Saturday, June 25, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 856: K. Frithjof Peterson



K. Frithjof Peterson

Hometown:  Saginaw, MI

Current Town: Chicago, IL

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  Rewriting two plays for some upcoming developmental stuff and working on a messy draft of a new play. I like to give myself a constraint when I start something new and see what can come out of that. This one is to write something with a larger cast that happens in real time. The next constraint in the queue is to write a two-hander. I like the play I'm working on to feel very different than whatever I just finished. Sometimes the constraints help with that.

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 about six or seven I'd get really excited when my parents had their friends over. Usually, I could beg an extra half hour or so to sit and listen to them talk. But I didn't listen very well. Anytime someone had a slight pause in their sentence I would try and guess the word they were looking for. The first couple times were usually received as "cute." Then I'd get sent to bed. Fortunately, somewhere in there, I learned it's way more interesting to let people keep searching for those words.

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

A:  Accessibility. Diversity. New Audiences. How people are invited into the theater. There's a lot of work and discussion happening right now to wrestling with all those issues. But something I can do better on weekly bases is think about how I invite people to theatre. I see something every week. I usually go alone. Part of that is easy excuse. I've got an erratic work schedule so I usually have to make last minute plans and see what's available on short notice. Not great circumstances to invite people into. But if I hear a great album or listen to a new band, I can be annoyingly evangelical about it. I'm trying to make new converts all week. Why am I less proactive when it comes to theatre? Practically, a ticket costs more and you're probably inviting them to an unknown commodity. The YouTube link was free and you already took the album for a test drive. So the fear has to be that I don't want to give them a bad experience. It's an unnecessary fear. Some of the best nights I've had after a show have been discussing a play that didn't quite connect for me with someone who doesn't see a ton of theatre. It's an opportunity to examine things I'm trying to do and get the perspective of someone who doesn't see the experience the same way I do. Also people who don't see a lot of theatre like readings and talk backs more than I would've ever anticipated.

So I'd like to get rid of my unfounded apprehensions about inviting more non-theatre friends to the theatre. I want to focus on honest ways of showing them the value of their participation and insight. I'd like to be better at plugging shows by filling the seat next to me instead of a social media post. I'd like all of us to find personal ways we can get people in the room that aren't currently sitting there.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Chicago storefront theaters. They make it financially possible for me to see as many shows as I do. And I get to see them in wonderfully intimate spaces. The energy and up close magic of those spaces makes it hard to lean back.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Any humble investigation.

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

A:  You don't have to write everyday. But work at being a writer everyday by practicing empathy.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  I just got back from Seven Devils Playwrights Conference. The people and process were unbelievable. You want to send them your plays.

http://www.idtheater.org/submit-a-play.html

I've got a reading coming up outside Chicago this Sept. with William Street Rep's LAB Series. They've been really ambitious about building audiences for new plays with this series. I'm stoked to be a part of it.
http://wsrep.org/index.php/whats-on/lab-series/

And Strange Sun Theater in New York is giving me the opportunity to workshop a new play with them this winter. They're also deeply committed to new plays. http://www.strangesuntheater.com/


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