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Meet Playwright Kirt Shineman

Welcome back for Part 2 on Kirt Shineman, the author of Pluck the Day, the first #newworkshop selection in Now & Then's 3rd season. Pluck the Day will undergo a week of development and be presented to audiences this Friday, August 30 at 7:30PM and Saturday, August 31 at 11:00AM.

John Perovich (JP): Your workshop process begins today, Sunday August 25th, and continues through Thursday August 29th. Each night, you'll be working with a director, dramaturg, and actors on your play. Can you share with us the goals that you have for this workshop time?

Kirt Shineman (KS): Pluck the Day began as a satire, a comedy, but slowly the comedic moments became more real, biting, sharp, and very topical to current events. My goal for the workshop is to refine the emotional depth of the characters and their stories (their arc). To find the agency for each character, mostly for the main character, Clarity, and give her more agency over her journey. I plan to work on finding the rhythms of the scenes, the beats of the moments, and shape them for maximum feeling.

JP: To mirror back your goals, they are refining character arcs, focusing on Clarity's journey, and shaping the play's beats for maximum impact. Those are clear, focused goals. We have a great team in place to help you with this process...and who knows what else might be uncovered during the week!?

As a final question, I wanted to touch on the collaborative process of playwriting. So often, I think playwrights are considered to be isolated artists. How does collaborating with a director, dramaturg, and actors help you with your writing process?

KS: The theater is the most collaborative art form. I paint. I don't need the audience to make the painting exist. They look at it and move on to seeing something else. They don't engage with painting the same way they engage with characters and a story in a play. Plays are not like novels. You hear a play, you see a play, you don't "read" a play. If people read a play they can re-read a line, a section, and get the ideas of the sentence. Instead, we see plays, and we must "get it" in one sitting. How we "get it" is through our ever-oh-so-unreliable ears, and we watch. But the foundations of a play are still on the paper, read, and then translated through actors' bodies so we can "see" the story. Tricky.

Dramaturgs are vital to the playwriting process. I often "dramaturg" my own plays. After I write the first draft (the burn draft), I then print it, and go through and check for the GPA (goal, plan, action) for each scene. I look to see if the play makes sense. I re-write the play, and then re-read the play to see if the action is connected, necessary, and not boring. Eventually, I need a new set of "eyes", and I send to the play to one or two dramaturgs I know, who read the play, send me notes, and then we discuss the play over the phone, the message/argument, and I revise. I go through this process many times before I ever allow a director, actors, or friends to read the play.

When I think the play is ready, I have a private reading at my home. Directors aid in this translation as a conductor of the various theater elements from actors, designers, and producers. Actors, like instruments of an orchestra, play through the characters to convey the story and the feelings. Often the problem is doing a "concert reading of the play". The play is meant to be seen, so I often over-write it for a reading, since some elements are visual, aural, and we don't have those elements in a concert reading.


JP: I can relate to so much of what you've shared. There are many people involved in the journey of a play----each play develops its own community of inspiration. It goes back to that idea of "wright" in the word "playwright"----a builder or a maker. A community of artists, friends, audience members, each person along the journey of a play's development provides opportunities for the writer to "wright"----to build. Where would we be without our collaborators?

Pluck the Day by Kirt Shineman will be presented this Friday, August 30 at 7:30PM and Saturday, August 31 at 11:00AM. For more information, visit our box office.