I sat down with Colleen Wheeler, who plays constable Lurancy Harris in the upcoming production of Kid Gloves. We spoke about her character and the play, but I also learned that had it not been for an optional class in university, Colleen’s career path would have led in a very different direction…
GD: Tell me a little bit about your character in Kid Gloves.
CW: Well, Lurancy Harris is one of two policewomen sworn into the police department in 1912. They were basically assigned the ‘female morality question’, to go around and check into the brothels, the clubs and make sure all the young women were behaving properly, etcetera but Lurancy wants to be a ‘real’ police officer.
She doesn’t want to deal with morality, she wants to study forensics, get in with the boys, get ahead of the game, use her head, use reasoning, all of her training to move her way up in the police department. So at the beginning of the play, she doesn’t see helping the women get off the streets as her first priority but during the play, I think the character of Minnie (Dawn Petten) helps convince Lurancy that it’s a balance of both things: You can get ahead but our reason for being there is to help people.
GD: Do you have any spare time, and if so, what do you like to do?
CW: Spare time…(giggles) I look after my three-year-old and I have another job. I organize simulations for police training, child welfare services training and RCMP training. I supply all the actors for them.
GD: Wow, so you’re really involved with police outside of the show.
CW: Yes, and my husband’s actually in training to become a police officer. Yea, I guess that it a lot of police connections.
GD: What’s the first show you were ever in?
CW: What was the first show I was ever in…oh! Charley’s Aunt. Is that the murder mystery*? Yes, grade six, I was in Charley’s Aunt.
GD: And that was it, you loved it?
CW: No, I was actually a jock and a competitive swimmer, and I made the national team times when I was 14. I could have gone the way of a swimming career, but chose to go into other sports and became quite good at all sports, so I was going to be a Phys Ed teacher.
When I was in school in Calgary to become a Phys Ed teacher, I took what they called an “option” drama class with Keith Johnstone in Calgary. And then I never looked back. I switched the next year into the drama department. But yea, I was going to be a Phys Ed teacher…What the hell, eh?
GD: Would you rather be able to read minds or be able to teleport?
CW: Because reading people’s minds would make me stressed out all the time, and I wouldn’t get any sleep and it’s really important that people like me.
And if they didn’t like you, then you’d know, and what can you do about it?
GD: Yea and you can’t un-know that.
CW: Yea, and bad thoughts. (shudders)
GD: What do you think audiences can expect from Kid Gloves?
CW: A good ol’ romp in history! Donna has created a real world, the early 1900s in Vancouver and you’ll get a really good feel for what it must have been like for certain people down here and what it was like to be a police woman here on the Downtown Eastside, and what the world was like. It’s of course a world created by Sally [Stubbs, playwright], a completely fictional world but based in our history and what makes it especially interesting is that we’re right in that area, and right next door is the police museum. It’s really very interesting.
* Charley’s Aunt is a farce, not a murder mystery. Sounds like a great play though.