Deborah Williams is a fixture in Vancouver’s theatre scene and is behind some of the city’s most fun and interesting offerings. Today, she tells us a little bit about them…
GD: Hi Deb, who are the characters you play in Kid Gloves?
DW: I play Bella Boychuk, who is a syphilitic prostitute and is middle-aged, which is old for a prostitute 100 years ago. She has brain damage from her syphilis and is very well-equipped to live where she does. She’s based on a true character who could bend iron bars. All the police officers were frightened of her, apparently it took ten men to get her under control. So that’s kind of fun. I don’t think I’ve ever played a character that powerful.
The other character I play is Gertrude Crane, the wife of Alderman Crane, and she is the chair of the Central Mission Rescue and Protection Society which is an actual society that existed here in Vancouver. They were created to rescue and protect women of the night. ‘Wayward women and girls’ is another term they used for prostitution at the time. She is very Christian, a temperance believer and her goal is to protect these women at all costs.
GD: How does it feel to play two characters that are so completely different?
DW: That’s why I took the part, because it was so extremely different. One is from the Ukraine, and one is very Canadian and one is not educated and all and the other is highly educated and yet they’re both really intelligent, well-adapted women. Which is always fun, and certainly in the time before women had the vote – we were still chattel at that time, we were belongings so to have these women who were very powerful and in control of their lives in many ways – they’re obviously not in control in many ways too – I like to look at what they are doing and how powerful they are.
GD: What do you do in your spare time?
DW: I produce a lot of theatre, and I have a couple TV shows in development and I work a lot. I’m a middle-aged actress and I’m working more than I have ever, which is really great. I spent the last 19 years doing Moms the Word, and now that my kids are grown I’m able to take a lot of different roles, and go from role to role to role.
Besides that, I produce The Flame which is my heart project. I produce it at a restaurant around the corner from my house, it doesn’t take any sets or smoke, lights or mirrors to make it happen, my friends and neighbours can walk to the event. I produce that once a month, the first Wednesday of every month at the Cottage Bistro on Main Street.
GD: When’s the next one?
DW: The Flame Christmas Special is airing on Shaw TV all through December. We’ve got some really great storytellers at that one. And the one after that, January 2nd.
Other than that, I garden, I’ve got chickens. I’m very in love with my chickens, so I spend a lot of time watching them. We’ve raised them since they were a day old, so we’re kind of attached to them. They’re very funny, they’re good clowns.
GD: Do you have any roosters?
DW: No, you’re not allowed in the city. We’ve had a couple roosters and we’ve had to send them off to send them off…to dinner and farms.
GD: What do you think the audience will take away from Kid Gloves?
DW: I think they’re going to be interested in what was happening in this neighbourhood. I love that we’re doing this show about this neighbourhood in this neighbourhood. In some ways, it hasn’t changed at all. This was an entertainment district for men because everyone was in industries such as logging and so the women working down here were ‘working’ women and part of the entertainment as dancers and prostitutes. All these vices, and they’re still part of this neighbourhood. I find it quite fascinating. I don’t know why people want to chase it off so fast. It’s just part of it. And the women are fantastic. Those two women must have been really ballsy. To say that you wanted to be a police officer when there were no other women police officers ever in Canada. What incredible guts.
Chicken image from here