Today we get to know Dawn Petten, or constable Minnie Miller, in Kid Gloves. Dawn was kind and adventurous enough to let me take her picture while she lay on the floor of one of the hallways here at the Firehall.
GD: What’s the first show you were ever in?
DP: Well, from the time I was very young, so from about grade two, I was always one of those kids putting plays on at home. And even in grade two whenever there was an assignment in class, I would always do a performance. And as a young kid I was in all the church plays. In my early years we went to church and I was Mary six years in a row in the Christmas pageant, and in puppet shows at Easter.
The schools I went to were always very arts focused. In middle school I was very drama focused and then I went to an arts high school as a drama major, so I’ve always done it. I have no idea what the first show would be because it was always happening.
GD: Who do you play in Kid Gloves?
DP: I play Minnie Miller, who is one of the first two female police officers in all of Canada. And of the two police officers, I’m the pious one, the Christian police officer who really feels like I’m on a mission from God, to lift up wayward girls and youth and to do it in a Christian way. To try to bring back respect to the streets in some ways and always doing my job with no foul language, being gentle with people and always good manners. Those are important attributes.
GD: What do you do in your spare time?
DP: I don’t have a lot of spare time, because since February I have overlapped shows. This one came right after Tear the Curtain in Toronto; I flew back and came right here, so I haven’t had any time. Sometimes I’ve been rehearsing by day and doing a different show at night.
But the other thing I do, which is really fun, is that I’m a sexual health educator. I work for Options for Sexual Health, doing sexual health education for different communities and groups of people. I love that.
GD: How did you get into that?
DP: I had been a volunteer with what used to be Planned Parenthood of BC, and volunteered for years with what they used to call the Facts of Life line, and I also volunteered at their Vancouver clinic. The started a certification program [for sexual education]. It used to be only nurses who could go into schools to teach Sex Ed, and I had taught a lot in the past, teaching drama and Shakespeare and so I did a year program where I went to class for a month and then did a year practicum where I taught in schools from grade three to grade twelve.
GD: What’s it like to teach Sex Ed to kids?
DP: It’s amazing. I teach Sex Ed in the classroom as if it were a drama class. My classes aren’t drony; they’re on your feet doing exercises about passing STIs (they call them STIs now) I try to make it really fun and empowering and a place where people can learn to express themselves. I think the amazing values that you can teach with Sex Ed are about self confidence, self-expression, being able to communicate to others, and those are all values that hold people in good stead. I find whenever I’ve taught a Sex Ed class, right after I want to say, ‘and now let’s do some drama or Shakespeare!’ and whenever I’ve talk a drama class I’m always ‘ok, now let’s talk about sex!’
For me it’s the same sort of enthusiasm and very similar in that you’re helping people to feel confident and secure about themselves and able to communicate where they’re at.
GD: Would you rather have gills and be able to swim under water for long periods of time, or be able to go into Space with no protective suit?
DP: Definitely the ocean. I’m an ocean gal. In the summer I try to swim in the ocean every day, I love being in water, I love aquacize classes. Swimming outdoors is my favourite thing in the world, and to be able to go deep, and be able to breathe underwater would be amazing. It just sounds dreamy, and romantic and sensual and brilliant.
GD: What do you want audiences to take away from Kid Gloves?
DP: I think it’s a charming celebration of a moment in history in Vancouver. With these charming characters. One of my favourite lines in the play is the other cop, Lurancy, says: ‘we’re the first in the Dominion, school kids are going to be reading about us’. Well, we didn’t. I never learned in school, none of us did about the first two female police officers and their being in Vancouver. It’s one of those bits of history that women have been written out of, and now it’s great that people can see the show and find out a little more about that. And it has such lovely singing and dancing, I think it’s just a charming show that people can appreciate. And as a strong feminist, I appreciate about learning about the steps and the courage it took when everyone was against this couple of women, and it amazes me.
Sex Ed image from here, Ariel comes from here and Shakespeare’s likeness from here