Playwright profiles: Kato McNickle

13 Oct

BTSblog presents you the playwrights of the first Between the Seas staged readings event.

Kato McNickle is a Connecticut-based playwright, director, and artist. ARIADNE ON THE ISLAND is 2010 Clauder Award recipient and 2008 O’Neill National Theater Conference finalist. Other recent playwriting awards include: a 2008 Heideman Award finalist with Actors Theatre of Louisville for ABOUT A HUNDRED PANCAKES; Theatre for Youth National Playwriting Award 2010 for CHANCE OF RAIN: A NOAH RIFF; a 2007 O’Neill National Theater Conference finalist for MINOTAURS. TOREROS; and an Ensemble Studio Theatre New Voices Fellow for FENCERS. Has studied playwriting with Paula Vogel, Bonie Metzgar, and Donna DiNovelli. Is Vice-President of the Mystic Paper Beasts, a Connecticut-based puppetry troupe and partner of The Dragon’s Egg Performance Space. Holds a BA from Brown University in Ancient Studies. Member of the Dramatist Guild and the Star Wars Fan Club.

How ARIADNE ON THE ISLAND was created:
Ariadne on the Island is an expansion on a moment from an earlier play called Minotaurs. Toreros. While workshopping Minotaurs there was a beat that the two actresses played during the second evening’s performance, a moment of a deep truth being spoken that was refused by the hero. “Ahh,” I thought, “that moment could be a whole play.” A whole play that drives toward a deep truth that, once spoken, acts as a wedge that splits the couple. I began work on this play idea as part of a class I was taking at Brown University with Bonnie Metzgar. She is an amazing dramaturg, with an uncanny ability to ask the right question at the right moment. She did that with this play, asking a question that exploded my understanding of the play-world, resulting in deeper character structures than I had originally imagined. I love moments like that, where creative explosions happen, happening because of the collaborative process of theater. So Ariadne and Minotaurs are sister plays, the same story told in different forms.

How did you get into playwriting and what is the type of theater you are interested in?

Playwriting is a natural expansion on my work as a theater director, designer, and actor. It came about as a necessity when I worked for a touring comedy troupe as a theatrical and technical director for which we all had to write. In my local community I produced an annual new play festival, through which I met many playwrights, actors, other directors, and became well-versed in producing and directing new plays. I decided to make my leap from sketch comedy to full-plays by enrolling in a class offered by the O’Neill National Theater Institute taught by Donna Dinovelli. I then spent that entire summer observing the National Playwrights Conference under Lloyd Richards, and read every book on playwriting that I could find.

My Theater Manifesto: Theater is a generous act. We go to the theater to fall in love. We fall in love with the play, fall in love with the work, fall in love with the company. It is important to respect commitment over talent. I can work with commitment. Talent without commitment quickly becomes destructive and a drain on the ensemble. Plays are not perfect entities, they are flawed, the actors are flawed, the audience is flawed, or late, or coughing, or who knows what. And still, we make theater. The progeny of American Realism is film, not theater. Current dramaturgy owes more to the American Musical Form than from the American Realists. Theater is a house of magnificence and eloquence and joyful giving.

What does the Mediterranean mean to you?

The story goes that my grandmother was born during the voyage to America, and so became the first US citizen in the family. The Mediterranean therefore carries with it strong associations of origin and blood-ties. Above her dining table my grandmother displayed a plate depicting Oedipus answering the Sphinx. That image – a reproduction of 5th century Athenian pottery art – has stayed with me from childhood until now. It has inspired a lifelong inquiry into ancient thought, philosophy, arts, religion, and points of Western culture inspired by and borrowed from a common Greco-Roman heritage.

Kato’s play ARIADNE ON THE ISLAND will be featured in the Between the Seas staged readings, on Monday October 18th, 8-1O pm at Solas Bar [232 East 9th str.]

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