Kevin Sutley, MFA, BFA
Professor, Augustana - Fine Arts & Humanities
- (780) 679-1614
T004 Theatre Centre
4901-46 AveCamrose ABT4V 2R3
MFA (Directing) - University of Alberta 1999
BFA (Acting) - University of Alberta 1992
Theatre Studies Diploma - Red Deer College 1989
Member - Canadian Actor's Equity Association since 1994
I teach all things related to Theatre. My areas of specialization are Acting, Directing, Clown, Mask, Oral Communications and Theatre Creation. With Nathan Cuckow, I am Co-Artistic Director of Edmonton's premier independent theatre company, Kill Your Television.
My Creative Work: New Canadian Plays and Kill Your Television
As my CV indicates my research/creative work falls into three main categories: directing, dramaturgy and acting, with my primary mode of exploration being directing. Acting, however, is how I began in theatre and is essential to my understanding of the medium. With the theatre season and the University schedule running parallel to each other, there is little opportunity to find acting work. I have managed to keep an iron in the fire with university productions, a clown troupe I formed with 7 other artists, called The Pantoloonatics and more recently through the Edmonton summer Shakespeare company, Free Will Players.
Although I consider myself a director first I take on acting roles whenever possible. I believe there is a great benefit in challenging myself to continue acting, to take risks and, to again and again experience the humility of being a beginner — a lesson continually taught and learned. This humility relearned impacts my directing and my teaching. I am reminded of the physical and emotional vulnerability an actor feels and of the courage it takes to shed your fears and self-doubts and to invest fully in the moment. Student productions are also considered creative output but for the purpose of this document I will focus on my work in the profession. When directing students the primary goal is the students’ education and experience whereas the work produced with professional artists/collaborators must focus more on the creation and production of a piece of art. Outside of the acting projects I take on and the shows I produce through the university, I have two predominant concentrations in my work: to develop new Canadian plays both as a director and dramaturge and also to act as producer and co-artistic director with my own independent theatre company, Kill Your Television.
A Philosophy of Directing
For me, directing theatre is what at Augustana we call service leadership. My general attitude regarding theatre directing is that it is a secondary art form as opposed to playwriting and acting, which I consider primary forms. Directing is an interpretive art and so my work is undoubtedly marked by my unique point of view, but the underpinning or point of departure of any interpretation is the question, “What best serves the playwright and the actors?” There are many great directors who work from a strong conceptual basis, where the work of the playwright is made to serve the concept. This is not a value judgement of others’ work. I happen to work differently. I feel a deep responsibility to understand and represent the ideas of the playwright. I admire the work of many directors who are concept driven or director centred. I cannot say definitively that I never would or never have worked in this fashion, but at this point in my career my goals are different, not loftier, not purer, just different.
Kill Your Television — award winning theatre company with a unique mandate in Canadian Theatre
Originally Kill Your Television Theatre, Kill Your Television (KYT) began as an independent (read: no home, no money) theatre company. Co-founded by Chris Fassbender, Nathan Cuckow and me, Kill Your Television set off with the lofty goals of cultivating a new theatre audience. We would tap into what we saw as a pool of angry, passionate young people who did not view theatre as pertinent and introduce them to its relevance – to seduce, convert and indoctrinate them into the vital and expressive medium that we believed theatre to be. For nearly 20 years, Nathan and I have continued KYT’s mandate to present high quality, engaging, entertaining and thought-provoking theatrical productions, while showcasing the talents and encouraging the development of Edmonton-based artists. KYT productions often explore the experience of the other in our society. This mandate is unique among Canadian theatres. Examining the other may include how we other those in society who are not like us, either consciously or unconsciously, but also representing and giving voice to those whom we consider other, whether through belief systems, race, gender, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, poverty or socioeconomics.
In the current climate, issues of diversity, gender, sexual orientation, religious freedom and racial parity are at the forefront of Canadian Art. At KYT, we do not limit ourselves to a particular group or perspective but rather prefer an expanded vision of inclusion that allows us to bring focus to any marginalized person or group. In Canada and specifically in Edmonton, KYT is wholly distinct in its emphasis. We have a queer sensibility, an active curiosity about others and a keen interest in social justice. We work to explore personal connections and to create opportunities to tell relevant stories. We believe in shared experiences, representation, open communication and empathetic response — in humanizing humanity.
As a fifty-something, white male, I am deeply aware that I have a great deal of privilege in my community. As a theatre artist, I feel an enormous responsibility to contribute to my society, nurture the artistic ecology and find ways to share and redistribute the power I have fallen into. I must be diligent in listening to the voices of others and remaining open to the input of my artistic collaborators. Using theatre, I work to represent our diverse culture, reflect the human condition, examine our social circumstances and explore the many manifestations of humanity that may be actualized on the stage in a manner that challenges and confronts any complacency surrounding these issues.
Since its inception in 2001 KYT has been a leader in independent theatre in Edmonton and KYT productions been recognized by Edmonton’s professional theatre community with three Sterling Awards for Outstanding Production of a Collective, one for Outstanding Independent Production, one for Outstanding Fringe Production, and a further 28 Sterling Award nominations including 10 for Outstanding Independent Production, one for Outstanding new play and 6 for Outstanding Direction — this also includes several awards received by artists that collaborated on our productions.
Recent Theatre Projects
Directing Contracts and Co-presentations with Professional Theatre Companies
- Exit the King. Studio Theatre — May 2018
- Shakespeare’s R&J. Kill Your Television /Theatre Network — January 2018
- The Conversion. Kill Your Television Theatre/Fringe Theatre Adventures — May 2016
- The Ugly One. Kill Your Television Theatre/Fringe Theatre Adventures — May 2015
- Victor and Victoria’s Terrifying Tale of Terrible Things. Kill Your Television Theatre/One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre (Calgary) — October/November 2014
- The Crackwalker. Kill Your Television Theatre/Fringe Theatre Adventures — May 2014
- Hamlet (King Hamlet/ Gravedigger). Free Will Players. *Marianne Copithorne— July 2018
- Comedy of Errors (Duke Solinus). Free Will Players. *Dave Horak— July 2018
- Medea (Creon/ Tutor ). University of Alberta. *Dorian Lang – Oct. 2017
- The Well of Beautiful Dances (Man). StageLab, Creative Research Festival. *Kathleen Weiss— September 2016
- As You Like It (Duke Senior). Free Will Players. *Marianne Copithorne— July 2015
- Coriolanus (As Cast). Free Will Players. *Jim Guido— July 2015
- Taming of the Shrew. (Vincentio). Free Will Players. *Marianne Copithorne – July 2014
APPROACH TO TEACHING: Philosophy, Goals and Strategies
- “…Augustana Faculty is characterized by a lively, collegial academic culture of
research, creativity, and public engagement in which students are invited to
participate… Augustana offers the opportunity of a memorable, life-changing
education through small classes, personal attention from professors, a challenging,
innovative curriculum founded on the liberal arts and sciences… Augustana aspires
to educate the whole person in an intimate, small-campus setting so that students
and mentors alike are capable of engaging life with intellectual confidence and
imaginative insight, equipped for leadership and service, and committed to the
betterment of their world.”
– From the Augustana statement of “Mission and Identity”
As a teacher, I find inspiration in this statement. Augustana is an undergraduate campus in a small prairie city. Frequently our students have similar rural backgrounds with conservative values, and limited previous exposure to the arts or professional performance. They come to drama because it was fun in high school, where they learned to do “theatre sports” with the ultimate goal of coming up with a “funny skit”. Many are taken aback by the idea of drama homework and the rigours involved in theatre study. At the same time, though, these same students often bring a strong sense of community and can be surprisingly receptive to new experiences. Those with a strong community sense provide a solid foundation for building healthy ensembles – supportive micro-communities that allow for play and encourage creativity. However, similarity does not imply uniformity: each student is unique, and in every class I find myself teaching a diverse group of individuals with wide-ranging talents, abilities, strengths and needs. The mission statement speaks to educating “the whole person”. In drama we are uniquely positioned to achieve this end. Our work focuses not only on the intellectual, but also on the physical, vocal, intuitive, creative and emotional aspects of the individual.
In theatre the pursuit, discovery and representation of truth or, more precisely, verisimilitude is our principal objective. As artists we search inside ourselves for the basic truths of character, of relationship, of each precise moment. No matter how supportive the particular ensemble, the search for truth is a solitary and personal procedure that can leave one feeling exposed and vulnerable. As we proceed on this path we confront our personal baggage: the masks we wear in our relationships, our emotional histories, our values, our boundaries, our psychic scars, our definitions of self and our fears of shame and failure. The creative artist can best commit openly and honestly to this process in an environment of trust and an atmosphere of respect.
As a teacher I see myself as a guide, assisting explorers on their personal journeys. As such it is a benefit to know something of the individual student, to have an understanding of who s/he is in order to be sensitive to his/her humanity. Communication is the key to this relationship, while trust and mutual respect are its cornerstones. Augustana’s interdisciplinary, liberal arts mandate directly coincides with my vision of the theatre: a group of diverse people bring together dissimilar backgrounds, experiences and knowledge to create a community, where the whole of their human interaction outweighs the sum of their individual talents. In order for such a community to thrive, there are several necessary ingredients, including
1. An understanding of a common goal and a personal investment toward its achievement;
2. Strong leadership, tempered with flexibility and compassion;
3. And what Joseph Campbell might describe as “the heroic will” to venture out from beyond the safety of that which is known or familiar, into the ‘dark forest’ of personal doubts and fears.