By Amanda Hu
Life in the land of mobile homes is not always as Trailer Park Boys makes it out to be. Lunchbox Theatre’s production of Darrin Hagen’s Tornado Magnet shows that trailer court living is often more about camaraderie and community than white-trash, drunken shenanigans– though some people in the park do know how to party.
The show is a dialogue with trailer maven Dotty Parsons on the families in her court, the trailer park class system and the trials and tribulations that come along with living in an easily-movable abode. Director Kate Newby says she was immediately interested in taking on the project.
“When I was initially approached by Lunchbox to direct this show, I thought it would be fantastic because I know [Hagen] and I’ve known him for a number of years,” she recalls. “I have a deep admiration for this guy. He’s a quirky artist from Edmonton and he’s just got a wonderful sensibility. He writes this work usually for himself, so originally it was a drag show, but Lunchbox felt it could be a show for anyone, which is true. He’s got a good feel of the comedy, of the vulnerability of trailer park life.”
Karen Johnson-Diamond, who plays Dotty, had her interest in the play piqued after seeing Hagen’s performance at the Edmonton Fringe Festival. She says the portrayal of trailer court life hit close to home, adding even more incentive to playing the role.
“My grandpa and grandma were the landlords of the trailer park… but they had a lot of [get-togethers] and I remember being there in the summer when the neighbours would come over and everyone’s sitting around the living room with the pink floral and shag carpeting,” says Johnson-Diamond. “It was like what I love about camping now, which is, instantly everyone is best friends because [of things like] sharing the plug-ins and, ‘Come on over, because I forgot my ketchup.’ Some people now don’t know their neighbours and there was a community there that doesn’t exist in a lot of places.”
Hagen’s original version of the play is celebrating much critical acclaim for its fresh and unconventional look at aluminum domicile living. Both Newby and Johnson-Diamond attribute much of this success to the production’s ability to reach and be relatable to every audience member.
“The folks in the audience recognize themselves on stage at some point or another,” she explains. “Dotty could be in any home; Dotty could be in a bungalow, Dotty could be in an apartment– though Dotty has to be in a trailer because she loves trailer court life. When you’re watching though, how is that any different than someone talking about how they love living in a bungalow? It’s just that joy of life and where you live. Dotty’s not even trying to convince them. She’s just sharing and so glad people want to come and see her low budget theatrical representation of her mobile home.”
Newby agrees, adding that she recognizes a lot of the similarities to her own childhood.
“I grew up with Velveeta cheese and Kraft dinner and lived in suburban Edmonton and there are a lot of things [Hagen] brings up in the show that made me think, ‘My mom did that and that was my family,’ ” Newby says. “He brilliantly shows us that maybe we should get off of our snobbish pedestal and just take a nice long look in the mirror because we’ve all got a little trailer in us.”