Six Questions for Brett Christopher

Brett Christopher, Theatre Kingston, Kingston, OntarioSince graduating from George Brown Theatre in 2001, Brett has worked with a variety of companies including: Canadian Stage, Stratford Festival, Buddies in Bad Times, Theatre by the Bay, Segal Centre, Thousand Islands Playhouse, Western Canada Theatre, Magnus Theatre, Sunshine Festival, Actors Repertory, and Convergence Theatre. He received the Masques and Mecca Awards for his performance of I Am My Own Wife at Montreal’s Segal Centre. He is the Artistic Producer of Theatre Kingston, sits on the Tett Centre Executive Board, and is the Chair of the City of Kingston’s Arts Advisory Committee.

1. Tell us about yourself, your background with respect to theatre and the performing arts and how you came to be involved in Theatre Kingston?

Well, I first got involved with theatre at KCVI in the early 90s – I was new to the city and it seemed like a great way to get to know people. After doing a (non-theatre) degree at Queen’s, I scooted to Toronto for theatre school and remained there for a decade working in the business as an actor and director. It was a great life full of incredible experiences on stage there and across the country. But when my wife and I decided we wanted to raise our kids in a smaller community, coming ‘home’ seemed the best option – especially since both us had parents (free babysitting) still living here. I have now been the Artistic Producer of Theatre Kingston for 3 years driven by the passion to make professional theatre at a level of quality that is akin to the work that happens in bigger urban centres. A big part of my role here in Kingston is to represent the national theatre community especially to emerging talents that may be interested in pursuing it as a profession and to help them in that pursuit.

2. Theatre Kingston’s next production is Elizabeth – Darcy, a two-woman adaptation of Pride & Prejudice. What drew the company to take on this particular, somewhat peculiar, venue-driven show?

When I saw Elizabeth-Darcy on tour, I knew that it would be a great selection for Kingston. It is a funny and smart take on the classic story and the acrobatic nature of the performances are really something to be marveled at. As a style, I’m really interested in site-specific work and the impact that this type of theatre is having on the art form as a whole.

3. Elizabeth – Darcy was created and is performed by two Kingston natives: Hallie Burt and Kate Werneburg, who critics have dubbed“experts at switching from role to role” and “virtuosos”. How important was it for Theathre Kingston to showcase this production and the homegrown talent responsible for bringing it to life?

Another step in that responsibility to Kingston’s theatre artists is to continue to follow them and support them after they’ve ‘left the nest’, so to speak. So, for a young Kingston-raised artist like Hallie Burt (one of the co-adapters and performers of Elizabeth-Darcy), I jumped at the chance to bring her show to Kingston and help her, both expand her audience for the production and also to celebrate the success she has achieved back in her own hometown. As part of the process for emerging artists in this community, it’s incredibly important for them to see that it is possible to make a living out there. Not to mention be one of the art form’s star performers. Kingston-raised Chilina Kennedy was just tabbed to play a leading role on Broadway, Maev Beaty is now a big name at Stratford (along with Randy Hughson & Shane Carty) – all Kingstonians. This community is a hotbed of talent and I want to help those who are looking to go all the way achieve that dream.

4. When Elizabeth-Darcy premiered in Toronto, it was performed at the historic Campbell House as part of Toronto Fringe 2013. The backdrop and host for the upcoming Kingston run is the majestic Frontenac Club Inn. What unique characteristics does this historic venue have, which lend itself well to this immersive show?

The run here will be slightly different and the team is currently working within the space to get it ready for the production. Campbell House is actually a museum and so the entire building is maintained as a historic venue with artifacts and ornamentation for the time period. On the other hand, the Frontenac Club Inn is a Victorian mansion that has been beautifully restored but also with modern touches that would anachronistic to the time period. Not to mention the fact that it is currently in operation, with people staying there overnight. For these reasons, Elizabeth-Darcy will primarily stay on the main floor and the focus here will be on the performances and the storytelling. The overall feel of the mansion serves as a wonderful backdrop but we were hesitant to use too many of the smaller spaces that have been modernized and might break the audience out of the story that is being told.

5. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a famous love story that is celebrated as one of her most loved books, and one of the greatest books of all time. Why do you think the story, themes and characters, which inspired this adaption resonate so much with audience members over two centuries after it was originally published?

Well I am a sucker for a tortured love story – Pride & Prejudice, Remains of the Day, The Mindy Project – as I think are most people. That tension between two people who are both struggling to connect is such a human story. I think it speaks to our deep need for the human bond. That having been said, our last play, Venus in Fur, was all about overt sexuality and sadomasochism, and it resonated with our audience as well. People are complicated.

6. As the Artistic Producer of Theatre Kingston, what sort of unique challenges did you encounter with this production? What creative solutions and immersive considerations were required to pull off a unique show such as this?

Specifically with this show, we are dealing with a venue that has never hosted a piece of theatre before so there is a lot of education around that, on both sides. Beare and Susan at the Frontenac Club Inn have been so enthusiastic about the idea of hosting the play from Day One. We really couldn’t have pulled this off without their incredible support. Marketing-wise, we have had to do a lot of talking about the nature of the format rather than the piece itself which is contrary to our normal modus operandi. But the innovative venue also opens up a lot of opportunities for us and is a great way of showing how synergistic local businesses and arts organizations can be if they put their minds together.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

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