Aug 9, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 238: Kate Tarker
I am bits and pieces of lots of places – but I lived in a small town in Germany for what really felt like forever. No offense, small town in Germany.
Brooklyntown. Crown Heights edition.
Q: Tell me about The Green.
A: In brief:
Leeann has lucked into her dream job: She’s managing a chimpanzee sanctuary in the wilds of Africa. Surrounded by poachers, antagonistic adolescent chimps and an eccentric boss, she finds it difficult to balance caring for people and caring for animals. With human allegiances unraveling and chimps running a wild mock, the line between humans and animals dissolves under the canopy of the African jungle.
In very brief:
The line between humans and animals dissolves under the canopy of the African jungle.
It was/is being developed at ESPA, which is an incredibly supportive place for emerging playwrights. You want to go to there.
The seed of this play came from my own experiences volunteering at a chimpanzee sanctuary in Africa. It’s a play of course – so of necessity, it has abandoned real things as they were – but the emotional core of it is centered around my own memories and feelings of a place and situation, and I think it’s all the richer for that.
Q: What else are you up to?
A: This weekend I am going on a silent playwriting retreat, devised by Erik Ehn. I am mad excited to start something from silence and without any preconceived play ideas.
And then in the fall I am going on a pilgrimage to Berlin for a week, and I want to wrap a play around that. My basic impulse is to write something about some expat US Army employees on vacation in Berlin. So we’ll see how that goes. Vacation behavior is much more interesting to me than living room behavior.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: When I was a little girl, I was sick all the time in the hospital and I day dreamed a lot in the forest by the castle ruins where the men yodeled and my uncle’s dog attacked me so my uncle died of leukemia and my parents divorced and I read a lot of feminist theory and at times thought I was descended from royalty until that was a lie but we lost my toy poodle out there and I read the Brothers Karamazov and so I had to get 200 stitches.
I was a painter for a while
Until I was in a strange situation where I couldn’t get my paints
Due to the customs office and some lies here and there
And so I listened to things instead
And became a writer.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I think it is a huge problem that theatre actors have a union but playwrights just have a guild (lovely as that guild may be). On a practical level we’re just not on the same economic playing field. The number of characters we write is directly influenced by the expenses imposed on us by equity -- which means fewer actors in plays, fewer roles for actors, and smaller stories. I’m not sure anyone’s winning here. I think there should really be a way to make it possible for playwrights to have a union without taking away their copyright on their material. Or else the actors’ union needs to compromise more, at the very least on the off-off-Broadway level; they’re making it harder and more expensive than it should be to play around and experiment.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Pinter. Albee. Churchill. Orton. Tessa LaNeve.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I enjoy plays in which you are pitched somewhere between hilarity and despair, and sometimes don’t know the difference between the two.
I also enjoy all other plays, if they surprise me.
I love it when plays become huge cross-disciplinary collaborations between visual artists and musicians and dancers and writers.
I rarely enjoy new plays about middle-aged married couples being angry, unless they are angry about something strange and exciting and unrelated to their marriage.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: I will share some advice given to me by others.
New York City is the place to be, if you have a little money and you want to be free.
- homeless man on the street
It will never be harder than in the beginning.
- Mac Wellman
Q: Plugs, please:
A: Reading of THE GREEN, directed by Glynis Rigsby: August 22 @ 12 PM, 59E59 Theater, FREE but RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org AND why stop there when you can come see all four plays in the reading series: