Trail and Error at the Edmonton Fringe Festival

Ellen Chorley in Trail and Error. Photo credit: David McQueen.

Ellen Chorley in Trail and Error. Photo credit: David McQueen.

Trail and Error by Linda Wood Edwards
August 12 – 14, 16, 17, 19 – 21 at Venue #13: Old Strathcona Library
More information: northernsabbatical.com/playography/trail-and-error


An interview with Linda Wood Edwards.

Describe your show in five words.

Unprepared on the Chilkoot Trail

Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?

After a horrible year, Linda challenges herself to do something even worse: the Chilkoot Trail. In bear and avalanche season. In borrowed boots. She made many poor decisions in the north trying to rendezvous with her soul.

It sounds like you had quite the experience on the Chilkoot Trail. Why decide to retell it as a play?

It has been a memoir-type of piece since I came back, but for some reason it just felt unfinished. I tried it as a short story, a novella, a magazine article, a 5-minute radio play. Nothing worked, yet it wouldn’t go away. In the intervening years I’ve had some success as a playwright, so why not try that next?

You say in your press release that performer Ellen Chorley’s “dislike of camping and the great outdoors makes her perfect for this role.” Can you describe the main character of the show (you in 1997) and why Ellen is so perfect to help bring this show to life?

Ellen is vibrant and funny and up for a challenge. For the brief period of 1996-1997 I was no longer vibrant, I was more cynical than funny, and I felt I only deserved challenges. In that state of mind, I took all kinds of chances, caring little about the outcome (other than causing undue stress on my mom). I was all “peaks and valleys” – soaring one minute, in despair the next. Working with Ellen on this story, it was so refreshing to have her call me out on the things I did, which by now seemed quite normal and sane. Having her and (director) David Cheoros question me on what I did and why made me see just how thin an edge I was really on back then. The fact that I survived and thrived is actually hilarious to me right now.

Trail and Error was workshopped at the SkirtsAfire herArts Festival. How did that experience help shape and grow the show?

Tracy Carroll was an exceptional dramaturg and director. She and David (Cheoros) encouraged me to try it in present tense and experience it all over again (as opposed to storytelling about something that happened in the past). That was a huge shift for me. Then they made me tell the truth about why I went and what changed as a result. I realized those pieces were absent from my memoir. I’d only been telling half a story for nearly two decades. And when I heard April Banigan read as me at SkirtsAfire Peepshow, I knew that I had to step aside and let someone else be me. In a story full of bad decisions, casting Ellen was a great one.

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?

We had to leave so many stories on the cutting room floor just to fit the Fringe time slot and to make the best play we can. Ellen and David were patient and kind beyond belief. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with them and in laughing at them laughing at me and all my mishaps. I am also glad that this process reminded me about all the kind and generous people who helped back then and still help now. There are angels everywhere.

The 35th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 11 – 21. Get your tickets at tickets.fringetheatre.ca.

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