idea for this play?

Tricia Trinh: Attachments is a work of fiction. All characters and scenarios derive from imagination. As a writer I exist in spaces as a conscious, unattached observer. I actively strive to fill my imagination well through a practice of unattached observation and listening to receive the abundance of inspiration in the daily. Drawing on fleeting moments, passerby moments, glimpses of people, places, and things, which are then woven together by way of embellishment of imagination through the lens of my lived experience, values, and deep-rooted questions.

The first draft was developed at UVic Phoenix Theatre in 2010, a workshop presentation was presented by SATCo. [Student Alternative Theatre Co.] In its first iteration, under the title, The Ethical Six-Some, the play centered around polyamory. Fourteen years ago polyamory itself was unknown to many. I myself was analyzing cis heteronormative, monogamous relationships under a microscope in search of insight on what healthy love is.

Tricia Trinh

In 2019, as part of a BCAC [B.C. Arts Council] grant, I received development support for a new work. The mentoring company selected The Ethical Six-Some for further development. Full transparency, the play no longer aligned for me then. However, I leaned into the challenge, prioritizing experimentation over outcome. As an artist, it is incredibly humbling to revisit work first created nearly a decade ago. At times cringe-worthy but mostly a beautifully awkward testament to growth as an Artist & a Human. But the fire had gone out.

To spark a flame again, I was called to incorporate the exploration of Attachment Theory by way of double-casting the lovers’ partners as their parents. The spark centered around the notion, “what we crave in relationships is what we lacked in our childhood,” dissecting how our first relationship with our parental figures bleeds into all our future relationships—within the container of an intersectional polyamorous relationship—and thus Attachments was born.

An excerpt of the new work was selected for a workshop presentation in Tremors Festival in 2020; filmed iteration. In 2023 the latest draft received a one-week development workshop with professional performers, culminating in an invited reading. Attachments at Advance Theatre Festival 2024 will be the first time this new draft will be shared, in its entirety, with the public community.

Pancouver: Why do you feel it’s important for a play like Attachments to be produced in Canada?

Tricia Trinh: Attachments is fueled by a call-to-action to centre QTBIPOC narratives, experiences, and artists at the forefront. I advocate for limelighting systemically excluded QTBIPOC narratives that amplify the vital narrative of this moment, while honouring our rich history. Especially amidst the rise of anti-Asian and anti-Trans sentiment, it is more important than ever to celebrate our intersections and resilience.

The QTBIPOC community is abundant in so-called Canada, and what a beautiful thing that is, I feel it is important we spotlight narratives that represent the abundance within Canada. I feel it is important we carve a seat for systemically excluded artists at the creation table, with an overarching mission to give agency to narratives foregrounding QTBIPOC experiences with authenticity and sensitivity.

I approach theatre as the most direct vessel in which we can share with one another our humanity.

Pancouver: Why is it important for you to tell intersectional stories?

Tricia Trinh: Intersectional stories are important to my artistic practice because I feel it is a vital narrative of this moment in so-called Canada, especially in “Vancouver.” I am a queer, genderfluid, interdisciplinary, second generation Chinese-Vietnamese-Canadian theatre artist, raised by refugee parents in so-called Vancouver. As such, my artistic practice is dedicated to examining the multifaceted existence of intersectional identity, specifically investigating intercultural socio-political influence on queer identity and gender identity.

Ancestry is at the forefront of my deep-rooted questions. What is ancestry within intersections, within displace lineage? What is the difference or similarity in the ancestral rhythm that courses through our blood but sweats through our skin? Growing up, my fragmented intersectional identity required a deep-dive journey into introspection and self-awareness to meet myself in wholeness. It is still a constant practice in navigating, unlearning, remembering, claiming, holding, arriving, dropping in, centering—it asks of me to sit with it, breathe with it, and move with it on the daily. It will be a lifelong practice.

The Advance Theatre Festival presents a staged reading of Tricia Trinh’s Attachments at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday (February 8) at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts. For tickets and additional information, visit the Ruby Slippers Theatre website. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.