Playwriting

5 questions with Christian Kiley

Written by Lindsay Price

We have a great community of amazing playwrights here at Theatrefolk that contribute to our collection of middle and high school plays. We hope you’ll enjoy this peek behind the curtain as they share how they approach the creative process, how they overcome challenges, and what advice they have for young playwrights. Don’t forget to check out their work!

Meet Theatrefolk Playwright Christian Kiley – the author of many popular plays including The Butterfly Queen.

What was your first theatrical experience? How did it impact you?
My first theatrical experience was in kindergarten when a performing group visited our school. At the end of the play the performers broke the fourth wall and took members of the audience by the hand and danced with them. A beautiful actress (who I still believe was actually Athena) took my hand and danced with me. I did not wash my hand for a long time and that experience never washed away from my mind.

Why do you write plays?
Writing plays is the very best way I know how to process what I observe and experience. Often the emotions and images become so urgent that they have to come out in some form. For me, it is through the playwriting process. I have been fascinated with the idea of “outsiders” and how they struggle to fit in or embrace their eccentricities. A lot of us in the arts can relate to that.

What’s the most challenging part of writing a play?
Playwriting can be a lot like being in a beautiful place with many different activities going on simultaneously. It is often a challenge for me to pick one stimulus to focus on and stay with that. Part of that challenge involves giving myself permission to write a draft without second-guessing, editing, or judging. There is nothing better than a writing session that feels like you were along for the ride but as a passenger. Your imagination was driving.

How do you address/overcome those challenges?
Jump in, don’t self-judge, look at the writing session as an experience onto itself. This is a chance for me to meet the characters for the first time and I don’t “know” what they are going to say.

That is an exciting reason to keep going.

What advice do you have for young writers struggling to finish a draft?
Nachos. To me you have to eat nachos while the cheese is still gooey and hot. Nachos, to me, are not good cold or leftover. I feel the same way about drafts. Keep the ideas coming and keep the process moving. You can always make changes later.

When I was writing “Waiting Room” (form “Chemo Girl and Other Plays”) I got stuck in this debate about whether one of the characters should enter at some point or whether the anticipation and reactions to him not entering was the better choice. I forced myself to try it one way rather than vacillating about it. I ended up changing it but by writing it the “wrong” way first, I was able to discover the best choice for the play. Writers should write their way out of their struggles. How do you climb out of a valley? Not by thinking about it but by climbing.

 

Read sample pages from Christian Kiley's plays here!

About the author

Lindsay Price