In Conversation with Emerging Directors Ty Sloane, Bryn Kennedy & Kevin McLachlan on the 2018 Paprika Festival Directors’ Lab
Interview by Bailey Green.
This month, the Paprika Festival heads into its 17th year as the Paprika Directors’ Lab enters its 3rd year. The Directors’ Lab provides the opportunity for emerging directors to work with an experienced mentor and this year, the three directors had multidisciplinary artist Clare Preuss as their mentor. We sat down with emerging directors Ty Sloane, Bryn Kennedy & Kevin McLachlan to learn more about their experience participating in the Lab. We spoke about finding your voice, discovering your process and drawing inspiration from your peers.
Bailey Green: What drew you to Paprika?
Bryn Kennedy: As a young artist there’s not a lot of opportunities to take on a leadership position and put on a full production, while still having the support of mentorship. This is a festival that is helping you though the stages… it’s a unique opportunity. Mentorship and leadership, so there’s support and a challenge in that.
Kevin McLachlan: Direction is something I have always loved doing, even informally. Even as a kid, I was always the one organizing our mock battles against invisible armies. I’m currently in my final year of Musical Theatre at Sheridan College, and a teacher reached out to tell us about the festival and, being at the peak of the age range, I thought that it wasn’t an opportunity to miss. The more I read about it, the more we’ve participated in the program, the more awareness I’m getting and the more I can plant roots in such a rich theatre community. People are genuinely interested in your success and well-being. It has been a really amazing experience.
Ty Sloane: It’s a really rich opportunity in that you’re with other young emerging artists, you’re with folks who are still learning and struggling. Directing terrifies me. A lot of mentors have been like ‘you should direct’ and I’m like ‘no no no’. But I’ve tried to approach this year as an artist to challenge myself and seek what may not feel comfortable, and [for me] that was directing. I love it.
BG: Can you tell us a bit about working with your mentor Clare Preuss?
KM: We got paired with Clare, and she kind of got one of the hardest jobs in the world. Not in helping us, but how do you help someone make art? There’s no easy recipe on how to create something. But she has shared her patience and understanding of the industry and her own process with such a clear passion for the work and has extended all sorts of tools she has.
TS: She calls them games. What’s the game we’re playing? What’s the game of the show? How do you adjust the game? And I love that because games sounds a lot easier and a lot more open and she’s really done a great job of providing ways for the three of us to learn from each other and from her, and to adapt whether it’s a game or an approach.
BK: She comes from a performance background and so do all three of us, and so a lot of her process that she has been reminding us about is making a rehearsal hall that feels comfortable and safe to do work in and how do you keep that going. It’s about setting the rules for the game, not in a way that limits anyone, but in a way for all of us to feel safe. She’s been really good about meeting us all where we are at.
BG: What kind of theatre do you want to create?
TS: I am obsessed with Theatre of the Absurd, and breaking the conventions of what it means to put on a production. For the work I want to do, I like to talk about the really intimate stuff. I myself am a queer, mixed-race, mixed-gendered person and I want to talk about those things and explore them and unpack them.
BK: I am really interested in work that lives in the emotional reality of the characters as opposed to the physical or literal world around them. How do we bring the inner experience to the outer world? I started directing because I wasn’t seeing the kinds of stories on stage that I wanted to see or wasn’t feeling like there were characters who represented the person that I am as a young woman and the friends that I have.
KM: I’m completing my fourth year at Sheridan Musical Theatre so for myself Musical Theatre was an accidental gateway. I was not the kid that knew every show and sang the score to them and I’m still often exposed for my lack of knowledge in the music theatre world. Like the Gene Kelly quote, ‘if all it takes for someone to laugh and smile is to sing and smile and do a dance, then I’m happy to be a song and dance man’. That’s a simple way and a somewhat privileged way to look at it but I have always loved to make people laugh. I’m also struck by the kinds of questions that don’t have answers.
BG: Tell us a bit about the pieces you have chosen to direct.
TS: My piece is called Witness of Obsession and Desire and asks what stops you as a lover from leaving a relationship. It’s told from the perspective of Quinn telling the lover, which is the audience, about their experience falling in love with two people at the same time and learning about their own sexuality and polyamory. [It’s about] what it means when you think that the stories about the people who you’re in love with is actually about you and your journey into loving yourself.
BK: I’m directing Vitals by Rosamund Small. As a paramedic Anna meets people on the worst day of their lives, every call she receives is an emergency, but when professional trauma starts to slide into personal tragedy, she finds herself fighting for her own life. It’s an exploration of mental health in the medical community and we have a kick-ass all female team.
KM: My piece is based on the questions of playing God and how can you make a ‘right choice’ in a decision where there isn’t one… My mother is a retired hospice worker. She was a hospice worker for 20 years and I was inspired by her experience with grief in a work setting and in her own personal life, and how she had to make that decision with people about to continue or discontinue someone’s end of life care. I’ve written an original piece called Fragments that looks at, in such a situation, how can you decide whether or not someone should continue or discontinue living and what are the moments that we define ourselves?
BG: What have you learned from working with each other?
BK: From Ty and Kevin I have learned to live longer in the process part. I tend to jump straight to product, ‘let’s block this!’ And for me it’s checking boxes instead of sitting in this world and exploring it. When we did our training days and got to direct in front of each other, I was just so in awe of how they (Kevin and Ty) trust the process. I was able to see how the end result will be richer by having patience with yourself and the performers as you move through creating something together
KM: I feel I’ve learned applicable hands-on things but I’ve been so inspired by seeing Ty and Bryn take on work that is so deeply personal to them. To see anyone step up to something that challenges them is inspiring. They have both been so open with the place they’d like to arrive but they can turn to me and ask if I’m freaking out like they are. These are people I would happily work for or alongside in the future in any capacity but also these are people I would just hang out on the weekend with.
TS: In the last year, I have met a lot of directors and artistic directors but having worked with Koovy [Kevin] and Bryn, they bring a genuine honesty and it moves me and inspires me and makes me feel that I can be as honest with my collaborators. They bring such magic to the work that they do, they hold space for people for learning and for them to learn to in the process. Greatest directors group I have ever been a part of.
The Paprika Festival
Paprika Festival is a youth-led professional performing arts organization. We run year round professional training and mentorship programs that culminate in a performing arts festival of new work by young artists.
—We generate opportunities for young artists to lead their own creative process with the support of their peers and professional mentors.
—We set the stage for young artists to have their voices heard in a setting that is supportive and also dependent on critical response.
—We ensure that young artists are well equipped to find employment in diverse cultural industries and to become our successors.
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May 14 – 20
Full Schedule here.