Collaborative Artists Ensemble To Host Kat Ramsburg For A Talkback On Saturday
We caught up with acclaimed playwright Kat Ramsburg, whose play "Anatomy of A Hug" is currently playing through December 2nd at the Sherry Theater in North Hollywood. She candidly discusses why she moved from acting to writing, how she creates characters, and how pop-culture and a certain TV phenomenon shaped the idea that would eventually become a widely-produced, play.
1) How did you get started in theater and did you always want to be a playwright?
I started as a child actor who became an adult actor who realized she wasn't having fun anymore. I was far more interested in the rehearsal process - delving into character motivation, the structure of the play, and how to bring the writer's vision to the stage. Once the show was open, and I had to perform it eight times a week for months on end, I didn't have the same passion. I've known a few truly great writers in my life and I guess I was egotistical enough to jump in the arena with them. Thankfully, they've been great mentors to me.
2) Who are you favorite playwrights/plays? And how have they shaped your work?
My writing is shaped by many formats, not just plays and playwrights. I can't get enough of Sarah Kay's poetry. It's so honest and simply stated. I love how Elizabeth Gilbert reinvents herself with every book she writes based on where she is in her life's journey. Jason Reynold's book Long Way Down, continues to make me question storytelling in a way that is both overwhelming and freeing. I love the silence in Annie Baker's plays, and how more is said between the line than in the dialogue. Nina LaCour writes about grief in a way that I identify with wholeheartedly.
3) What was the genesis of this play? Did it begin with a concept or characters or something else?
I had read about the compassionate release program (where prisoners with life sentences and terminal illnesses are released to their families as they near the end of their lives) and wondered what that might be like when the person you committed the offense against, is the person you have to be released to. The characters of Amelia and Sonia came to me one day and started talking in my head. They wouldn't shut up, so I opened a new Word document on my computer and let them say what they needed to say. I wrote the first 30 pages of the script that day.
4) What the process of developing this play?
I wrote the first draft in about three months. It received a reading in New York shortly thereafter. From that reading, I did a complete overhaul - replaced a character, trimmed it way back, really focused the story. It then went on to the Great Plains Theatre Conference for further development. Shortly after that it had a developmental premiere with the Bridge Initiative in Arizona, and Acadiana Repertory in Louisiana, and then it's Professional World Premiere at Trustus Theatre in South Carolina. It's gone on to have numerous productions since then.
5) Amelia has an interesting relationship with television. How did this come about and figure in to the writing of this play?
The winter before I wrote this play, I decided to start watching Breaking Bad. I wasn't a huge TV watcher at the time (still not), but something about that show drew me in. I ended up watching all five seasons in about nine days. When I finally left my apartment, I realized I was looking at the world very differently. Everyone was a drug lord. I was suspicious of the tiniest movement. It was like my head had rewired itself. Most importantly, I realized I missed Walter and Jesse (two characters in Breaking Bad.) How could I miss fictional characters?! A few weeks later I started writing Anatomy and thought, "Oh, this is how Amelia has make 'human' connections."
6) How do you go about picking titles for your plays? And how did you pick this one?
I've always liked the scene where the anatomy of a hug is discussed. I'm pretty sure the scene that is in the play is the first draft of that scene. It kind of wrote itself. It really encompasses what the show is about. Sometimes you have to learn how to love. It doesn't come naturally to everyone, especially those with trauma in their past
7) What are you working on now?
I'm currently in development with Wendy Unwritten which is the story of Wendy Darling, in her mid-60's, and recently widowed. She once dreamt of having wild adventures, wrestling crocodiles, sword fights, and swimming with mermaids, only to find herself keeping house, and raising children. She contemplates going back to Neverland but wonders if there would be a place for her, at her age. The play looks at the decisions women make, those that are made for us, and how we are, and are not valued at various stages of our lives.
To hear more from Kat, come to the talkback this Saturday, November 17th after the performance of
"Anatomy of a Hug".
Anatomy of a Hug is playing at :
The Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601.
November 9- December 2, 2018. Fri. & Sat. at 8:00, Sun. at 7:00.
Online ticketing: https://anatomyofahug.brownpapertickets.com/