Feb 10, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 118: Boo Killebrew
Hometown: Gulfport, Mississippi
Current Town: Brooklyn, New York
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I just finished a script called "The Play About My Dad". Right now, I am working on revising it and getting it ready for a workshop in the Spring. I also just returned from a residency at Robert Wilson's Watermill Center with my theatre company, CollaborationTown. We began working on a new project (an ensemble created piece) about the self-help industry. I also am working with a sketch group, LaughterBirth. We are writing, filming and performing new sketches--it has been a lot of fun!
Q: Tell me about your theater company. How did it come about?
A: My theatre company is called CollaborationTown and we have been working together since 2003. We are a non-profit (we have a 501c3 status-yay!) and are committed to the development of new plays. One of our goals is to step outside of individual, traditional roles in order to unify different styles, opinions, emotions, backgrounds and philosophies into cohesive ensemble-driven pieces of theatre. We do a lot of ensemble created pieces, as well as more traditional "one playwright, one director" type projects. The seven founding members of CTown came together at Boston University's School of Fine Arts. We began working together there, and upon graduation, moved to New York and officially started CollaborationTown. The values that led to CollaborationTown’s founding; hard work, experimentation, and community, remain central to my identity as an artist.
Q: You are also an actor and choreographer. How do these roles inform your playwriting and vice versa
A: By working as a choreographer and actress, I’ve learned to write more physically and actively, as to understand theatre more completely. The whole of the theatrical process nourishes every aspect of storytelling for me. It is hard for me to focus on just one thing at one time: if I am acting, I am writing a story; if I am writing a story, I am choreographing bodies onstage; and when I am choreographing, I am investing in characters, so I am acting....it goes in circles like that for me and then becomes one big thing that I guess can be put under the description "Storyteller". Each time I invest in a creative process, I am taking all of my tools as a theatre maker and using them to explore the work as deeply as I can.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: Well, I had an imaginary family. My sister didnt have an imaginary friend, so I created a family that had two sisters, so that she would have one. I knew (and still know) exactly what they wore, what they were allergic to, what they wanted to be when they grew up. There was Katie, who was my friend; Susan, who was my sister's friend; there was Mary, their older sister who was away at college, but would come home from time to time and was always getting into trouble; and there was Baby Wanner...he was a baby boy and we always had to baby-sit him. I have no idea where the name "Wanner" came from. Basically, there was always a bit of drama happening with the imaginary family and my real family would get daily updates. So, I guess I was writing plot and characters then.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I love theatre that is fearless, whether that has to do with experimentation, humor, performances, direction, design, etc.
Two theatrical experiences that really, really excited me were "The Lily's Revenge" by Taylor Mac and "God's Ear" by Jenny Shwartz. Both those pieces just went for it and it was thrilling to witness.
I also love plays that are funny.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: I think the advice I would have to give is to find a support system of other artists. Whether that group is comprised of close friends, frequent collaborators, or is formed through a theatre; I think being a part of an artistic community is essential. I believe that continuing to hear other's work and ideas, as well as bearing witness to many creative processes, in an incomparable learning tool and a great comfort.
I would also say to write everyday. Develop it as a practice, similar to a Yoga or Zen practice and know that the actual do-ing of it is what it is all about.
Q: Any plugs:
A: CollaborationTown received a swing space grant the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and will be workshopping several new pieces this Spring, check out www.collaborationtown.org for details.
A short play of mine, called Date Night, is a part of a ten minute play festival this weekend at The Atlantic Theatre: Saturday February 13th at 4 PM and 8 PM, Sunday February 14th at 3 PM
Studio A @ The Atlantic Theater. 16th Between 8th and 9th Swing Space (it's free).