This is a play about friendship, romance, sex and suffrage, during the Victorian era in 1880s London. Doz plays Monica Madden, one of three spinster sisters attending a secretarial school, run by a lesbian couple. “Politics and passion erupt forcing each character to confront their repressed sexual desire and identity.” We soon discover that feminism and feminine virtue aren’t necessarily congruent values.
We sat down with Doz to talk about the play and life as an actress.
So, can you tell me more about your character?
Sure. Monica Madden is living in a very repressed time, and she is a nymphomaniac. It’s very hard for women, and there is a lot of shame around embracing their sexuality. For them, it’s wrong. Even suffragists cannot support Monica’s sexuality. So, she goes on her own path. She explores multiple lovers and her identity. It’s liberating for her, but she also suffers, for she is on her own. She moves back and forth between pride and shame. She is a classic example of a woman fighting her own cause and being abandoned.
Did you obtain any new perspectives after playing Monica?
Women are not equally considered in our discourses on sexuality. It’s okay for a man to have an insatiable sexual appetite, but not legitimate for a woman. It’s infuriating to see the hypocrisy in people, who consider themselves progressive, yet are really limited in their points of view. They have a hard time welcoming and accepting other perspectives.
I personally am not a revolutionary, or even consider myself radical, so at first I thought I would have a hard time connecting to this spirit, given that I come from a very privileged, artistic world. But it has opened me up to the fact that there are causes within causes, and this can be hard to confront. You end up getting hypocrisy not equality.
How did you get involved in this play?
I wanted to work with (director) Jennifer Brewin, after seeing her in action at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. She led a workshop on storytelling through audio only. We connected, got along well, so I was keen to work with her.
Why did you become an actress?
I took dancing lessons when I was 3 years old, and that was my first exposure to artistry. I danced for over 15 years. At the age of 7, I knew I wanted to be an actress, after seeing many movies. I was living with my mum in Edmonton, and got the opportunity to go to the Victoria School of Performing and Visual Arts. I studied acting, directing, dance composition, writing etc. I graduated at the age of 16, but not because I was smarter! (Laughs) I went to a Montessori school from Grades 1 to 4, so I was skipped. Then, I went to Seacoast Theatre Centre in Vancouver, and studied for 2 years. After that, I improved my craft at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal. I always got encouragement from my mentors along the way, so I always felt my goals were realistic. And, my mum always supported me. I was lucky.
Can you tell me about your background?
I was raised in Edmonton by a Jamaican mum, who immigrated in 1979. My dad’s Jewish. Growing up, I never felt like one or the other. I was at home in Black hair salons, but I assimilated into white culture. There was only one black student in high-school, and I had no black friends. We never discussed race growing up, which was very sad. I didn’t know how much discrimination my mum faced, until we spoke about it last year. She never brought it home: She did not want it to upset my upbringing.
It’s only now that I can appreciate her struggles: Being all alone and away from family. Raising her daughter by herself, without the support of family or a culture that she was familiar with. Both of us feel a sense of grief—that we missed something. We only visited Jamaica together when I was 19.
I personally never interrogated my blackness, until I had a black friend at the National Theatre School in Montreal. And then, I trained with Michelle Lonsdale-Smith, who was my first Black acting teacher. As a light-skinned woman herself, she helped me ask questions about race, and how I could bring my experiences into my work.
What about your dad?
I have developed a friendship with my father in my adulthood. I am fascinated by Jewish culture and proud of being descended from Russian Jews, but I don’t have a personal relationship with the culture. I only went to Passover once with a friend. But both Jews and Blacks have experienced trials and tribulations, and trying to make space for themselves. I am continuing these journeys from oppression.
Does your race impact the roles that you’re offered?
Well, I audition for Afro-American and Caribbean parts. In A Raisin in the Sun I played a white girl and straightened my hair. You can hide behind whiteness or blackness. But, I think in the next 20 years, there’ll be more roles for biracial people. For instance, I have a role in a feature film coming out next year-It’s not my fault and I don’t care anyway. I play the daughter of Alan Thicke (famous as the dad on Growing Pains). I initially straightened my hair, because I thought I had to be white. Then, the script was re-written to incorporate a mixed-race character. They saw more potential in the storyline.
What else is next for you?
I’m appearing on the Delmer and Marta series on APTN, in mid February of 2016. And, I’m trying to get into more film and TV productions. But I can’t complain—Toronto and the theatre-world have been good to me.
The Age of Arousal runs from October 20-November 8, 2015, as part of Factory Theatre’s Naked Season. Tickets and passes can be purchased online at factorytheatre.ca or by phone at 416-504-9971.