PHOTO: Langley’s Dayna Thomas and Andrew Wood are among the cast members in Langley Player’s rendition of Hendrik Ibsen’s Ghosts. (Graham Hollins photo)
Wherever Dayna Thomas goes, theatre seems to seek her out – or vice versa.
From her first role during Grade 2 as an Egyptian in a school Christmas play to her work as a historic interpreter in theatrical historic village of Barkerville, from her days of training as a theatre student (minor) at the University of the Fraser Valley to her involvement in a pantomime in Uganda, from her current role on the Langley Players’ stage as a maid in their rendition of Ghosts, to her upcoming role as Grumio the servant in Bard in the Valley’s Taming of the Shrew, Thomas demonstrates in insatiable appetite for the stage.
After that first play in elementary school, Thomas claims she was “hooked.”
“My younger siblings were roped in and we would entertain any guest who stepped foot in our house with elaborate tales – full of costumes and musical numbers. As director, writer, and actor, I would play the romantic lead and my siblings would be busy with costume changes playing all the supporting roles,” she recounted.
Today, the 30-year-old Langley City resident and local kindergarten teacher (who loves to sing, plays the ukulele and flute, and is attempting to learn to dance) is a self-proclaimed theatre geek.
“I think acting is like a favourite food. I can only go for so long before I crave it and I need to be in a show again regardless of what else is going on in my life,” she elaborated.
Thomas, along with a full cast from Langley Players, opens their rendition of the Henrik Ibsen playThursday, April 21 and are on the playhouse stage through May 21.
But rehearsals for Ghosts began back in March, and Thomas admits it has been a “huge commitment.” She’s been particularly grateful for the theatre’s close proximity to both her home and work, listening to her lines while driving back and forth from location to location.
Likewise, she’s appreciative of an understanding boyfriend (fellow actor Dylan Coulter) for helping her balance life and theatre.
Thomas is playing the role of Regina Engstrand, the maid in the Alving House.
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PHOTO: Langleyites Andrew Wood, and Danya Thomas (centre) joined Mission’s Mahara Sinclaire in a scene for Ghosts, opening at Langley Players tonight (Thursday). (Submitted photo)
“Mr. Alving has passed away, and I work for Mrs. Alving, just as my mother did before me. Now Mrs. Alving’s son has come back to the house,” the actor explained, adding “Secrets are revealed… I won’t give away too much.”
Thomas is excited to be getting back up on the Langley Players stage, her first and last performance with the Langley thespians back in 2014 on Bus Stop.
“I was intrigued to do a Henrik Ibsen play, and knew when I read the script that Regina would be the part for me,” she told the Langley Advance, noting she doesn’t actually have much in common with the character but has loved the challenge of bringing her to life on stage.
“Regina has a very sad life in many ways and has a very negative relationship with her father [whereas, she’s] blessed to have an amazingly supportive family. Everything good I ever accomplish is because I know they have my back. They are the best.”
She’s unclear of what this says about her, but noted that she’s often cast as a maid, servant or server.
“In real life, I have never worked in the service industry and am a bit clumsy so carrying trays quickly is not my forte,” she said, but added that her boyfriend, who has been her director in a few shows, likes casting her in an “embittered housewife” role.
The former Langley Fundamental School student and D.W. Poppy Secondary grad said she’s come a ways in her acting from those early days of entertaining house guests and excited about this most recent role.
Despite it being a serious play, Thomas said there have been many moments in the past few months where she’s struggled to keep a straight, stern face during a scene and even during a recent photo shoot.
“My cast mates kept whispering ridiculous things, and I’m sure I ruined a few photos bursting into laughter,” she said, describing the cast and crew as “amazingly talented” and “ridiculously” funny.
“Doing a play is lots of work and it isn’t without its stresses, but we have some great laughs and fun times, too. The costumes are such a treat as well!”
Ghosts is the play Langley Players’ will entry in the 2016 Theatre B.C. competition, which is being hosted at the playhouse May 22 to 28. This play runs Thursdays to Saturdays, at 8 p.m. until May 21, with 2 p.m. Sunday matinees. Tickets are $15 and more information is available through email at email@example.com, by calling 604-534-7469, or online at langleyplayers.com.
PHOTO: Dayna Thomas
How to win
Two lucky Langley Advance readers will each pair of tickets to Langley Players’ rendition of Ghosts running April 21 to May 21.
How do you win?
• Click on this live link, and tell us why you want to attend this show. You will be entered into the draw. Preference given to Langley residents.
Postings must be received prior to 5 p.m. on Monday, April 25, and the winner will be notified by email and/or phone. No staff or family of the Langley Advance or Black Press are eligible. This giveaway is restricted to online participants, 19 years or older only. Must include name and phone number.
Offering a history lesson
Written in 1881, the play marks the beginning of realism in the history of theatre and tackles issues that are as current today as they were when it was first performed.
Ghosts is Ibsen’s assault on family values, women’s roles and morality in Victorian society. Highly controversial when it was written, the ghosts in the play are not supernatural but the shadows of past decisions and actions, said director Helen Embury.
“We have moved a long way from the fabulous period costumes worn by the characters in this production but we, as a society, are still struggling with the same issues and easy answers are not available. This is a play to think about and talk about long after you have left the theatre,” Embury said.
“When Ibsen wrote A Dolls House, people felt so strongly about it that invites to parties of the time sometimes included the phrase, ‘guests are asked to not to speak about A Dolls House’,” Thomas elaborated, expanding on its history and current day relevance.
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“Ghosts was his next play and it brought even more scandal. Ibsen knew it wouldn’t be well received, but felt it was a story he needed to write. He had had an illegitimate child with his maid and so there were aspects of his life that he wrote about in the play. Ghosts was not allowed to be legally produced and even mentioning you had read it would have been social suicide,” she explained.
“What is fascinating is that private theatre clubs started to spring up. Members paid to be part of the club so they didn’t have to sell tickets. Because no tickets were being sold, they didn’t have to worry about censorship. For many of these groups, the first play they produced was Ghosts.
“This play deals with moral and philosophical issues that we are still talking about including disease, incest, mercy killing, secrets, and the balance between duty and the pursuit of happiness.”
If trying to convince a friend to attend, Thomas said that at the end of her spiel the person would either say, “‘That sounds awesome – I love history!’ or ‘Yes! I’ll come if you’ll stop lecturing me about history. You’re getting louder and louder in your excitement and people are starting to look at us’.”
PHOTO:Andrew Wood plays Manders, the family pastor, alongside fellow Langleyite Dayna Thomas playing Regina Engstrand and Mission actor Tony Loyer, playing Oswald Alving, the son who has returned home after many years away. (Diane Gendron photo)