Apr 25, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 155: Kate E. Ryan
Kate E. Ryan
Hometown: Bow, NH
Current Town: Brooklyn, NY
Q: Tell me about the play you have coming up at Soho Rep.
A: It's called SCIENCE IS CLOSE, and it continues the story of a woman named Dot Cruthers, who's the main character in my play DOT. SCIENCE IS CLOSE is sort of the sequel to DOT, but I want the two plays to work independently.
Dot is a crankly elderly woman and DOT looks at her life in a Florida retirement community. It's inspired by the Golden Girls a little bit, and has songs composed by Mike Iveson.
In SCIENCE IS CLOSE we see Dot again a few years later -- when she's in her mid-80s, living in a new city. A mysterious man tries to get her to sign up for cryogenics. So, Dot has to evaluate whether she wants more life on this planet, or whether the end should just be the end.
Coincidentally, Clubbed Thumb is producing DOT in June this year, directed by Anne Kauffman. Mia Rovegno -- the director of the SCIENCE IS CLOSE reading -- is working on the DOT production, too, and some of the DOT actors will perform their characters in the reading, so a bunch of people are kind of swimming between these two plays right now, and I feel fortunate to be working with such amazing collaborators on them both.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: I grew up on a dead-end street in a small town. There were lots of kids on our street, and I was one of the youngest. Some of the older kids had a cache of costumes and liked to organize backyard theater/dance performances which we called "gymnastic shows." I think we called them that because our heroine at the time was Nadia Comaneci. We'd make up invitations and put them in all the mailboxes.
One year, in the middle of a gymnastics show for which we had practiced for weeks and weeks, a swarm of bees invaded the backyard and all the kids went beserk, running into the "audience" (parents in lawn chairs), screaming. Just about everyone got stung. It was truly exciting: scary, unexpected, and memorable.
Now, every year, Machiqq (the Brooklyn-based writing group of which I am a member... a.k.a The Ladies Auxiliary Playwriting Team) and Joyce Cho (fellow Brooklyn-based playwriting and performance group) put together a backyard theater event called Cho-chiqq at the house of my Park Slope neighbors, Erin Courtney and Scott Adkins. (See plug below.) So far no bees, but it's still exciting.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: When I was young and had just arrived in New York, an older artist friend gave me some vague-sounding advice: do something, don't just sit around. It's proven to be useful -- get involved with something, anything, even if it feels only tangentially related to what you ultimately want to do. If you really are one of those people afflicted with the theater disease (unable to stop doing theater), you will never stray far from your artistic work. But waiting for the perfect opportunity is just a waste of time. Making good theater requires all sorts of knowledge and experience, so live your life and pursue all your interests.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: SCIENCE IS CLOSE reading at Soho Rep, Monday May 3rd at 7:00 pm. FREE. http://sohorep.org/lab.html
(Also, check out Matthew Korahais' reading on April 26th and Janine Nabers' reading on May 10th. And, if you're interested in applying to next year's Writer/Director Lab, see the online application on the website. Deadline is May 14th. )
DOT, produced by Clubbed Thumb, opening June 6th at the Ohio Theater. www.clubbedthumb.org
(And check out the other two plays in Clubbed Thumb's Summerworks this year: FIVE GENOCIDES by Sam Hunter and THE SMALL by Anne Washburn.)
Come to the 'Pataphysics Benefit at Dixon Place on Monday, May 10th at 8:00 PM. 'Pataphysics is a series of playwriting workshops with master teachers like Erik Ehn, Paula Vogel, Mac Wellman. They're produced at cost through The Flea Theater: http://www.theflea.org/page.php?page_type=2&page_id=10
AND, finally, come to Cho-Chiqq Backyard BBQ Theater in the daytime on Saturday, June 6th...