Lunchbox Theatre showcases up-and-coming director’s talents with Ride

Paul Welch takes his turn riding the RBC Emerging Director’s Series wave at the local company.

Although the regular season has started to wrap up for most of the theatre companies in Calgary, rest assured that there are still some great shows to catch in its final days.

At the end of each of its seasons, Lunchbox Theatre presents the work of an up-and-coming young director through the RBC Emerging Director’s Showcase — this year’s aspiring director being Paul Welch, who has worked with Lunchbox throughout the year.

We at theYYSCENE wanted to find out a bit more about Welch, this opportunity with Lunchbox, and his chosen play, Jane Bodie’s Ride.

Q: Give us a little bit of background on you and your introduction to, and interest in directing.

A: I am a professional actor, director, writer, and arts educator, and I work with developmentally traumatized teens with multiple psychological presentations. I have been pursuing this field for the past 18 years, and I have received several recognitions for my work — two Betty Mitchell Awards and two other nominations, a Critter Award and several other nominations, I was chosen as the Enbridge Emerging Artist in 2014, and honoured as an Avenue Magazine Top 40 Under 40. (I was given) the opportunity to direct when I facilitated two theatre creation ensembles, and my interest was ignited. I then pursued other opportunities to direct, most notably Red Riding Hood at StoryBook Theatre, and Of Mice and Men and A Streetcar Named Desire for Spirit Fire Theatre.

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Q: Being chosen as this season’s RBC Emerging Director is, I’m sure, quite an honour. What was the process that you went through for this?

A: There was a formal application process, which then resulted in a round of interviews … and we were tasked with pitching a play and discussing all elements of the piece that would be of interest in a production at Lunchbox Theatre. This presents the opportunity for a director to communicate their professional aesthetic and methodologies, in an effort to demonstrate a level of proficiency suited to benefit most from this sort of mentorship opportunity.

Q: Having assisted in directing four plays for Lunchbox this past season, do you feel that it has prepared you for your solo directorial debut? Are you excited to be calling all of the shots?

A: It was a huge gift having the opportunity to receive mentorship and develop a professional working relationship with four different directors in our community; each have different styles and approaches, but each were very successful in executing their final product. This taught me that there was no “right” way to direct, that I could continue to develop my own personal approach and style, and find my own voice. My showcase piece has been the perfect vehicle to do just that, to run a process the way I would most love to work, and focus on the theatrical elements that I crave to see in the work on our stages. It is a great gift to be able to have this opportunity to step into the spotlight and tell the community that this is the kind of work that I’m interested in, and this is how I intend to contribute to the community. I am so excited to share this work.

Q: What made you choose Jane Bodie’s Ride to direct?

A: I went through an extensive reading process, and had submitted a couple of scripts that ultimately weren’t best suited to the Lunchbox audience. It is a real challenge finding scripts that meet a variety of criteria. I found elements in Jane Bodie’s Ride that intrigued me —the nature of memory, conflict cycles, trauma, and the stress model of conflict. I felt there was something cool we could discover and peel back, and hopefully authentically demonstrate the human complexities of traumatic relationships and conflict cycles in a theatrically viable manner. It’s been a great joy meshing all of my interests into an artistic project, while facilitating two exceptionally talented young performers in Amy Sawka and Oscar Derkx.

Q: Ride has been described as a “romantic who-dunnit.” Do you think that romance still plays a part in today’s social media-obsessed society?

A: Ride deals with a different kind of romance: the sort of vulnerable, magical romance that only happens with strangers — the people you barely know. Our hearts and minds and growth and deficit needs are craving something special to make it all OK, and that can trigger our imagination to run wild and seduce us with romance that is truly spontaneous. Ride explores this, and I think the feeling is fairly universal — we all, in our own way, have found our own versions of romance, at least once in our lives. It is a deeply personal thing, but I feel like the way we’ve approached these themes (is) with love and care and hopefully the impact is universal.

Q: What’s up next for you?

A: Next season, I will be joining the team at Vertigo Theatre as their Apprentice Director for the 2017/18 season. This connection with Craig Hall was made when I assisted him on It’s a Wonderful Life: a Live Radio Play. Craig is interested in equipping emerging directors with the skill set to direct for a 300-plus person theatre. Each size of theatre space demands certain challenges, and in our community it can be very hard getting experience in houses larger than 50 patrons. Both the RBC Emerging Director opportunity at Lunchbox and the opportunity at Vertigo Theatre has given me the opportunity to gain experience in two larger houses, hopefully therefore demonstrating a level of competency to create directing opportunities at these levels. It is amazing how the connections made through these mentorship opportunities can have a lasting effect. I am left feeling supported by my community.

Ride runs at Lunchbox Theatre June 1 & 2, tickets and info available at

Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and has continued to bring event listings to Calgary through theYYSCNEE and her website, The Culture Cycle. Contact her at