AAPEX Interview: Nicole C. Kearney — Nicole C Kearney — AAPEX

Sunday, February 20, 2011

AAPEX Interview: Nicole C. Kearney

What role did theatre and the arts play in your childhood and upbringing?
As a child I lived on the east coast between New York and New Jersey. When in New York with my Great-grandmother (GG) Ruth, I always went to see Broadway shows. It was a requirement of hers to become well-rounded. At the time, I just thought it was something I was being made to do. As I got older, I really appreciated that my GG took time to make sure I had been exposed to such wonderfully cultural events such as Annie" and "Dreamgirls."

Tell us about your own evolution as an artist.
I've been writing since I was eight years old. My same GG gave me a Ziggy diary when I was 8. I was about to move to Europe and begin an exciting adventure. The diary was so I could capture it all. I kept a journal from the ages of 8 to about 22. I also started writing stories, beginning as a journalist, and then moving into freelance writing for magazines. I decided to try my hand at short stories, screenplays and finally stage plays. It was writing for the stage that became my passion. Seeing your words come to life in front of you and hearing the audience's reactions "real-time." There is no more awesome experience. My first play was written as an exercise. I was teaching myself. I joined a writer's group. After my first workshop experience, I was told my play had a lot of potential but needed lots of work. I kept at it. Then I sent it to a producer, Terrence Spivey, in New York. He informed me he would be unavailable. Four years later, in 2004, Terrence called and asked me if the play was ready for stage. He was now the Artistic Director at Karamu House in Cleveland, Ohio. In February 2005, my first play, "Shook Up: The Emmett Till Story," was on stage.  I was hooked. I've enjoyed a long-term producing relationship with Terrence and Karamu. I've also partnered with The Madame Walker Building in Indianapolis and the NAACP, Indianapolis branch to produce plays. Additionally, I've embarked on producing my own plays both inside and out of the fringe circuit. My last play, "And Ya Don't Stop, a hip hop play" was in the first annual Chicago Fringe Festival.

What is your mission as a playwright?
My creative expressions focus on those whose voices and images have been un- or under represented and/or marginalized by society. I'm a poetic, urban themed, socially concerned "documentary style" playwright. This documentary "style" of writing is different than the actual documentary theater as we know it.  I mix fiction with interview and other factual material in an attempt to arrive at deeper truth and authenticity. I continue to evolve my vision for theater that is relevant to our lives, poetic in its nature and committed to social change.

Tell us about your experiences with theatre in Chicago and how you find it as a theatre town.
Living three hours from Chicago, I have found it to be the theater mecca that is whispered about. There is something for everyone to see, from improv to naturalistic drama to revivals to new plays. In fact, Chicago's theater scene is built around new plays. The audience attends, ready to see something that will move them. They are open to anything new. This blend of audience willingness and the abundance of theaters creating good work makes Chicago "the town" to go to try doing and seeing new work. It has surpassed New York in many ways. Chicago has lower rents, eager actors and directors and a never-ending supply of playwrights. All these ingredients lead to new plays, new theater companies and a diverse and eclectic theater scene. This past fall, I became a participant in the Chicago theater scene when my hip hop play, "And Ya Don't Stop," was selected to be in the first annual Chicago Fringe Fest. It was a great experience. I found the process of finding affordable rehearsal/audition space, along with a director and actors to be fairly easy. It's my goal to begin producing and being produced in Chicago. I'm well on my way, as my play, "A Down Payment on Manhood: The Greensboro Four" play was produced last fall at eta Creative Arts, following the close of my hip hop play. This has opened the door to my building a relationship with eta that may see "And Ya Don' Stop" on stage at eta. Chicago is indeed my kind of town; a theater town open to all! It’s built on building relationships and continuing to be a presence! It's my hope to do that as well if I get selected for the 2011 2nd annual Chicago Fringe Fest.

 For more information about Nicole or her plays, please click the post's title.

Below is a video clip from Nicole's play "A Down Payment  on Manhood: the Greensboro Four.

Jaz Dorsey
AAPEX Dramaturg and Founder

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