A guiding light, an artistic director and an artist in residence at Concordia.
As the first female artistic director of Repercussion Theatre and an artist in residence at Concordia, Amanda Kellock is no stranger to deadlines and stress. Playground, her latest project, is an experimental theatre festival which is set to open at the Loyola Chapel on February 17th. This project is a culmination of all the things she loves about theatre, but it took her a while to figure that out.
From a young age, Kellock knew that she wanted to be an actor. “I’ve always loved theatre,” she said, “even before I knew what it was.” Like many loves, however, theatre and Kellock spent some time apart. Kellock said she spent a few years in her late teens trying to get away from it.
“I felt like there were so many other things going on in the world that were more important than being in a play,” said Kellock. She spent a few years as a full-time activist with her passions rooted in educating people about the destruction of the natural world. While working as an activist, Kellock discovered what she thinks is “the biggest problem of all, the mindset of disconnection.” That is when theatre crept back into her life, through Concordia’s theatre and development program. Politics and theatre, two of her passions, meshed into one. She graduated from the program in 2003.
After graduating, Kellock came to every actor’s realization—there weren’t many roles that suited her. After spending some time as an actor, in 2007 she received her master’s in directing for theatre from the University of Ottawa. As a director, she had much more freedom to choose the scripts, as well as the big ideas behind them. After directing in Montreal for a few years, Kellock made history as the first female artistic director of Repercussion Theatre Company. “I like theatre that is connected to the community it is being performed for,” said Kellock. That connection is the inspiration behind her directing style of Playground.
That’s what matters most to Kellock—making connections. Not bound to a script or a single message, Kellock lets her students explore and experiment. As an artistic director for both Repercussion Theatre and the Playground festival, Kellock has been given the freedom to play with her own ideas, and Playground is exactly that—a playground of ideas. With an initial theme of space, it is a collection of the actor’s ideas and thoughts. Her job is to understand an actor’s vision and help them achieve it, something actor and student Gaia Chernushenko said Kellock is quite good at. “She’s very forward thinking, and she helps us as more of a guiding figure than director,” Chernushenko said. That guidance is the part that Kellock enjoys most about being an artistic director. “As a director, you are there to serve. Serve the script, serve the audience,” she said. “But as an artistic director, I have the freedom to bring other people’s ideas in.”
Acting as an artistic director, however, is not all fun and creativity. Kellock faces the very real problems of little-to-no funding as well as the age-old theatre question: how do you get people to show up? Kellock is used to collaborating with many other team members. “I definitely get to create a platform, but as a director it is all about the team,” she said.
One of those team members who work alongside her is Kate Stockburger. She described her position as rather nebulous, the team works more as an advisory committee working with the themes and logistics of the festival, they do not give any specific directions when it comes to the plays. They are there to establish the main theme and work more with the logistics of the festival. Taking charge of publicity, the team must figure out a way to make connections with the outside world, and get people in the seats. “We’re always sitting in a circle, clicking away on our computers,” Stockburger said. Using different media platforms, each cast is using videos and other multimedia ventures in order to spread the word about their show.
The festival runs from Feb. 17 to Feb. 20 in the FC Smith Complex at Loyola. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $10 general admission and $5 for students and seniors. Performance of the plays will run concurrently, so the audience can choose the order in which they want to see the shows. More information can be found on the Playground event page on Facebook.