Volume 93, Issue 17
Tuesday, September 28, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Handerek has Grand entrance
Gazette file photo
RIGHT ABOUT NOW, THE FUNK SOUL BROTHER. Check it out now Kelly Handerek, new director of the Grand Theatre, brings his enthusiasm and love of the stage to London.
By Sara Martel
In a world where words like deficit, funding and profit are more prominent than passion, creativity and talent, it is invigorating to meet someone like Kelly Handerek.
Listening to the newly appointed artistic director of the Grand Theatre as he talks about community, humanity and emotions, it's hard to believe the voice belongs to an individual largely responsible for the fiscal success of a major London business.
Handerek's ardent appreciation for theatre and his interest in sharing it with the whole community is what will actually help him get the job done.
Rather than separating the hard-nosed, commercial facet of the business from the entertainment side of it, Handerek recognizes the practical need to keep people coming back.
"Over the past three years the theatre has received successive cuts in operating grants and at the time, some of the audience has not been as supportive as in the past," he explains. "It can be finances that dictate why people can't be [as supportive], because they are particularly strapped, or it might be that the programming hasn't lit the fire for them. So, we have to find the programming within my first season, which is 2000-2001, that does ignite this community. I hope Londoners will fall in love again with this theatre."
Gerald Lenton-Young, director of the drama department at the University of Regina, has worked with Handerek when he was a voice coach and acting instructor at the school. He readily acknowledges Handerek's commitment to audiences. "I think he'll bring some very exciting productions to [the Grand] ones that will excite those who go see them and will keep people coming back to the theatre," Lenton-Young enthuses. "Kelly is so dedicated to bringing people the theatre they will enjoy."
The veteran is also interested in luring a wide variety of people from all realms of political belief, sexuality, economic status, gender and age to the theatre.
"In the past it has had a slight air of elitism and the sense that 'Oh, you must not come in the doors unless you're well dressed or making a certain lot of money in a year.' Those things don't interest me," Handerek stresses. "I don't think they interest many of us anymore. I want people to know that the theatre is here. It is London's Grand Theatre, it's a place for all people."
Handerek's tremendous drive to create accessible community theatre played a major role in his appointment to the position, says Glenda Pennington, chair of the Grand's selection committee.
"It's quite electric when you meet Kelly, because he's got immense energy and a passion for the role of arts in the community and the theatre in particular. He is the person we feel the Grand needs right now, because he really wants to reach out into the community, he wants to make the Grand much more part of the London community," Pennington adds.
Backing up the energy and ambition of the Alberta native is a long and distinguished resume. Pennington admits Handerek's extensive and diverse experience with reputed venues such as the Globe Theatre and the Stratford Festival also caught the collective eye of the committee.
Handerek's stage experience is not limited to the administrative side of things he has also enjoyed stints as a director, singer, actor, dancer and choreographer.
Ask him why he has remained so dedicated to theatre and his voice takes the tone of a child talking about Christmas.
"For me it is all about being in a place full of light and sound, full of vividness of either passionate acting or beautiful costumes or amazing effects of scenery and always a great story," he marvels.
"It attracts me because it is the only place where my heart and my head are entertained simultaneously. It has been a place where I have a chance to grow, to think, to breath, to laugh, to love and to live. Everything I program will reflect an aspect of that."
Copyright © The Gazette 1999