Thursday, February 04, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 114: Krista Knight

Krista Knight

Hometown: Portola Valley, CA

Current Town: La Jolla, CA

Q: What are you working on now?

A: We are about to start rehearsals for my play PHANTOM BAND in March (for the Baldwin New Play Festival here at UCSD) and there’s lots afoot with casting and designer meetings and the like. I’m starting something new so I won’t prematurely metabolize that play before we get into the rehearsal room. I’m alternating between a silent opera about a house painter obsessed with the family of a house he used to paint, and a play called SALAMANDER LEVIATHAN about a farmer named Salamander Leviathan who is being successively bled by the town schoolteacher in 19th century Wisconsin. I’m going to hear both tomorrow so I’m hoping one will float to the surface and make itself apparent as a play worth pursuit.

Q: You're getting an MFA at UCSD right now. What's that program like?

A: I love it. Naomi Iizuka (who runs the Playwriting program) is freaking fantastic. I really can’t say enough about how much she’s done for my writing and the way I approach theater. She makes me scared and excited and totally over-enthused about writing and play-making in discussion. Scared in a good way. In a – UH OH we’re going to create something and who the hell knows what it’s going to look like and if it’s going to escape and raze townships or bring people to a greater understanding of humanity– kind of way. I sweat a lot in workshop. Mostly I am grateful to be here.

The program itself is an exciting intersection of the theatrical arts – there are graduate designers, directors, actors, stage managers, choreographers, scholars, and playwrights all working in conjunction. In my second year I’ve taken greater advantage of the opportunities for interdisciplinarity. I took a sound design/telematics class in the fall, and I wrote new text for a production of LOVES LABORS LOST hybridized with a fictional Darwinian study of Sexual Selection. I also wrote the new text for an Enron-esque adaptation of Machiavelli’s play LA MANDRAGOLA.

San Diego sometimes drives me crazy. There is a gallery in La Jolla that only has sculptures of whales. Expensive glass whales. I think the door handles of the gallery are whale tales.

BUT the natural landscape here is beautiful and my German nanobiologist friend is teaching me how to surf. Also having The La Jolla Playhouse across the street is an asset. Their literary manager Gabriel Greene is dramaturging my Baldwin Play and we get tickets to some great theater.

Q: You were the fellow at P73 a few years back. How was that?

A: Despite the possibility of sounding entirely over-enthused, I loved that too. I think it’s the best career thing that’s ever happened to me. Asher and Liz took a risk on me. I proposed to write something about Intelligent Design and Evolution and came back with that piece about swarming teenagers and a molting grandmother I think they were like WHAT? But it worked out. It was such a rare and beautiful thing to have these intelligent, nurturing artistic advocates so soon out of undergrad. I would spend afternoons working on the play in their office in Brooklyn. They connected me with brilliant collaborators. That year is very special to me.

Q: You also were the impetus for P73 starting their writing group, Interstate 73. Can you tell me about that?

A: Sure! I had just moved to New York the year before and I thought it might be a good way of building an artistic community. When I first got the P73 Fellowship, Asher made a speech about making the fellowship what you wanted it to be—and they really facilitated that. I love responding to other writers and being part of a greater dialogue than what’s happening in my head and on my page.

Q: Tell me a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a person or as a writer.

A: Oh dear. Let’s see. When I was in kindergarten, or pre-kindergarten, and I would get hungry sitting at my tiny desk in class, I would reach my arms out as wide as they would go and pretend I had a large sandwich or slice of cake. I would munch this victual from side to side, recessing my hands closer and closer towards my face as the imaginary sandwich or cake was consumed. My classmates thought I was very strange. I don’t know what this explains though other than I have a vivid imagination and I am hungry.

I also don’t know anyone who could beat me at tag.

Q: What kind of theater excites you?

A: I like theater that kicks ass. I like theater where you get all tingly and know that SOMETHING is HAPPENING. I like theater that has something naked in it—and something raw, because I think that is hard for me.

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

A: Call me, we’ll get coffee and talk shop. And I really feel like it’s an art of attrition. If you want to do it, and you love to do it, and you keep doing it, you’ll be able to do it.

Q: Any plugs?

A: If you’re in San Diego, you should see my play PHANTOM BAND April 14-24th. If you’re in LA you should see Ronald McCants’ play THE PEACOCK MEN at Company of Angels Feb 5th-March 7th. If you’re in NY you should see Lauren Yee’s play CHING CHONG CHINAMAN at Pan Asian Rep March 19th-April 11th. Go UCSD Playwrights!!

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