Kerry Rodgers is a 28-year-old Youth Arts Worker, freelance director and drama teacher. Born in South Africa, she has moved back to her childhood home and now lives in Holywood as currently working with BOC as the Director for The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Kerry grew up with a love for the performing arts, and enjoyed a number of volunteering opportunities which then led to work. At only seventeen, Kerry directed her first musical for a youth drama company, in a primary school hall, which then progressed to full scale musicals in venues such as The Mac Belfast, Waterfront Studio and the Ulster Hall and for the past ten years, she has been the in house director for Ravara Productions. This got her work seen by a range of audiences and has opened the doors to new and exciting directing opportunities within Northern Ireland such as her current project with BOC.
What genre / style do you create in?
I am a director of theatre, mostly musical theatre, and I love to explore a show in a fresh and collaborative way, always considering the intention and message behind each piece and asking my cast and audience to see it from a new perspective.
What would you be best known for?
I would hope that I am known for looking at the theatre and creating in a different way than expected. One of my most recent shows was Little Shop of Horrors in the Mac Belfast which allowed me to explore the man-eating plant as a symbol of social media in 2022. We used a large video wall and Bluetooth video camera to follow around our actress who played the plant to represent an all-seeing social media presence. In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I am dealing with issues such as inclusion and disability in a really sensitive way whilst retaining the entertainment factor.
What would you consider your biggest achievement?
This is a difficult question to answer as I tend to look back at the shows that I have done and consider how I could improve. I would say maybe the work that I did while achieving my Master’s degree in Making Performance was perhaps my biggest achievement as I had to write, direct and produce it completely alone, which, as an avid team player proved, though very rewarding, equally challenging.
What would you consider to be the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your industry?
Due to a lot of my work centring around young people I think the biggest lesson that I have learnt is to come to every new production and into every rehearsal space with an open and collaborative mind. It is much easier to follow each note and direction I have made prior to rehearsal and stick to it staunchly however to allow actors and other team members to feel ownership of the work it is really important to give them the space to interpret their characters and jobs in an organic way, even if it may not be exactly as I had planned.
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
Every production brings its own challenges, whether that be to keep within tight budgets, time frames or working with different groups. I think maintaining a social life with my full-time job as a Youth Arts Worker and ensuring I give as much time and priority to my freelance work as a director will always be a challenge (as well as a joy!).
Tell us a little about your personal life, are you married, kids, hobbies etc?
I recently got married on the beach in Donegal, with a host of nieces and nephews in tow as well as my two gorgeous dogs, Pip and Koa. I love sea swimming, paddle boarding and watching absolute rubbish on the TV.
Tell us about your most recent work?
My most recent work was actually a pantomime with about 40 young people, aged 11-18 years, performed in Rainbow Factory, Belfast. It was such a joy and my first time directing a pantomime. I loved to see the confidence of the young people as they made brave choices about their characters, for many it being the first time they’d ever performed.
What would you like us to tell people about?
I have the joy to be directing Hunchback of Notre Dame with Belfast Operatic Company which is in the opera house from the 7-11th March. It is an exciting and fresh piece of theatre that has not been widely performed in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The show has been written with a story theatre format which allows the director and cast freedom against naturalism as we see each and every set change and allow ourselves to believe that perhaps a bench is a bench for one scene, then quickly becomes the rafters of the cathedral for the following scene. I am really loving working with this company for the first time and with such an important show which is as relevant today as it was when Victor Hugo first wrote the novel.
‘Showcasing themes such as faith, power, discrimination, isolation, and sacrifice, The Hunchback of Notre Dame offers a powerful message of acceptance that will resonate with each member of your production and audience. Its rich and multifaceted layers – including complex representations of disability, women, and Roma (or “Gypsies,” as they are referred to in the show)’.
I’m really proud of how the show is progressing and with a cast of 40 plus a choir it’s going to be big, entertaining and relevant – Please come along and see us – you can get tickets at www.goh.co.uk
If you had to describe your work to someone who has never heard of you what would you say?
I’m rubbish at questions like this! I really try to bring out the best in the cast and team that I can, always asking for bravery. I try to be as creative as the piece allows, while remaining true to the message and narrative. I am a BIG FAN of a speedy show, no slow set changes for me.
What’s the funniest experience you’ve had in your business?
Honestly, I try to laugh in every rehearsal room as much as possible, creating a warm and fun atmosphere is important to me as a director. This of course can lead to chaos and laughs, to pinpoint one funniest memory is definitely a struggle. The cast of Hunchback of Notre Dame are wonderfully funny, it’s such a joy to walk into the rehearsal room, ready to work but always enjoy the fun.
What would your advice be to young people hoping to pursue the same industry?
I work with young people full-time in the arts which means I get to share this advice a lot! Be brave, make bold choices and get as involved in as much as you can. Always be true to yourself and the art, take ownership of your work and remain as unapologetic as you can (even though I struggle with this myself!), also BE KIND, the world can be mean, let’s not make art the same.
Anything else you want to tell people about yourself or your work?
I have had amazing mentors and tutors in my studies who I have learnt a lot from, and I feel privileged to have been able to work under them. Genuinely each new cast and team are amazing inspiration as they make brilliant and brave choices.
Who do you look up to and why?
In terms of other theatre directors and companies, I am a big fan of Frantic Assembly as they push the boundaries of physical theatre, always giving an exciting and fresh look at theatre with really exciting stand-out moments.