Published on September 20th, 2012 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Kerry van der Griend – Director of The Spitfire Grill
Kerry van der Griend is the director of the 2012-2013 season opener at Pacific Theatre, The Spitfire Grill. An engaging mix of music and dialogue, the production represents a rewarding challenge for the director, who joined us to talk about his creative process.
What inspired you to take on this production?
I first encountered The Spitfire Grill 7 or 8 years ago. I didn’t see the film, I read the script. I knew it had been a film, and you sometimes wonder how an adaptation is going to be; but the script spoke to me, simply & clearly. And it is tightly written, efficient. And I like that. Then I heard recordings of the music and I was hooked. The score is beautiful. I love folk and bluegrass. The composition and lyric inspire me, and the storytelling of these songs is seamless.
Can you briefly walk us through your creative process for this production, from the early stages all the way to opening?
After falling in love with the story and the music, it took a couple years to find the right producing partners to make the show happen. As that fell into place and I continued to read the script, my intuition piqued on the idea of having the actors play instruments instead of having a full orchestra. Moving forward with this idea continues to inspire me, and has influenced design choices, casting, and the strong ensemble nature of this production.
Are there any books or specific authors that have been influential to you so far in your creative journey?
I acted in a production of Blood Brothers in 1999, and as part of my prep for that show I read a lot of Helen Forrester’s novels about wartime in Liverpool. That has served as deep background for this piece, as the name of the grill, Spitfire, comes from an airplane and the owner was a WWII fighter pilot.
What were the biggest challenges for you as a director in developing this production and how did you deal with them?
I talked about falling in love with a script. I also love the particular playing space at 12th and Hemlock in Vancouver that is Pacific Theatre. It is a 20 X 20 foot “alley” stage with 60 seats on either side of the onstage area, almost like a half “in-the-round”. Its intimacy attracts me, as does its limitations. Sets and staging need to accommodate sight lines for the audience. But these feel to me like the form of a structured poem, like a sonnet. The form demands you to fit your words into its rules, which inspires greater creativity. The space at Pacific Theatre with its limitations requires theatrical problem solving and inspires me to greater story telling.
What can you share about any future projects that are in development?
We hope this production of The Spitfire Grill may have life beyond its initial run at Pacific Theatre. I am also developing a short film script with a new local writer from her play The Selkie Wife that I directed at the Vancouver Fringe Festival in 2011.
The Spitfire Grill is now on at Pacific Theatre.