Nov 9, 2012
I Interview Playwrights Part 522: Carolyn Kras
Hometown: Berwyn, IL (just outside Chicago)
Current Town: Los Angeles
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on the “Visionary Playwright Commission” from Theater Masters. The play is about a young couple who buys a foreclosed house and is forced to live with strangers when the previous owners won’t move out. This situation is happening across the country due to deceptive bank practices and the long wait times for eviction notices. I wondered what it’s like when people live with housemates they’re trying to kick out.
My historical drama screenplay Magnetic is also in development. It was recently showcased at the Hamptons International Film Festival where Melissa Leo headlined the reading.
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 kid, I once woke up to a loud explosion that turned out to be a bomb. A neighborhood restaurant was blasted to pieces, probably by the mafia, which was very active at the time. Luckily, no one was injured since it was early morning and the place was closed. I used to sell school fundraising items, like candy bars, to the restaurant’s owner, and I started to wonder if this benevolent man who liked helping the school was involved in shady dealings or was merely a victim. I suppose this incident helps explain why I’m interested in the extreme actions people take to get or keep power.
Q: Tell me about the Artery Playwrights Project.
A: It’s a new theatre company in Los Angeles that produces the work of its founding playwrights – Dean Poynor, Brian Forrester, and me. This year we produced Linthead, one of Brian’s plays that theatres wouldn’t touch because it required nine actors. So we raised the money on Indiegogo and put it up ourselves. It received a lovely Los Angeles Times review, and an investor is raising money for a commercial production. Rob Handel of 13P was our professor at Carnegie Mellon and advocated that self-production creates more opportunities. We’re planning the next production now.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: We need to find creative ways to make the tickets cost less or else theatre will lose future audiences. One initiative that worked for us was asking donors to donate tickets to audience members who couldn’t afford them. We gave out 80 free tickets from this drive.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Tom Stoppard, Lynn Nottage, Aeschylus, Edward Albee, Richard Greenberg, and Carter W. Lewis – the list goes on.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: A gripping story, the kind where you can feel the audience leaning forward the whole time.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Write, see new shows, and find collaborators who appreciate your voice. Consider attending an M.F.A. program and/or interning in a literary manager’s office. I read close to a hundred new plays when I was an intern, and that was a great education.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: The new play commissioned by Theater Masters will have a reading at a prominent theatre (TBD) in 2013. You can check my web site, www.carolynkras.com, for updates.