Interview with Kathleen Cahill

Playwright Kathleen Cahill

I met Kathleen when she came to Orlando to see the Orlando Shakes production of her play Charm. I am understudying the main character Margaret and was very excited to have coffee with Kathleen and learn a little more about her.

Brooke M. Haney (BMH):  Tell me a little about your process as a playwright.

Kathleen Cahill (KC): Finding my blood… playwrighting is finding my blood, the veins and capillaries are like rivers and tributaries of memory, all the things I ever saw, or ever learned, or felt, all the people I ever knew, plus all that I’m learning and feeling at the moment, every day.  When I start thinking about writing a play, everything becomes attached to it.   I get a lot of ideas when I’m taking a walk.  Walking seems to be essential to the process. And I start writing down whatever comes, even if I don’t know where it’s going to fit, or if it’s going to fit anywhere.  The process of writing a play is wonderful because my life becomes much more intense.

BMH:  For you, as a Playwright, what is the most valuable part of the new works process? Reading, Workshop, or World Premiere? Why?

Kathleen Cahill (KC): Hearing it is everything.  Hearing it and hearing it and hearing it. The play I just wrote (COURSE 86B IN THE CATALOGUE ) I first read out loud to my husband, the whole play, twice.  And I learned a few interesting things.  Then I had a reading in my house and I learned some more, and then I had a public reading, where I learned that the audience liked the play.  Which was heartening. Table readings are always helpful, but workshops are better because the actors can get into it a little bit so there’s more to hear.

Katherine Michelle Tanner (Margaret Fuller) and Walter Kmiec (Count O). Photo by Tony Firriolo.

Rehearsals are the best. It’s like being in a creative factory turning out ideas.  The world premiere is very exciting of course, but its also kind of a let down, because the play has become “a thing,”  and for awhile, the process is over.

BMH:  When you go into rehearsal for one of your shows in one of these capacities, what is the best thing an actor can do to help you?

Kathleen Cahill (KC): To commit and to be open.

BMH: How much does one of your plays tend to change from before a Reading to the World Premiere?

BMH: I noticed that several of your plays seem to have an influence from Opera. What is it about Opera that inspires you?

Kathleen Cahill (KC): I come from an opera/ musical theatre background.  I went to NYU Grad School in their musical theatre program.  There’s magic in music and I hope some of that sense of magic comes into my plays.  The intention of both opera and musical theatre is to create a lift.   When it works, it’s thrilling. And beautiful.  And unrealistic.  And true.  I like thrilling, beautiful, unrealistic and true. It suits me.

BMH:  What do you see as the Actor’s role in developing new plays?

Katherine Michelle Tanner (Margaret Fuller) and Allison DeCaro (Old Woman). Photo by Tony Firriolo.

Kathleen Cahill (KC): The actors role in ANY play is to be totally brave and not boring.  That’s my job too. When we can work together, openly, wow.  It’s one of the most exiting experiences in life.

BMH:  Are there any particular skills that you think are important to cultivate if you are an Actor interested in working on new plays?

Kathleen Cahill (KC): I guess I don’t think actors should limit themselves to new plays.  Acting is acting. I think the idea of “creating a role” is phony.  Good acting is always about  creating the role.  But I do know that actors bring a treasure into the rehearsal room. Sometimes it’s a buried treasure, that we have to search for.

BMH:  Are there specific communication styles or techniques that you find helpful in the rehearsal room?

Kathleen Cahill (KC): Clear communication.  I’m afraid I’m a words person.  If something can be put into words, it’s a big help to me.

Charm runs thru April 17, 2011 at Orlando Shakes. Tickets can be found here.
More info on Kathleen Cahill can be found on her website here.

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