Q & A with Kathrine Bates “Talhotblond” by Rose Desena

This Week In Theatre

 

                      “TALHOTBLOND

A Play in One Act by Kathrine Bates

{From the Barbara Schroeder Documentary ‘Talhotblond’}

Based on a True Story

 

KATHY_0717retouchKathrine Bates has crafted a stunning and clever play based on a true story of lust, lies, and fantasies. This account, originally unveiled by EMMY Award winning journalist Barbara Schroeder, will have its world premiere staging at the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica.

 

Curious to learn how this project came about, I contacted the playwright to get more information before I attend the show. In addition to writing, Kathrine works as an actress, classical pianist, and she conducts the 30-voice vocal group “The Choraliers.” That’s what I call a “triple threat.”

 

Rose: You seem to have quite a passion, and talent, for adapting stories to the stage. This is evident in your very popular and long running production of The Manor, about the Doheny Family. What is it in a story that draws you in, and makes you passionate about writing the play?

 

Kathrine: I’m drawn in by a story where an event has occurred that erupted into scandal or has some controversy associated with it – and where placing the blame is anything but clear. That was definitely true with THE MANOR, where we re-enact the Doheny Family tragedy at Greystone Mansion. While researching the patriarch, I began to frame in my mind a man of great complexity – and one whose motivations we could relate to and understand. Typically, plays are either plot-driven or character-driven. I tend to prefer the former, but when there’s an equal measure of both, that’s when you can strike gold. The fact that the Dohenys’ lived in the very walls where the play is performed and that a murder-suicide took place there as well, made for a story that set my imagination on fire. For ROAR OF THE CROWD, about the murder case against silent film star Fatty Arbuckle in the death of starlet Virginia Rappe, my research pointed toward his innocence. However, conflicting sources and contradictory theories indicated otherwise, so I weighed the source material and came up with what I view as the most plausible theory. If it makes for a compelling theatrical story and can draw an audience in, then I tackle the project with all I’ve got!

 

Rose: Do you think most audiences can easily relate to these characters in Talhotblond, and if so, why?

 

Kathrine: Yes, because it’s one of the most chilling, true-life cautionary tales I’d ever come across; ripped from recent headlines, universal in impact for our changing times and how relationships have evolved since the explosion of technology. How deep and basic is our need to be connected and to feel so important that the world must know how to find us 24/7? Take that just a step further and, as in the case of TALHOTBLOND, an obsession can easily be created that leads a person to some very dark places. It can be frightening to contemplate where society goes from here.

 

Rose: Tell me a little about your experience with the Ruskin Group Theatre, and the director, Beverly Olevin. How did these collaborations come about?

 

Kathrine: I credit Barbara Schroeder who not only brought me the story but also suggested the project to John Ruskin and Michael Myers at Ruskin Group Theatre. We presented a staged reading of the play and, happily, they added us to their production schedule. I thank them, along with Producer Robert Cannon and Casting Director Paul Ruddy for helping us pull it all together. HUGE THANKS to Director Beverly Olevin, who I have often worked with in the past. She has done some tireless work with our excellent cast and ace crew.

Rose: How do you think audiences will react to this play, and what do you hope they will gain from the experience of seeing it?

 

Kathrine: My hope is that they’ll be drawn into the world of Thomas Montgomery, someone who could be a neighbor, a colleague or a friend.

Perhaps they will ask, “What are we missing in our lives that opens up the door for such a powerful seduction?” I know there will be real empathy for the tragic innocents in the story. Even if we could never contemplate ourselves being so vulnerable, the fact that the events actually DID happen – chillingly testifies to the dangers that exist. It should give every one of us food for thought and discussion well beyond leaving the theatre.

 

Rose: What’s next for you?

 

Kathrine: In addition to launching the 12th year of THE MANOR at Greystone Mansion this summer, I’m excited about my newest play, THE PHARAOH QUEEN, inspired by the true story of Hatshepsut of Egypt who dared step forward in a male-dominated realm to claim the throne as her birthright. This is a fascinating chapter in history, riddled with conflict and intrigue. I’m currently in talks to have the play produced during the 2014-2015 theatrical season.

 

Thank you Kathrine, I will see you opening night, break a leg. Check it out,

 

TALHOTBLOND opens March 7th and runs at 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2pm on Sundays through April 26, 2014. Ruskin Group Theatre is located at 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405.  Tickets are $25 ($20 for students, seniors, and guild members) and can be purchased in advance by calling (310) 397-3244.  For more information please visit www.ruskingrouptheatre.com.  Free parking is available at the theater.

 

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