Friday, August 28, 2009

I Interview Playwrights Part 43: Christina Ham

Christina Ham

Hometown: Los, Angeles, California

Current Town: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Q: What are you working on right now?:

A: Two full-lengths - "The Tiny Soldier" which is a classic ghost tale (with a twist) and "Tar's Children" which is an apocalpytic tale set in a truck stop. Q: How long have you been in Minneapolis and where did you move from?: A: I've been in Minneapolis for 4 years now. I moved here from Los Angeles, California after receiving the Jerome Fellowship.

Q: Tell me a little bit about what you do at the Playwrights' Center:

A: I am the Program Coordinator for the Many Voices Residency Fellowship Program that's funded by the Jerome Foundation. I facilitate weekly workshops for beginning and emerging playwrights that allow them to hone their craft. In addition, I am constantly looking for opportunities to network with theaters where the artists whose work is being developed at the Center could grow beyond our walls and ultimately be produced.

Q: Could you tell my audience how you got involved in writing plays for children? How many of those have you written now? What do you like about it?:

A: When I first moved to Minneapolis for the Jerome Fellowship I was commissioned by the Guthrie Theater to go into a regional high school and work with the students to develop a one-act play. I worked with a group of drama students at St. Francis High School in St. Francis, MN to develop my play "County Line" that was published by PlayScripts. That was my first opportunity to write for a children and I thoroughly enjoyed the process. So far I have written four (I wrote one while in graduate school at UCLA, the one for the Guthrie, and the two I've been commissioned to do for SteppingStone). I am in the process of preparing to write another one for SteppingStone who has commissioned me once again. What I like about writing for children is that it really frees you up to have fun on the page and really let your imagination run wild. It really asks you to use the "play" part in playwriting. In addition, it allows you to teach life lessons to kids in a way that will hopefully have an indelible impact on their lives.

Q: What kind of theater excites you?:

A: Theater that really wants to take chances. I know people throw that phrase around a lot in our line of work, but I really mean it. I don't like seeing things that have clearly been done over and over again. Theater that takes place in unusual worlds or plays with language and structure is always interesting to me. I do believe there's a place as well for the classic kitchen sink play, but that's not the kind of theater I generally gravitate towards.

Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?:

A: Try many different types of things on the page. Keep writing and, as I always tell my residents, the advice Jose Rivera gives to playwrights -- strive to be your own genre. There's nothing worse than reading a new writer who's trying to imitate someone else. Don't be afraid to be yourself. Plugs: Cold reading of "Tar's Children" coming up at Penumbra Theatre. Production of "Henry's Freedom Box" at SteppingStone Theater in February 2010, and a production of "After Adam" at Luna Stage in Fall 2010.

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