Thursday, April 18, 2013

I Interview Playwrights Part 574: Kyle T. Wilson


Kyle T. Wilson

Hometown: Several small towns in Arkansas. My father's a retired Methodist minister, so we moved around every few years.

Current Town: Los Angeles

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I'm producing a play for the Hollywood Fringe Festival this June called THE MISS JULIE DREAM PROJECT. There are nine writers on it, myself included. Using Strindberg's A DREAM PLAY and MISS JULIE as inspirations, I gave members of my writers group (Fell Swoop Playwrights) an assignment to write a dream sequence with Miss Julie as the protagonist, and that was really our only plan. Then I took the scenes and worked on assembling them into a dream narrative. What's resulted is an actor's nightmare of sorts; an actor playing Miss Julie dreams that the character has rebelled against her, refusing to go through with the story. The actress chases Julie through the corridors of her dreams in hopes of guiding her to her fate.

I'm also working on the third play in a trilogy set in a fictional town called Bumblebee, Arkansas. The first two plays are called BUMBLEFUCK, AR and THE BUTCHER OF BUMBLEBEE. The plays span the years of 1988-1994 and follow different groups of teenagers and the complicated adults in their lives. I'm still working on the third play; it's about a straight-arrow Boy Scout. That one doesn't have a title yet but I promised my mom it won't include profanity.

And my play AFTER SCHOOL SPECIAL is a PlayLabs selection at this year's Great Plains Theatre Conference. It's about a troubled special ed teacher and her most difficult student at the end of a very hard day of school. I'm excited to be taking it to Omaha this May.

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 used to ride my bike from the Methodist parsonage down to Rick's Prime Time Video in Mena, Arkansas, to rent movies for the weekends. I always wanted to see the popular R-rated movies but Mom and Dad wouldn't let me, so I discovered the classics. My favorites were usually adapted from plays and musicals. I loved STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, and for a period of time I rented WEST SIDE STORY on a weekly basis until finally my parents bought it for me for Christmas. One of the things that baffled me about these movies was how they could ever make sense on stage. The first play I was ever in was HMS PINAFORE at the Ouachita Little Theatre; I was in middle school and played a sailor and was in the chorus. I remember being stunned at how all they had to do to this ordinary shoebox stage was put a simple post up in the center and extend some ropes off it to the wings and suddenly the whole thing looked exactly like a ship. As much as I loved and still love movies, it's the first time I remember understanding how a theatrical experience could inspire the imagination in ways that films never could. And I still love WEST SIDE STORY in any manifestation, but I will always prefer to see it onstage.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I'd like to see the process from page to stage actually happen for plays. And when it does, I'd like to see it it shorten, get easier, and occur with less anxiety and preciousness about the work. I have plays I started years ago that I continue to rewrite and submit in hopes of getting more development opportunities for them through conventional channels. So with Fell Swoop I'm trying to be the change I'd like to see; we finished the first draft of THE MISS JULIE DREAM PROJECT in January or February in anticipation of a June production. And things are coming along pretty well so far.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  All the obvious playwright names. And all my friends and colleagues and former classmates who are making a go of it on a stage somewhere. And Sondheim and Laurents and Bernstein and Robbins. And Patti Smith.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I like to be surprised. I admire work that's done with integrity and commitment. I love a clever or thoughtful approach to language. But lately I've just been impressed with folks coming together in bars and restaurants and coffee shops for readings and events; I'm pleased with the interest I see in L.A. in scrappy live performance of all kinds happening outside of the institutions. I like and see the work going on in the institutions too, but it's heartening to see people putting down their devices, gathering in small, unusual spaces and having a great time together.

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

A:  There's no one right way to be successful. Just be really honest with yourself about what you want for your work and your career and set tangible goals on how to achieve those things. I'm still learning that lesson and I've been at this a while.

And don't stick around places if you don't respect the quality of the work, or the way that it's achieved. You, your work, and your creative team all deserve respect, professionalism, and basic human decency.

Oh, and have a healthy suspicion of people who are quick to give advice.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  THE MISS JULIE DREAM PROJECT at Three Clubs Cocktail Lounge at The Hollywood Fringe Festival, starting June 11. http://hff13.org/1309

AFTER SCHOOL SPECIAL PlayLabs Selection at The Great Plains Theatre Conference, Monday, May 27.
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