Ceilidh Wood wants to be a director. “It’s the thing I could spend 24/7 doing,” she admits during our discussion of Amigo’s Blue Guitar. Most of her directing work has been in high school, for which she has won numerous awards, but now Ceilidh is bringing her vision and her passion to UofT. She spoke to me today about the show, Canadian theatre, her directing style, and the challenges of directing a play on campus.
One of the challenges in particular which Ceilidh faces is working with a script that is not widely-known. Straying from the safer and more popular course of Shakespeare and the classics, she has opted instead to work with a contemporary piece which is rarely produced. Amigo’s was selected in part because it is Canadian, a feature which Ceilidh thinks is under-appreciated in campus theatre, and because she found it powerful. “It’s almost an issue-based play,” she explains, but it also gives us “a chance to show some empathy” for the characters and their diverse, complex perspectives. “Joan MacLeod is a great Canadian writer, and she takes us inside the world of all these characters, and shows us that everything is not black and white; it’s not simple.”
Ceilidh’s appreciation of the complexity and nuance of character has helped to define her direction of Amigo’s Blue Guitar. She conducts improvisational exercises and co-ordinates group discussions with her actors. Her goal is to bring depth not only to the piece, but to each individual character as well, to ensure that they are always “present,” as she puts it. When one of her performers said that he disliked his character, Ceilidh talked him through the process of finding all of Sander’s sides, likeable and unpleasant alike. She even sought out Guillermo Verdecchia, the Governor General’s Award-winning playwright and actor who had appeared in the original production of Amigo’s. “I said ‘Hey Guillermo, I wonder if you would talk to my actor who’s doing this role.’” He couldn’t, she adds, because he was so busy.
But then, so is Ceilidh. Her directing approach is not limited to character development; she also works closely with her creative team and is involved in every aspect of the show. Although her goal has been to remain true to the script, to “reveal [MacLeod’s] ideas and her text,” Ceilidh and her team have faced difficulties realizing the show they’ve envisioned. When they found that the lighting of the George Ignatieff Theatre would make a part of their set impractical, they had to re-work their ideas in an instant. Problems with blocking and the demands of a short tech rehearsal period have also required creative flexibility. As she speaks about her enthusiasm and dedication for direction, and endless insight into Canadian theatre, it is clear that Ceilidh is up to the challenge.