September 9th, 2015

Spotlight On:

Amanda Kellock (Part 1)

Artistic Director

Repercussion Theatre

What drew you to the practice of Theatre? :

As a child, my impulse was to create plays, and when we did, I often would naturally take on the role of Director, not even shy about bossing my parents around. They used to tease that I owed them a thanks when I made my first academy awards speech.

In grade three, a poem I wrote made it into Geordie Productions’ first installation of their From You to Us to You series: Wishes, Lies and Dreams. It had never occurred to me that people actually created theatre for a living. When I saw the show, I became aware that my interests could be turned into a real career path, one that offered the possibility of bringing people together and of building community. That really blew my mind.
Would you please share you path with us from acolyte to AD of Repercussion :

My exposure started with seeing shows as a teen. After finishing my Theatre and Development degree at Concordia, I did some performance/teacher training with Bryan Doubt (a project that still continues today, called TPER 201) where we focused quite a bit on Shakespeare, and I realized how much I loved working with these texts. That experience gave me the courage to audition for Repercussion’s summer tour in 2004. My first professional gig, was playing Helena in a Repercussion’s Midsummer Night’s Dream for two summers – a rare remount by the company due to so many shows being cancelled because of rain the first year.

I then went on to pursue and obtain an MFA in Directing from Ottawa University. Par of what I loved about that was that it was a bilingual university, so I go to direct in English and French; plus I followed up my time there with a year as a directing intern at the NAC, where I directed a wildly fun theatrical extravaganza called Shakespeare’s Birthday.

A series of unexpected events led to me directing my first show for Repercussion by happenstance – Moliere’s Les fourberies de Scapin the Schemer. In a fit of youthful exuberance, I translated the play from French to English. The same ensemble of actors performed in both English and French – switching from night to night. It was a thrilling theatrical adventure and I’m really proud of how it turned out.

After that, I kept close ties with the company, playing Lady Capulet in 2009, and was invited back for their 25th Anniversary to direct A Midsummer Night’s Dream. So you can say I came full circle.  When the position of AD became available, I was encouraged to apply. While there is no question I am still learning, it felt like perfect timing – I felt that I knew enough to be able to guide this ship, and after a grueling selection process, I was pleased to receive the call.

This being your first production as AD, what surprising challenges/ discoveries did you make? :

How new the process is every year! Though we have done this for 27 years, in some ways we have to reinvent the wheel each time.  We work in connection with many partners, and in some cases, their internal processes change so much, that it is like starting over at zero each year. Thankfully Zina, the company’s GM, has been with Repercussion for a number of years, and we are blessed with exciting new people to work with each summer.
Using hindsight, what do you wish you had known before going into this production?:

I knew it would be hard to wear both the Director’s and Artistic Director’s hat… but not HOW hard. It’s hard to constantly split your focus and try to do justice to both jobs.

Looking forward, is there a dream project you hope to achieve during your tenure here?;

I would love to be able to mount 2 shows in rep in one summer, the way the company used to do it. I know many of our devoted audience members would like that, too! I’d also love to do a contemporary piece like Good Night Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet by Anne Marie McDonald – to explore Shakespeare’s modern incarnations.

What legacy do you hope to leave behind?

First I would like to leave the gears of the Repercussion infrastructure well oiled to make life easier for my successor. I hope to leave behind a legacy of excellence, and to me that means a solid respect for Shakespeare’s work balanced with a playfulness and questioning.  I also hope to leave behind a company that is reflective of the wonderful diversity in Montreal. That’s very important to me.

Repercussion is known for their unwavering support of emerging artist. What do you think they bring to the company and what do you hope they take away from the experience?

Emerging Artists bring energy, drive and fearlessness to the work.  I enjoy bringing together emerging Artists with Established artists, as they develop reciprocating relationships: The emerging Artists reinvigorate the established Artists, and established Artist offer emerging Artists much needed mentorship.

My hope is that artists leave the process with a deeper love for Montreal, as our work takes them out into the community, allowing them to get to know their own city and its inhabitants on a deeper level.

When it comes to the work itself, I hope Artists leave with an appreciation for the language, side by side with the physicality, of the work. I hope emerging Artists will leave with a greater knowledge of who they are as artists, a deeper sense of confidence and hunger, and having benefited from greater exposure.

Repercussion brings their work out into the community rather than restricting itself to traditional in theatre productions. What challenges does this bring to the work, and what dimensions do you think it adds to the work.

Being mobile means a lot of hard, sweaty work. Given that we are at the mercy of the weather, we can and do sometimes have to change plans on a dime. This forces us to live very much in the moment. There is no time to relax, and there are definitely no comfort zones established. It’s amazing and exhausting in equal measure.

The beauty of this is a team that is very interdependent and resolute. Actors work harder to pull and keep audience focus, and they build a really cohesive ensemble that can be felt in the performance.

Though true of all theatre, it is doubly so for us that audiences feed our show and make each one different.  As a result of us going to them, audiences feel a wonderful sense of ownership over our company. They have greater access to the production team and they make use of it by approaching us and sharing their opinions. That was one of the most exhilarating parts of my first summer as AD – how many audience members wanted to come and talk to me, to tell me what theylove and what they want more of.

This season, many companies are putting the spotlight on women in theatre.  What do you think that women bring to the work.

Hmm, that’s a tough one to answer! Though there is an old cliché that women talk a lot, the truth is they also listen and absorb. This makes them great collaborators and leads to the undermining of traditional hierarchal structures. Because I deal with “classical” texts, where so many of the characters are male, I really love inviting women into the process in ways that are not immediately obvious – it naturally invites in new perspectives and forces me (and hopefully others) to see the plays and their central ideas in a new light. (I don’t want to give too much away, but I’d love to talk more about this next summer!)

Both you and your life partner are Theatre professionals. How do you manage to not make your lives 100% theatre all the time?

Yeah, that takes a lot of balancing. But there’s no getting around that theatre is a huge part of our lives and our life. We both love what we do, and we’re both interested in each other’s ideas.  It is very helpful to have someone you trust that you can easily turn to as a sounding board. We don’t always see things the same way, and we disagree pretty regularly, but we respect and appreciate each other’s point of view. But to stay sane, we often choose to stop talking shop and focus on other things. Family is a big part of keeping us grounded and connected to a world outside of theatre, and we both have other interests.

To Be Continued

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