by Rose Desena
The Skylight Theatre Company has a passion for telling stories, not the kind we might tell at a table full of people, but the original well written kind that come alive on a stage. They speak to today’s audiences thus, creating live dynamic theatre that has become such a critical part of our city. Their mission is to establish Los Angeles as a major center of innovation in the AmericanTheatre. It all starts with the playwright which Skylight Theater Company has an intimate relationship with.
Skylight develops new works, though there PlayLAB series which this year was home to 15 resident writers. It is run by Shem Bitterman who himself has written several award winning plays. At the end of each season, the PlayLAB participants present LAbWorks, a festival of new works. The Festival is currently running, with 12 fresh plays that were conceived, developed, and executed within the last 12 months. That is an amazing turnaround time, I have been to PlayLab and I was very impressed by the quality.
“We want playwrights to feel that this is a home to test their new works,” says Producing Artistic Director Gary Grossman.
Being a fan of original theater and a lover of the spoken word it’s only natural for me to be very interested in these kinds of development programs.
So I had a little chat with one of the playwrights, Kit Williamson. His play Desert Fugue will run through November 17th. He discussed the process of creating this new work, and the opportunity that is offered through Playlab.
Rose: How did you become involved with the Skylight Theatre Company and their Playlab program?
Kit Williamson: I am currently in the final quarter of my MFA in play writing at UCLA and one of my professors, Jessica Kubzansky, the artistic director of Boston Court, forwarded me a “call to submit” for the Playlab. I sent a work sample and was invited to participate in the lab. Over the last year we developed our pieces with Shem Bitterman, and the rest of the writers in the lab, and this is the culmination of that process.
Rose: Where did you get the idea for Desert Fugue?
Kit Williamson: I started thinking about the play after driving my car from my hometown in Mississippi to Los Angeles. The route to California took me through west Texas, and I remember feeling like it would never end. And then we hit New Mexico, and the whole landscape changed. It was like the sky turned into a watercolor painting. The border felt like the perfect setting to explore the ideas of transformation and identity at the center of the play.
Growing up in Mississippi, I never quite felt at home— and more importantly I never quite felt like I was myself, if that makes sense. I wanted to write a play about people trying to.
Shake off that stasis in extreme ways.
ROSE: I drove that route way back in the late 70’s in the back of a VW beetle. It was a very educational ride, although I must admit I, myself was not comfortable in the Deep South. Although I thought parts of it were pretty, I know what you mean about the sky and the landscape it is stunning. Someday we can share stories about our adventure?
Rose: How did the creative process differ for this piece, as opposed to the way you have worked in the past?
Kit Williamson: The development process offers everything— a writing workshop environment, a rehearsal process and even an audience! It’s been amazing having directors and an actor for a full month and has led to a lot of significant rewrites. I think you never really know what’s working until you get the actors on their feet.
Rose: Do you think that a workshop like this offers an advantage for young writers?
Kit Williamson: Absolutely. It’s an incredibly nurturing environment. The artistic team at The Skylight really cares about the writers and wants to make sure that they have a good experience. The insight that they have offered to me regarding the piece has been invaluable.
Rose: We are very lucky here in LA to have places like the Skylight that embrace and support new writers. What’s next for you? Do you have other plays in the works?
Kit Williamson: This year I wrote and directed a web series called “Eastside,” which can be seen on Logo Online. It’s a dark comedy about a gay couple in Silver Lake struggling in the aftermath of infidelity. We were recently awarded the LA Weekly Award for “Best Web Drama.” The whole season is available online right now and will soon be available internationally as a feature.
I am also an actor, and have a role in the new Amazon pilot called “Bosch,” based on the best selling Michael Connelly novels. This year I worked on Mad Men as copywriter Ed Gifford, and on a thriller feature with Natasha Henstridge and Miranda Frigon called “Anatomy of Deception.” I have a workshop of my play “The Gin Dialogues” coming up at Rogue Machine, and I am currently working on a play about my boarding school years at Interlochen Arts Academy called “Blue and Blue.”
ROSE: Wow it sounds like you are a busy man. Just one more thing and I will let you go, what advice do you have for a new writer, or a writer who is trying to get his or her work out there?
KIT: You don’t need anyone’s permission to tell a story. Get out there and make your own opportunities. Pursue conventional routes, sure, but don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Know that for every success you have, you will have dozens of failures. It’s all practice, ultimately. So practice. Beyond that, hang in there like a cat on a tree limb on a poster in the nineties. I’m still a student in a literal sense, as I’m in the final quarter of my MFA, but I hope
I’ll be a student for the rest of my life.
ROSE: Thanks Kit, hopefully I will get a chance to see your production. Best of luck.
How about showing you support for these new artists. The nights are getting longer and as darkness creeps in earlier and earlier your less likely to be out and about. So grab a friend and check out this theatrical feast! Indulge, at 15 bucks a ticket it’s an affordable night out. Check out Skylight LaWorks, the event CLOSES DEC 15th.
BLOODLETTING: 8pm Dec 7, 13 & 7pm Dec 8, 15
BODY & BLOOD: 8pm Nov 8, 16 & 7pm Nov 10, & 3pm Nov 17
BRIDGE: 8pm Nov 1, 2, 9 & 7pm Nov 10
CATCHERS: 8pm Dec 14
DESERT FUGUE: 8pm Nov 8, 16 & 7pm Nov 3, 17
FRILLY: 8pm Dec 7, 13 & 7pm Dec 15 & 3pm Dec 8
QUARANTINE: 8pm Dec 6, 14 & 7pm Dec 8 & 3pm Dec 15
QUITTER: 3pm Dec 16 SUDDEN URGE TO JUMP: 12pm Nov 17
SWIMMERS EAR: 8pm Nov 9, 15 &7pm Nov 17 & 3pm Nov 10
FANTASY: 12pm Dec 15
SIP: 3pm Dec 14
Reservations: (213) 761-7061 or online at SkylightTix.com
THE SKYLIGHT THEATRE COMPLEX
1816 ½ North Vermont LA, CA. 90027
More information at http://skylighttheatrecompany.com
Parking information: http://skylighttheatrecompany.com/index.php/about-us/directions-a-parking-info