Recently graduated from Langara’s Studio 58, Kevin Bennett considers himself extremely lucky having found work in his chosen field right out of school. Now working as assistant director on Theatre Terrific’s upcoming show Dirty White, we caught up with Kevin between rehearsals to not only talk about the show, but also hear about his own Limbo Circus Theatre company and some thoughts on coming out.
Tell us about Dirty White. What can audiences expect?
Dirty White is a modern myth. I think audiences can expect a sort of style similar to Mary Zimmerman’s relatively recent adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In fact I think Ovid’s Metamorphoses was an inspiration for Susanna in the writing of this piece. I think people can expect a story that is large in thought, but is very human. The characters, be they gods, people, birds, are all very human … and very modern. Which is what makes this story so interesting.
From what I understand the play deals with technology and how it has replaced human contact to some extent. Are you more technologically plugged in than humanly plugged in yourself?
I would say I am one of the few in my generation that is sort of the opposite. I barely know how to use my iPod and I don’t think I will ever have an iPhone (as cool as I think they are). I like to have things on paper, such as my organizer, and I enjoy writing in a journal. So I’m not too plugged into technology in that way. I would say I can get trapped on Facebook sometimes though … I always threaten to quit the damn thing, but it never seems to pan out.
You are Assistant Director for Dirty White – tell us about your role as an Assistant Director.
Assistant Directing varies greatly depending on the director for a play. I’ve Assistant Directed a few plays now so I have learned that I basically need to carve out a role for myself. I describe it as I “assist the direction” of the play. So rather than actually assisting the director I aid the direction. This can fall into many categories, but the biggest one is working with actors. In today’s theatre with our budget cuts, and minimal rehearsal time I often find myself working with actors in a secondary rehearsal room (which can be anything from an actual room to a hallway!) on scenes that need more work. In addition I try to tune in to what the director wants and channel my direction through their vision.
Susanna Uchatius is director but she is also the playwright. What is it like to work with a director that is also the playwright?
I actually find this type of relationship the most exciting. I’ve done it before with Kendra Fanconi and The Only Animal and I think it can be very valuable to have someone focusing on the direction of a play who has not written the words. I find that a certain removal from the text (not being the writer) gives me a different perspective that is sometimes hard to find as a writer because you are so inside the play. It’s all in your head. So I often can make observations based on my analysis of the play that are very different compared to what the playwright/director is thinking.
Theatre Terrific has a pretty amazing mission to “create theatre where artists of all abilities are seen, heard, challenged and respected”. Tell us more about Theatre Terrific’s role in the theatre community and why it is important.
What excites me about Theatre Terrific is that you get to work with a group of people that are so unique that the experience is never the same from day to day. And I find that having a mix of professional actors, non-actors, people with various challenges, and people with no challenges, makes the experience really special. As a director it’s exciting because I have to constantly be changing my language and how I talk to the performers. When directing at my old theatre school, for example, everyone speaks the same theatrical language and has been trained by basically all the same teachers. Whereas I am finding myself constantly changing the way I talk to performers based on the individual and that has really exciting, and in a way, challenged me.
How did you get involved with Theatre Terrific?
I am lucky enough to have gone to school with Theatre Terrific’s general manager Nina Hirlander-Hinton, and to have worked with her as a director when she designed costumes for my production of Macbeth last august.a
You are a relatively recent graduate of Langara’s Studio 58. What’s life been like ‘outside’ for you? What have you been up to?
I feel extremely lucky. I basically jumped into a few theatre jobs right upon graduating. I’ve worked as Assistant Director with The Only Animal on a couple projects, one of which was NiX, in Whistler, for the Cultural Olympiad, and I got a job with Theatre Replacement in February, which led right into rehearsals for Dirty White. So I’ve been keeping busy which is exciting. I also had a couple weeks off so I went to Toronto to visit my parents and had a great time going wine tasting out at Niagara, and seeing some shows out there and just hanging out.
Your own Limbo Circus Theatre company did Macbeth last year. Any plans for more from LCT?
Yes! We will be producing a production of Hamlet in November at the Havana Theatre on Commercial Drive. It’s funny when we founded the company we never planned to do Shakespeare. Our first production was actually a physical theatre, movement based collaboration about the deaths of childhood/family pets. Since then I’m beginning to feel like we are doing something unique with our Shakespeare productions because we are producing Shakespeare in a way that audiences don’t get that often in Vancouver. Working with extreme intimacy, simplicity, and in the east side of Vancouver are some of the things that set us apart from other companies. It’s an exciting way to do Shakespeare and I am thrilled to be tackling Hamlet as our next venture.
Being out in the arts world is usually seen as pretty safe. Is this your experience? Have you experienced any difficulties as an out gay man in terms of your work?
All in all I’d say it’s pretty great. I wouldn’t say I’ve really encountered any difficulties… In fact it’s not even really something I think about, ever. Which is glorious. I think that’s the way it should be.
Tell us about your own coming out story.
I won’t get into the little details about my coming out story but I came out when I was 17 to my parents. .. probably about 15 or 16 to my friends. I am very lucky to have grown up in a family that is liberal and young at heart and doesn’t have any prejudices. I would say (and this is for parents and their kids) that the most important thing, is that communication is so important. Even if it seems extremely awkward or weird or hard in any way, communicating with friends/family/loved ones is really important.
What’s next for Kevin Bennett?
I start rehearsals for Much Ado About Nothing with Bard on the Beach two days after opening. I’m Assistant Director on this project with Dean Paul Gibson directing. Can’t wait! In addition to that I’ll be doing my never ending prep for Hamlet and I’m also directing some one acts at Templeton Secondary School – my high-school drama teacher has been kind enough to hire me back as a grad to work with the students.
22 April – 1 May 2010
A reimagining of Ovid’s The Raven and the Crow, dirty white by Susanna Uchatius, is a sensual parable that sets the natural world against the purity of ideas; the physical against the heavenly. Tickets are available by calling 604.251.1365 or online at www.thecultch.com; $20 Adults; $15 students and seniors. April 27th: Pay What You Can; April 28th: 2-4-1.