Only two years old and already a 10-time award winner.
No, we’re not describing the second coming of Meryl Streep, but rather By the Book Theatre, the company actor Mark Killeen founded in 2014.
After winning four Brickenden Awards for the 2014 production of A Few Good Men, the company was showered with six more for last year’s hit Of Mice and Men during the Jan. 25 ceremony at the Wolf Performance Hall.
The Brickenden Awards celebrate the excellence of independent theatre in London.
“It’s so surreal. You don’t go into the arts thinking you’re going to be a success,” Killeen said. “I hadn’t even really thought about what success would be. I just did it because I loved doing it. For me, first and foremost, is if the audiences like what we do.”
It certainly seems audiences — and Brickenden voters — have warmed up to his brand of theatre.
A Few Good Men garnered Outstanding Director for Killeen, along with awards for drama, supporting actor and sound.
By the Book Theatre led the way this year with Killeen again taking Outstanding Director.
The company was also honoured with wins for male lead actor (Rob Deman), male supporting actor (David Bogaert), set design (Rob Deman) and lighting (Stephen Mitchell).
Winning awards, at least for Killeen, isn’t something that feels particularly natural.
In fact, at the 2014 awards, he was hopeful the company would get recognized, but he didn’t think he would win Outstanding Director.
In classic theatre tradition, he wasn’t even going to prepare a speech until his friend David Bogaert said he better think of something to say, just in case.
He jotted down a few thoughts beforehand and then ad-libbed the rest after his name was called.
At this year’s ceremony, he also didn’t think he stood a chance of winning.
Still, something told him it would be a good idea to write some thoughts down ahead of time and tuck them into his pocket — again, just in case.
“I knew I was in an elite group, so I knew my shot was going to be tough,” Killeen said. “I was shocked when I heard my name. I had to (pinch) myself before I stood up to go on stage. It’s a surreal thing when you aren’t expecting something and it arrives.”
Now that his plays have won 10 awards in two years, Killeen admits to feeling pressure around whatever he does next.
He has purchased the rights to both The Weir, by Conor McPherson, and A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams.
The problem is, for The Weir, he doesn’t have a venue to play it in.
Killeen chose to produce the play at the same time as the London Fringe Festival, meaning all the traditional theatre spaces have been booked up.
Still, he has been working to “try and invent something” and is in the process of talking to several people about possible venues.
But whenever the next show hits the stage, that pressure to succeed is going to be there too. Fortunately for Killeen, he believes the quality of the people around him continues to be the company’s strength.
“I’ve been really lucky to surround myself with incredibly talented people. I give them a lot of leeway,” Killeen said. “But as a producer of a show, even as a director, you have to have the ability to say no to people. You have to stick to your vision.”