|John P. Kelly|
When asked why he feels Ireland is famous worldwide for its theatre creation he says “the Irish are storytellers, with a history of the Bard held at the highest levels of society. It is deep within us to be storytellers.” But not this Irishman, he laughingly says, “I couldn’t write, apparently I was not much of an actor, so I demoted myself to being a director.”
John moved to Canada in 2004 from Ireland expecting to be in demand as a director here, but he got quite a surprise. “I was quite big-headed when I came here,” he says. “I’d been directing all my life, but nobody had a job for me. Everyone was friendly and polite but I was pushed from Artistic Director to Artistic Director.” Eighteen months later, he took the lead from the story of the Little Red Hen: “I’ll do it myself, said the Little Red Hen!” He hired a night club in Ottawa that was empty until the crowds would arrive around 10:00pm, and he produced a play beginning each evening at 7.30pm. And thus SevenThirty Productions was born!
Over the last 11 years, he has directed about thirty-five shows in Ottawa, over twenty of those produced by SevenThirty Productions. He has on three separate occasions been named top director by the Ottawa Critics and last year his production of David Mamet’s November garnered the top overall production award. Known for his willingness to take risks and challenges with few resources (as with his Noises Off and The 39 Steps), his next production, The Norman Conquests by Alan Ayckbourn, may stretch even him. Here he will direct three plays in one, all three being performed in rep. Again he laughs, “Some say I am quite mad! Some may be right!”
|John P. Kelly adjudicating at Theatre|
Ontario Festival 2013 in Kingston
Clearly, John P. Kelly is a natural teacher. He has led workshops all over Ontario, including at Theatre Ontario. “Those courses may be fun, but they are full of hard work for all concerned.” Even though everyone attends to hear Kelly share his knowledge, he has learned over the years that “the best workshop is the one which changes direction in the middle from where the tutor intended to take it … I have had sessions which have gone nowhere because I took too much risk and allowed too much freedom. It is a learning process all the time. And it is an exciting process. What a wonderful experience a good workshop can be!”
When asked if would see himself leaving Canada, he says, “I have been told several times that the great thing about Canada is that it is not finished yet. There is still space for people to keep on building. I wish I could contribute here for another hundred years – except each Winter!”
That’s good news for the theatre community particularly in Ontario. We’re not finished with John P. Kelly either.