BWW Interview: Playwright Chris Cragin-Day and FOSTER MOM at Premiere Stages
Premiere Stages at Kean University will present Foster Mom by Chris Cragin-Day, the winner of the 2017 Premiere Stages Play Festival from September 7-24 in Kean University's Zella Fry Theatre.
A funny, surprising, and optimistic coming-of-age tale for adults, Foster Mom tells the story of Leslie, a woman whose decision to foster a child is complicated by two factors: a skeptical mother and an unexpected romance.
The play was selected from over 400 submissions to the Play Festival, an annual competition for unproduced scripts by area playwrights. Foster Mom will be directed by longtime collaborator Kel Haney and feature actors Stori Ayers, Kate Kearney-Patch, Kurt Uy, and Ariel Woodiwiss.
Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Cragin-Day about her career and Foster Mom.
Chris Cragin-Day's credits include the upcoming production of A Woman (59E59's Summer Shorts), The Unusual Tale of Mary & Joseph's Baby (with Don Chaffer) at River & Rail, National Tour of Martin Luther on Trial (with Max McLean, recently ran Off-Broadway and DC). Other credits: Public Theater EWG and O'Neill Alumna, Son of a Gun (w/ Don Chaffer) at Joe's Pub and The Beckett, Emily by Firebone Theatre, The Unusual Tale (NYC Fringe), and The River Nun ('09 Spotlight Series at The Public).
When did you first realize your interest in writing?
I have really always been a writer. Though I am Caucasian, I was born in the Philippines and lived in various parts of Asia with my family until I was 13. We moved around a lot, and journaling helped me establish an identity for myself that wasn't dependent upon where I was or who I was friends with. I guess it helped me form an internal home when my external ones were shifting. I fell in love with theater when my family returned to the United States. I started writing plays in college. But it wasn't until I moved to New York City that I realized that playwriting was going to be my thing.
Tell us a little about your education.
Overseas as a child, I went to international schools. When we returned to the US, I was plunked into the public school system. And I'm thankful for that, because it's where I found my love of theater. After high school, I went to a small Baptist college in Oklahoma for undergrad where I majored in theater, mostly studying to be an actor. Then I got my MFA in stage directing from Baylor after that. I haven't directed in years, but those years of in-depth script analysis set me on a solid track to becoming a playwright.
Do you write in any genres in addition to playwriting?
I write musicals. I have a brilliant musical theater writing partner, Don Chaffer, out of Nashville. We've written 2 musicals together and we're working on our third. I also write essays and I have a very sporadic blog.
Tell us about some of your mentors or people who inspire you.
Caryl Churchill's Top Girls influences everything I write. I think she is one of the most brilliant playwrights in the history of Western Theater. Most recently, I find myself inspired by Rajiv Joseph's work, and also Lucas Hnath. I'm so thankful to Lucas for writing Doll's House, Part 2 because it rid me of years of angst I harbored from the Ibsen play.
What were some of the challenges of crafting Foster Mom?
Foster Mom poured out of me in a matter of weeks, and it's changed very little from the initial draft. It was the easiest play I've written to date. It comes from a personal place, inspired by my own experiences. Though the character of Leslie is not me, she helped me articulate much of what I went through in the journey to becoming a foster mom. It was such a unique, self-actualizing experience for me, and I wanted to share it. So it's very exciting to me to have this production at Premiere Stages.
What would you like audiences to know about the show?
They don't have to know anything. All they have to do is come with open hearts.
How do you like working with Premiere stages?
I love Premiere's commitment to getting plays to the stage quickly. It's a distinctive they have that shouldn't go un-noticed or unappreciated. It takes guts to put up a play that no one has ever put up before. There are a lot of unknowns in that process, and they tackle those with great calm, which is such a gift. Also, I'm thrilled that they paired me with Kel Haney, who is directing. From that, she and I actually decided to work together on another of my plays, A Woman, which is part of 59e59th's Summer Shorts.
Anything else, absolutely anything you would like BWW readers to know.
In addition to my play that's in the Summer Shorts Festival (mentioned above), my play Martin Luther on Trial, which had an Off-Broadway run this past winter, goes on a National Tour this fall courtesy of FPA, and my musical, The Unusual Tale of Mary and Joseph's Baby, which played in the 2016 NYC Fringe, will have productions in Knoxville and OKC this fall, courtesy of River and Rail Theater.
Foster Mom runs September 7-24 in the Zella Fry Theatre on the Kean University main campus in Union, N.J. Performances take place Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 3:00 pm. Tickets are $30 standard, $20 for senior citizens and Kean alumni, and $15 for students and patrons with disabilities. Significant discounts for groups of 8 or more apply. To make reservations or to order a season brochure, please call the box office at 908-737-7469 or visit Premiere Stages online at www.premierestagesatkean.com.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chris Cragin-Day.