Lights, camera, action! I sat down with Trinya Murray, current George Fox University transfer student, to talk about her experience of receiving the lead role in the upcoming winter drama, Mrs. Packard.
Q: What’s your major?
Q: So tell me some of your hobbies. What do you like to do?
A: Sing; I play piano; I’ve recently gotten into the horrible self-destructive habit of playing video games for hours at a time, which is not conducive to anything except mindless entertainment. (Laughs)
Q: How long have you been in George Fox’s theatre program?
A: Since “Mrs. Packard” started, I guess. I’ve been working in the theater offices since I got here, but as far as being involved, the only thing I really did was strike the set for “Servant of Two Masters” and that was after auditions had already happened. So, we already knew who had been cast as what, but this is my first experience with George Fox Theatre.
Q: So you, I understand, are a transfer student and you’re already the lead in the play. How does that feel? How’d that come about? That’s pretty significant.
A: Mind-blowing. The audition was kind of a last minute decision. I was having kind of a crisis with my major and my life and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. It was a last minute decision because I thought it would be a good way to meet people. Even if I didn’t get cast I could at least be part of it somehow, and it would be a really good way to just get to know people and get myself involved somehow.
Then the casting sheet went up and it didn’t sink in. My roommate was with me and she looked at it for me because I didn’t want to look at it. And she looked at and started freaking out and I was like, ‘You better not be kidding right now.’ And I didn’t believe it. I had to go back and look at it like five or six times and I still didn’t believe it. Then Rhett came and found me and was like, ‘Congratulations!’ and I was like ‘Ah! This is real life!’ So it was very exciting and kind of terrifying, because you know, just new kid, like I didn’t know anybody except for people that I had met at auditions and all of the sudden it’s this huge thing!
Q: So, what draws you to acting, singing, and theater in general?
A: Everyone’s wired differently. And for a lot of people, I’d say for the majority of people, they enjoy watching something and hearing the story, and being affected that way. I enjoy that, but I much prefer to be telling the story.
It’s complicated because there are times when it’s really difficult to open yourself up that much, but theatre is opening yourself up to something that maybe you would never experience and feeling it and sharing that with people through the guise of somebody else.
So, it’s really fascinating to be able to get in front of people and be at a combination of, ‘This isn’t me, but I am telling you this story and I am feeling this and I want to share it with you.’ Without it really, usually at least, being something that will emotionally scar you for life, you know? Because there are hard shows, I mean I did a show about eating disorders. I’ve never had an eating disorder, but to be able to share that and leave that message with people was very emotionally trying for everyone who was involved with it. But at the same time, you know, we weren’t super emotionally scarred by it or anything.
Q: Do you have any influences? People who you look up to or admire in the theatre world?
A: In the theatre world, yes.
Q: Who are your influences? What continues to inspire you to be ‘Trinya’?
A: It’s a combination of everything, and I think that’s true for everybody but a lot of people don’t take the time to notice it. You learn from everyone you come in contact with and you grow and you adapt because of everyone. So, where I am now is a combination of experiences in the past, and experiences that I’m still having and I don’t think anyone ever really stops growing. But as far as people that have influenced me in my personal life, parents and friends, you know, just people that make you who you are.
As far as like professional role models, there are several. And this is a really stupid teenage girl answer, but Johnny Depp. Because, and I know it’s going to be like, ‘Because he’s gorgeous!’ (he is, yes!), but because Johnny Depp is one of the first actors that I really remember. I watched something and I really liked it and I wanted to figure out why I liked it and what it was about him that made me want to see more of what he was doing. And I finally figured out a couple years later, that because no matter what character he was playing, there were elements of himself, but the characters were all different.
Q: Do you have any funny theatre stories about yourself that you’d like to share?
A: (laughs) Yes. The second show I ever did was a one-act version of “The Tempest” which is a mistake in and of itself. I was thirteen years old and our theatre department had no budget at my high school, so we had to build everything ourselves. So our set was a bunch of flats pushed together. Flats are essentially a wooden frame with a thinner piece of wood that you paint and that makes your set. And it’s held up with these wooden braces. So we had a bunch of those pushed together, but you can’t completely fit them together because we made them wrong.
And I had been cast as like four different characters. So they filmed the performance and I’m like, ‘Yay! That went great!’ And we sit down and we’re watching the performance in class the next day to, you know, what can we learn from it? Yada, yada, yada! And you can see straight through the crack in two of these flats! You can see me changing my costume! (laughing) I mean I had something on underneath it, so it wasn’t like, ‘Oh my gosh! I’m naked!’ But my director is looking at the film and she just goes, ‘What are you doing?’ And I was like, ‘I was changing.’ And she was like, ‘So the whole audience could see this?’ And I was like, ‘I would assume so.’ And then we watched the tape again and you can hear people like giggling a little bit at that part and it wasn’t a funny part of the show, so we’re all like, ‘What’s going on?’ And it was because you could see me putting on a new dress.
Q: When you’re on stage acting or you’re in the moment, what are you thinking? What are you feeling? What is going through your mind… besides the lines?
A: Besides the lines, this is one of the biggest struggles that I personally have with acting, is that it’s acting and reacting. For it to be honest and real you really have to listen. It’s not so much about, ‘I feel like I need to be doing this right now or this is what I am supposed to be doing right now.’ We are given lines to say and we are given places to be, but the rest of it is really acting and reacting. It’s something that I’m still learning and still getting used to because it’s really hard especially to open yourself up to that level of feeling.
You have to listen to what the other actor is giving you because there are instances in the show, tons of times, where we will run it once and be yelling at each other and we’ll be so mad and just yelling at each other and just screaming and you know like holding onto each other really tight, trying to you know, ‘I’m angry. I need to get this message through to you.’ And then we’ll do it another time and somebody will switch something ever so slightly, where it’ll be, ‘I don’t have a reason to be mad at you anymore, but I need you to listen to me.’ So it’ll be completely different. So instead of yelling at each other or whatever, it’ll get like really soft and like, ‘No, please listen to me.’ You know, and it’s really just a combination of listening to what you’re hearing and making other people listen to you. Especially with this show. It’s all the motivations that we have and stuff.
Q: Tell me a little bit about Mrs. Packard.
A: Mrs. Packard is based on a true story. It’s a historical drama. In the mid 1800’s a law was passed in Illinois that a man could commit his wife or child to an insane asylum without proof of insanity. The context that’s given with the law is in the script, so the context that’s given with the law is if the wife or child is distracted or disturbed. That was taken very, very literally because men had all the power at that point still.
So, this woman, Mrs. Packard, had been raised by a minister and married very young to a Calvinist minster. And this is years down the line from their marriage; they’ve been married 21 years, they have six kids, and she has started disagreeing with him theologically. She has started leaning more towards Christianity as opposed to Calvinism. So her husband considers this a mark of moral perversity and insanity.
And nobody is completely sane, that’s something that you learn from theater. Everyone’s a little crazy, but he puts her in an insane asylum against her will. He has her dragged out of their house and transported to an insane asylum so that she can be cured of this moral perversity and insanity.
It’s the story of her in the insane asylum, talking to the doctor and learning what is happening. She has lived a relatively safe life up until this point. She was well off, the wife of a minister, a mother. She was everything she was supposed to be, everything she was raised to be, and now she’s thrown into this world of complete horror, as far as she’s concerned, as far as anyone’s concerned once you’ve seen it.
But it’s the story of her trying to decide which convictions she’s willing to keep, what she’s willing to lose to get back to her children and get back to her family. While at the same time knowing that everything that’s happening around her is not just or right and trying to figure out how to adapt and assist in that situation.
Q: So you’ve been preparing for a long while, tell me a little bit about that.
A: Actually, this is funny; it feels like we’ve been preparing for a long time. We are in the fourth week of rehearsals. We had two weeks before Christmas break, and then we did a run and then we had four weeks off for Christmas break, and we’ve been back rehearsing for two weeks now. So yeah, we just finished our fourth week. As far as George Fox is concerned and where you should be able to, six weeks is a good amount of time to put up a show and get it ready.
Q: What do preparations and rehearsals look like? What does that entail?
A: We started off with table work, which is, we get all the actors that are needed for whatever scenes we’re going to be looking at that night and we all sat around a table and we just read through it together and we figured out a little bit of, ‘Why are we saying the things that we’re saying?’ Because we’re given the lines, but if you don’t know why you’re saying it then you shouldn’t be saying it. If there’s no reason then don’t say it.
So we sat down together and we figured out why we’re saying what we’re saying, what is motivating us out of other people’s lines to do the things we do. We just kind of got a grasp on the show and the story and everything like that and once we put it on its feet, we figured out basic blocking, which is movement on stage based on where furniture was going to be and how we needed to move in certain ways to make the situations work.
Now that we’re really full swing in rehearsals, we are going once scene at a time, four scenes a night, and we just spend our three and a half hours, depending on how long it goes over, running through those scenes and fixing all of the little details and making sure we’re where we need to be. We’re making sure that we’re being as honest as we can be. I’d say we’re less working on the technicalities of it and more making sure that we are reacting honestly.
Q: Is that a stressful workload on top of all of your school- work?
A: Yes and no. Rehearsals are always a total blast now that I know these people and they’re so great and fun to hang out with. It’s always fun no matter the situation that we’re working with. But it is hard, in that, we all have busy workloads on top of that, so rehearsals are kind of a nice break from all of that, but emotionally it is sometimes very trying. There are moments when it will just strike me, ‘This actually happened. Yes, I am portraying this, I am telling this story, but this actually happened to somebody.’ And just how unfair that is and it’s really hard, I’m still having trouble with it, but it’s getting easier, it’s really hard opening up especially for this show, to this level.
With every character you open yourself up to it, but with this one for it to be honest and real, we have to really open ourselves up to it because it is truth. It’s not a fiction that somebody has put down and said, ‘Now do this. React to this.’ It is true. So for it to be honest, we need to be honest. And that is sometimes very difficult, but it’s always nice to have the knowledge that at the end of the night we’re okay. Everything’s okay. We can hug each other and go back to our lives. These people couldn’t. At the end of the night, we get to leave the asylum and go back to our lives and they could not. They were there. And that’s hard sometimes.
Q: What makes it all worthwhile?
A: That it’s such a beautiful thing, being able to tell stories that this way. Because there’s such a difference in me sitting down and telling you, ‘Mrs. Packard was this woman. And this is what happened to her. And this is what was said and this is what was done.’ Then for you to be able to actually see it and me to be able to feel it. And it really helps you grow as a person and with yourself when you are able to feel these things, that like I said, you maybe never would’ve felt before. Because I’ve never been in an insane asylum and I have never had someone, that close like a husband. I’ve never had someone that I was that close to that I had shared my life with betray me deeply.
It really helps you grow as a person and learn things about yourself that you maybe didn’t know. To be able to share these stories this way. And I mean, you get great memories and friendships out of rehearsals because when you are in a situation where you have to open yourself up like this, there’s no way not become close with everybody involved. You have to become really close friends very quickly, which is fun.
Q: I can see just by talking to you that you’re so passionate about this. So what motivates you and inspires you to keep going in this passion that you have?
A: It’s the only thing I’ve ever done where I’m able to sit back and look at it and feel like it’s right. I mean, I’ve done a lot of stuff, I’ve had a lot of experiences, but theatre is the only thing that at the end of the day I want to be able to do. Honestly a lot of people hear things like that and they’re like, ‘Well you’re never going to make it. You know, you’re not going to be famous.’ I don’t care. I just want to tell stories. I don’t care if 20 years from now I’m working a standard office job and playing the bit parts at a local theatre. I just want to be able to share stories and share myself with people that way.
Q: If you were going to give some advice for people who are aspiring actresses/actors, for people who want to do what you’re doing, what would you say to them?
A: Don’t stop and take anything you are given. I know a lot of people who want to pursue theatre but they do the, ‘I auditioned for this show and I got offered ensemble, so I’m not going to do it.’ Then you don’t want to do theatre. Because if you really want to do theatre, you’ll take anything you’re given just to be part of it. And I know that’s easier said than done. If you want it, you have to work for it and that needs to be something that you’re willing to accept.
Q: What would you say to somebody who’s on the fence about coming to Mrs. Packard?
A: I would say, why? Why are you on the fence? And that sounds really cocky if you don’t know the context, but why are you on the fence? What are you scared of? Is there anything that you’re scared of? I don’t know why people would be on the fence about it. I would tell them that there is something for everybody. There is drama, history, it’s a true story, there’s theology, funny moments, a little bit of a romantic sub-text…it’s got everything! And if for no other reason than to support your classmates, why wouldn’t you come?
Q: Okay, just to finish up we’re going to do this fun little thing. Well, hopefully it’s fun. I’m going to give you a word and you’re going to tell me the first thing that pops into your mind!
A: My mind is a plethora of 80’s song lyrics, so this is going to go downhill really quickly.
Q: Break a leg.
A: Literally. (Laughs)
Q: Call back.
Q: Do you have any last, closing comments?
A: As far as the play’s concerned, I want people to be aware that we are doing talk back nights. For people that are on the fence about the show especially for emotional reasons or for being afraid of the intensity of it, the talk back nights would be a good night to come. We are going to have discussion with the audience about the show.