Hometown: Syracuse, NY
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since the deadline for our 2013 National Playwriting Competition! Since then, we read and responded to hundreds of playwrights, our committees chose finalists and winners, and we teamed the winners up with professional directors and dramaturgs. Now, we’re just days away from welcoming seven wonderful young playwrights to our Young Playwrights Conference!
Rounding out our interview series with the Conference writers, we’re introducing you to Kathleen Kennedy. Her play Iron Line is a surrealistic look at growing pains as a mother responds to her daughter’s peculiar transformation.
I thought I would start by asking how you got started writing plays?
I had a drama class in high school and one of the assignments was to write a play. And so that’s how I started!
Simple enough! You’ve submitted a couple of plays to us. I’ve noticed that they have different styles; they live in different worlds. Is that something you’re consciously exploring, or it just comes out that way?
I think it kind of came out that way. Also, plays that I’ve written for different assignments or projects I’m doing. So a lot of times I’ll have certain people I’m writing for, and that influences what the style is.
Got it. So what was the inspiration of Iron Line?
It was for a class I was taking at Syracuse [University] while I was still in high school. It was really a very open assignment. I didn’t have anyone I was writing for. And I was reading a lot of Christopher Durang at the time, which I think influenced the style quite a bit. And my friend dared me to write a play about a girl who turns into a cat.
I can definitely see Chris Durang’s influence on it. Are there other writers who have influenced or inspired you?
I really like Edward Albee. I think that he’s influencing a lot of things I’m doing now.
And what kind of things are you doing now?
I’ve just been writing short scenes. I’m working on making this play that I wrote for a playwriting class my freshman year into, hopefully, a full one-act.
Do you mind me asking what it’s about?
I wish I could say what it’s about! I’ve been trying to come up with a synopsis for a while. It’s about a girl and some of her friends who go away on a vacation together to one of her friend’s uncle’s cabin. One of those things on a lake. It’s about her trying to make sense of what happens there.
Do you usually start with an image? Or a character? What gets you started when you have a play idea?
I think I start a lot with a character. Usually what helps me the most is I think of who – because usually I know who’s going to be playing it. I’m writing it for a certain thing, so I tend to write it for someone and what I want to see them do.
I know a lot of writers who start that way. It can be really effective to get the ball rolling. So you’re studying theater, then?
How’s that going? What kind of classes are you taking?
I’m studying acting at Syracuse University, so a lot of voice, movement, scene Study kind of classes.
Does that influence the way you write at all?
Oh yeah. I’ll see things in there and try to write about them. It’s how I’ve gotten to hear about a lot of plays that I’ve never heard about before.
Going back to Iron Line, have you learned anything about the play as you work on it through the Young Playwrights process?
Yeah, I think. They saw a lot more in it than I ever thought was in it when I first wrote it. Like I think the director (Padraic Lillis) and dramaturg (Micah Bucey) have really helped me find more meaning in it which led to some rewrites.
What kind of meanings are you finding in it?
Originally, it was just the concept of a girl turning into a cat. I mean, a part of me knew there was something more there than just simply that. We talked a lot about it being a discovery of self and a discovery of sexuality, and morphing that more into the storyline than merely just the turning-into-a-cat.
Something that really resonated with me when I first read it is how much the play is about change in general, and how change can be difficult in a family situation. Accepting how someone is changing can be a difficult thing to do and I think it’s a theatrical way to explore that. Have you had one of your own plays rehearsed before?
I have! I saw (Iron Line) done when we did it in the class in high school, because it’s paired with an acting class, so I got to see one of the scenes worked out and done in there.
How’d that go, being on the other end of the rehearsal?
Really, really well actually! It was really weird to see – because I’ve seen some of my work done before but nothing this off-the-wall and absurdly written and I think especially for highschool students, I was scared they would just think it was weird. But they liked it and it turned out really well, I thought.
Great! So what’s up next for you?
We have a New Playwrights Festival at Syracuse, so one of my plays is going to be in there, and I’m going to be in one of the plays as well.
Awesome! See you soon!
Kathleen Kennedy will be joining six other playwrights at the 2014 Young Playwrights Conference in New York City, January 8-16. We will be inviting members of the Young Playwrights family (like you!) to the readings of these talented young writers.
The deadline for writers in the United States aged 18 and under to submit a play to our 2014 competition is January 2nd.