The Plays the Thing

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last modified May 31, 2010 10:38 PM

 photo composite flat of Richard Kalinoski and students

7. How do you manage to balance your teaching and your own writing? What is your writing routine?
There is no good way to balance teaching and playwriting—they are forever out of balance. I am always thinking about writing…or writing. I suspend that thinking often enough to be a fairly effective teacher—but the issues that arise from teaching inform my writing. Writing is sometimes a chore and occasionally a distinct pleasure. As a theatre teacher and playwright I am always conscious of audience—my students and the people who come to see my plays.

My routine is usually centered on summer vacation—and other vacations. But after I finish a first draft of a play I work on re-writing whether I actively teaching or not.

8. What does it feel like when you saw your words performed on a stage with professional actors?
Professional actors are special people. They have sacrificed much to try to make a living in a field, which is madly competitive. Having professional actors wrestle with one’s words and evoke their meaning on stage—that is a thrilling process. Actors both begin and complete the work of a playwright. Actors are as fundamental to the playwright as water is to thirst.  Does it ever get old? No. What gets very, very old is the struggle to have the opportunity for actors to convey one’s words to an audience. Theatre companies literally can choose from among many thousands of plays—perhaps hundreds of thousands (established and not established). I worked with a marvelous actor in his sixties from the Royal Shakespeare Company (England) who played the role of a 12-year-old boy in my play, “Beast on the Moon.” That actor gave me new insight about that particular character—a character I had lived with for 15 plus years.  I thought I knew everything about that character. This wise older actor knew things I did not (know).

9. What was your inspiration for your latest play, "My Soldiers"?
The story of writing “My Soldiers” is a long and fairly tedious one.  After several more or less false starts I found a woman, a vet and a medic, who had served in Iraq. I interviewed this woman several times—her story was compelling…but not precisely dramatic. I made up the character of Angi Busko based on this particular medic. Angi’s story in the play is a fiction…and most of it takes place away from Iraq, in Minnesota.

“My Soldiers” took almost four years from initial idea to first draft. My old friend and director, Mark Hallen, became interested in “My Soldiers” and agreed to direct it. Mr. Hallen has very high standards and he insisted that I re-imagine the play before it could be mounted at Eastern University near Philadelphia.  We argued for weeks about the ending. I wrote 6 different and complete endings and then I cut them all and ended up ending the play at the end of the scene, which had preceded the ending, I kept re-working.

The new ending proved itself in performance at Eastern University.

10. What's on the horizon for Richard Kalinoski?
I am always trying to get substantial productions of my new plays at professional theatres. If I never wrote another play I could spend the rest of my life trying to get my many plays excellent productions. Mostly I write plays because I like working with people in the theatre. I like the language of the theatre—the family of it. I will write for the theatre as long as I can—as long as I have memory and intelligence and sensitivity.  My agent told me many years ago (when I first signed with her) that the theatre is not kind to playwrights. She was right. I think the truth is that the theatre is not kind to its artists in general….it’s a very hard way to make a living.  A few people get very rich by working in the theatre---the vast majority of us are just lucky to work professionally. My friend Mark Hallen always talks about being “in the room” (meaning with the actors, working). I want to be “in the room.”

11. While retirement is a long ways off, can you ever imagine when you are no longer writing or directing or teaching?
I love writing, I like directing and I like teaching. I hope to do all three for many years to come. Horton Foote (playwright and screenwriter) wrote into his nineties. Why not?

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For more information about Richard Kalinoski and his works, please visit his website.

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by Lim, Grace Y last modified May 31, 2010 10:38 PM