Torontonian Clinton Walker has flown into the Yukon to direct another play at The Guild Hall.
The new production The Book of Esther, by Leanna Brodie, is his fifth directorial project in five years up here. And this one hits pretty close to home for Walker.
Set in the early 1980s, The Book of Esther is about 15-year-old Esther who runs away to escape the family farm in Ontario during the farm debt crisis.
Walker shares a strikingly similar life story as of the young heroine. Brought up as a deeply religious child in a small town from Ontario, he recalls the tough decision he had to make.
“I had to determine whether I wanted to join the arts, or become a priest,” he says.
So he ran away to Toronto at 16 to figure out who he was, just like Esther.
“It was really weird reading The Book of Esther for the first time. I kind of thought that (playwright) Leanna had stolen my history a little bit.”
He’s bringing a straightforward directorial-style to the production, in sync with the tone of the play.
“There’s a simplicity to The Book of Esther which I was drawn to right away,” he says. “What we strive to do day after day is to check in with ourselves: Are we telling the story properly? Are we doing justice to these characters? Although it may seem like a simple process, it can actually be complicated when you’re dealing with great story telling.”
Cast in the lead role of Esther is 18-year-old Santana Berryman, who is involved with writing science fiction in addition to acting.
“One of the things I love about The Guild is that it becomes a training ground for people in the arts, and Santana’s a perfect example of someone who loves performing arts,” Walker says. “Through The Guild, you can experiment with all sorts of positions and responsibilities, and in that way, whether you’re using it as a pathway to become a professional artist, or whether you’re using it as a playground because you love the craft, and you’re a community player, it serves all sorts of purposes for different kinds of people.”
Berryman is excited to be bringing the role of Esther to life – it is giving her another perspective on her own writing.
“I find that theatre is story telling at its heart,” she says. “Really, it’s an extension of writing for me. It’s all about scene and character, discovering what your character wants in the scene. It’s very much like writing a story, except you’re telling a story that’s already written.”
This is Berryman’s first significant role in a Guild production; she is a rookie among a diverse cast.
“For me personally, it’s been an honour and a privilege working with these veteran actors,” she says. “I’ve learned so much, and I’ve really come to know them on a very personal level, because we spend most of our week together. So I’ve come to be become really good friends with these people.”
Despite being raised without her character’s faith, Berryman finds it easy to relate to the soul-searching Esther.
“I think that anyone… who’s been a young person trying to find their way in the world is going to relate to Esther,” says Berryman. “It’s a story about family, and in a that way, the cast has become like a family. It’s been really exciting.”
The Guild presents The Book of Esther runs from February 13 to March 1 at the Guild Hall in Porter Creek. For more information go to www.GuildHall.ca.