“Being a Teenager, Accepting Our Past & Self-Producing” In Conversation with Thalia Kane and Tamara Almeida on THE ’94 CLUB
Interview by Megan Robinson.
We sat down with playwright/actor Thalia Gonzalez Kane and actor Tamara Almeida to discuss their current production of The ’94 Club, playing now until May 12th at the Tarragon Extraspace. Inspired by real events, this exciting new play takes a look into the lives of four teenage girls, as they face the realities of growing up in a small-town and struggle to come to terms with their sexuality.
The ’94 Club may focus on female stories (it passes the Bechdel test) and have an all-female cast and crew, but at the end of the day, the themes are inherently universal.
“It’s about friendship and love and heart and compassion,” Kane explains.
“And self-discovery,” Almeida adds.
Not only is this Kane’s playwriting debut, it’s also what she considers her coming out play, which gives us even more to love about this self-reflective story. Doing our best to avoid any spoilers, we discuss what it was like to be teenagers, how to accept our past, and the triumphs of self-producing.
Megan Robinson: In your press release, you talk about self-reflection and telling stories from our past to make for a better future. First off, can you tell me a challenge that you may have faced in portraying teenagers and getting into that mindset again?
Tamara Almeida: It sounds silly but I love Lana Del Ray, and there’s this one line that she says about innocence lost. I keep going back to that. That I don’t know better yet. The part of me that knows how to protect myself now would never do some of these things. So a big part of playing a teen is going back to a time when you live on impulse and have fewer boundaries because you don’t know better.
Thalia Gonzalez Kane: We know better now, but it’s hard going back to a time when you threw caution to the wind and, also, to not judge yourself for that. It’s a struggle that came with the writing as well; some scenes were too self-aware. The fact is, it’s very easy to blame young people for things they do wrong or to accuse them of being a slut or to accuse them of being promiscuous but you can’t because they are too young to understand what that means and what that is. They need to learn over time. I think getting over the judgment of our characters was a challenge.
TA: I think it’s interesting in the same way that when I’m 50, I’m going to look back at something I did in my twenties and be like, I would never do that thing now, you know?
MR: Or even last week… I know better.
TA: Yeah! Like I know now not to drink that much tequila. But you don’t know that before you know that. I think that is cool to explore – before we knew, what did we do? That’s what I keep trying to go back to.
TGK: And just avoiding playing too young.
TA: And they’re smarter than we give them credit for. At fifteen-years-old, you’re already cunning and sophisticated and manipulative.
MR: Can we talk about the differences between relationships as teenagers versus as adults, and what you wanted to explore about these relationships in your writing?
TGK: The relationship between the girls in the show is so sweet and beautiful. I found in writing that female friendship at that age is so pure and I think we lose a lot of that as we grow older. It starts to become about what do you do and what do I do and how do we help each other? And you do have those friends, and I have them, where you love each other, and that’s all you have, and you don’t need anything else. But, as teens, the love is so strong. You would do anything for one of your best friends, and you don’t question it. I mean part of the reason the club really gets going is because they don’t want to let anyone down and not be part of something that one of the girls has suggested. The scene where the club gets created is so sweet. “We are going to do something new together!” And they’re going to do it together. And that’s the point.
TA: I think the love is so pure at that age and that it really just comes from impulses a bit more. Whereas my friendships today are because I really want them, you know they mean something. We are a little more cautious about who we keep in our lives.
TGK: You have to make time now. In high school, you have lunch time and classes, and there are so fewer responsibilities.
TA: I wonder if we didn’t have to pay bills and have these responsibilities if it would be the same. I don’t know.
MR: You’re self-producing the show. Can you tell me why you decided to do it this way?
TGK: A lot of people suggested SummerWorks and Fringe, and I didn’t love the idea of that much of a loss of control – not being able to choose the venue or choose my time slot. I don’t know how to say it… I didn’t want to just be a part of something. It felt too important to me. Also, doing indie theatre, I’ve worked on so many shows for free and I did it gladly but I think that it is becoming a problem because it’s just so expected. So with this show, one of the things I really wanted to make sure of was that every artist was paid a weekly salary. I thought in order to do that, I could self-produce and control it.
I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of experiences working with other theatres and learning from brilliant people so I was able to slowly figure out what works and what doesn’t and how to hire people and how to set up scheduling and stuff. It felt important as my first one to do it properly and suffer perhaps at times financially or mentally. But it feels very worth it.
MR: You said you’ve been lucky enough to do this because of all your experiences. Could you give three pieces of advice to someone out there who wants to put on a show that doesn’t have the same resources or experiences you’ve had?
People are so much more willing to talk than you realize. I’ve been able to foster relationships and valued friendships with people who I’ve just asked to have a coffee with and to pick their brain. Or just to ask them about themselves and their lives. From that I’ve been able to get so much experience. And with people reaching out to help. The amount of people who have offered to help me with this has been a bit surreal.
2. Commit yourself to fully doing it.
It’s terrifying but I wouldn’t have it any other way, because if this falls flat on its face and it’s a complete disaster, at least I’ll have put everything into it and I can feel really good and really proud of that.
3. Appreciate how lucky you are to do it.
We are so lucky to be in a city that supports indie theatre, and supports live theatre, and supports artists and young artists. It’s not out of the ordinary for someone to write a play and put it on.
MR: Tamara, when did you first read the script?
TA: Another cast member had conflicts and Thalia and I had met in a class so she sent it my way after it was complete and once the cast was set. I read it that night and messaged her back at 4 AM and was like “YES! I love it”. At first, it made me really uncomfortable.
MR: Can you unpack that for me?
TA: Yeah, high school is an interesting time. Some people love looking back… I didn’t. This just kind of struck a chord with the parts that I hadn’t uncovered again since leaving, the parts that are a little bit darker. Like who I was and the role I played in some of my friendships at that time, that maybe I haven’t wanted to be fully honest with even myself about. And it was interesting because the first time I read the script I thought it was a bit darker than what I was expecting. Then I read it again and I had a lot of compassion.
The biggest thing for me once I read it was asking: can I put myself aside and my ego aside and tell the truth about that girl? Because that girl exists.
MR: And that was hard because the girl reminded you of yourself?
TA: Yeah. I think… yeah. I mean all the girls do. The universality of Thalia’s writing is that all the girls are relatable. The reading was also kind of healing for me. To be able to go back and think about it and realize I’m not that person at all anymore. So let’s just open it up and really tell the truth and really go there. Let’s make sure these people feel uncomfortable.
MR: Thalia, in writing it and now performing it, are you hoping for the audience to feel uncomfortable?
TGK: Yeah. I think it will cause people to reflect on themselves. One of my main goals is that I hope it will make people take a moment to look at how we treat others. And reconsider the next time they see a sixteen-year-old girl with a short skirt on and call her a slut, or say she’s asking for it. Because there is so much more to these people. In the play there are things you learn about the girls, and there are reasons that they act in certain ways and these are human reasons that we’ve all faced. There’s a big love story and that’s a universal love story. People can identify with those feelings of being so in love with someone who you have no idea what else to do about it except for proclaiming it.
But yes, people are going to feel uncomfortable when they see the show but it’s also healing in certain ways.
MR: And what is it exactly that will make them so uncomfortable?
TA: I think just looking at sexuality at such a young age. I think we don’t talk about it, other than sexualizing young women, we don’t talk about what that’s doing to them. The discovery of sexuality…
TGK: … and how misguided that is. No one tells them.
MR: Except your friends?
TA: Yeah, and then you rely on your experienced friend because you’re like, please tell me why that felt so good, what was that? And then, what happens if you have the wrong person leading the train, and that can derail…
TGK: In the show, each girl has their own thing that they have to confront. And it’s hard and what’s hard is that it’s the reality of a lot of people’s circumstances. There isn’t really an answer in the end, it’s just presenting the realities of our world that we don’t really look at.
TA: With this situation, you have some young girls who found themselves in trouble, which maybe could have been avoided if they were guided a little bit differently. And that’s accountability. Maybe we’re all complicit in what’s happening.
TGK: If the adults in their lives weren’t too scared to talk to them about what the realities of growing up are at that time, or when they’re curious, to talk to them and not just to sweep it under the rug.
THE ’94 CLUB
Written by: Thalia Gonzalez Kane
Cast: Tamara Almeida, Jeanie Calleja, Shaina Silver-Baird, Thalia Kane, Lily Scriven
Directed by: Monica Dottor
After starting a dangerous game that rapidly spirals out of control, a group of teenage girls quickly begin to learn about the struggles that come with womanhood as they strive to come to terms with their own sexuality.
Based on true events, THE ’94 CLUB explores gender politics, sexuality, coming of age, queerness and the harsh realities of growing up in a small town. As our society grows into one of openness and understanding, it is important we hear these stories of oppression and pain. It is important we acknowledge our past and work to amend the future. Without self-reflection, we will not be able to better ourselves and our world.
“It’s just a game. I’ll tell you the rules and then we can play…”
May 1st-May 12th
Tue – Sat 8pm, Sun 2:30pm
Tarragon Theatre Extraspace, 30 Bridgman Ave
$15 Previews, $22 Artsworker/Student, $30 Regular