Local playwright Krista Knight's work is being presented all over the country. Krista has been in Residence at La Napoule Art Foundation, UCROSS, Yaddo, and MacDowell. BA: Brown University. MA: Performance Studies from NYU. MFA Playwriting: UC San Diego. Page 73 Playwriting Fellow (2007). Shank Playwriting Fellow at the Vineyard Theatre (2011-2012). Member of Youngblood and New Georges JAM. Krista teaches playwriting, screenwriting, and digital storytelling at St. Mary’s College and SUNY Oswego. She currently has a world premiere play running with Wily West which closes October 24th.
I like to make lists. I have a “Play Ideas” lists on my phone, in my notebook, in google docs, on my hand. If an idea is potent enough to appear cross platform, I might be onto something. It usually takes a prompt, an exercise, an upcoming reading date, the fear of disappointing someone I’ve promised material to, to actually start writing. I like deadlines, an excuse to test the waters.
I begin with writing dialogue without character names—it’s faster because I use word instead of template software so I can have complete control over the topography—and I’m not sure who is saying what. I may not even be sure who exists in this world. I’m trying to locate the sound, the rhythm, the mundane things the characters might spare over while hiding the body, or coaching the soccer game, or working up the courage to confess undying love.
Later I’ll outline. It will start with a bullet point list of scenes I’d like to see/would be excited to write. Eventually that coalesces and necessitates remaining movements/moments.
Once an idea is on a roll, I find that my characters are generous with their time. I think of them pleasantly milling in the play’s ether—totally game for whatever may be asked of them—ready to jump into a scene and rile things up, cause a ruckus, perform a feat.
I try to write what I would find exciting to see. Outside of that I don’t always follow the rules of the well made play, which can be awkward in my double identity as a playwriting professor who hammers home Aristotle’s poetics, and thus espouses that which she doesn’t always do.
Embarrassment at admitting this aside, I might say Andrew Lloyd Weber. He was my first introduction to theatre and was embedded at a time when I was outwardly obsessive and extremely impressionable. I probably listened to my tape cassette recording of Jesus Christ Superstar 3000 times. I rarely ever removed the sweatshirt. On more than one occasion, the Knight household had to stop what they were doing to find one of those two items.
My mom also did an interesting thing. Growing up in Silicon Valley, trips to the theatre most often came in the form of the touring shows in a series at the Golden Gate called Best of Broadway. A few weeks before seeing the show, my mom would get the soundtrack and we’d listen over and over. I didn’t read many, if any, plays at a kid, but I became very familiar with the process of listening to music and lyrics and trying to imagine what I was seeing on stage, and the story that came between.
What are your two favorite characters in all theatre and why?
Benno Blimpie and Dr. Frank N. Furter
What would you say you got the most from your graduate school experience in playwriting?
The fear and joy of feeling like UH OH writing a play means we’re going to CREATE something and who the hell knows what it’s going to look like and if it’s going to escape and raze townships or bring people to a greater understanding of humanity.
Also the German nanobiologist Nicole Steinmetz, who is now a collaborator on the The Nanoman (www.thenanoman.org), taught me how to surf.
Any personal aspects of this play that you are willing to share?
My mom is incredibly charming, and a good, open listener, which means she is the recipient of some very disturbing anecdotes.
I notice you write a lot about stream of consciousness and dreams. What about the topic of the subconscious or dreams seems to draw you in as a writer?
I love that theatre can manifest the imagined, and, depending on the rules of the play, force the characters to grapple with it. I like that theatre can make metaphor manifest. I like that theatre gives us two sides of a triangle and asks us to draw the third in order to see the shape.
When you finish a play do you feel it is complete?
Mostly in the sense that I’ve gone as far as I can, and the lingering puzzles of this play will be jumping off points of the next project.
What most excites you about seeing this play on stage?
The final moments. The last page of the script is the repetition of a phrase.
You now teach the art of playwriting - what is it you try to leave with your students?
I want my playwriting students to learn how to create live experiences across platforms—virtual and real—so that they can create scripts for the stage, digital web experiences, and high tech amusement park rides.
We need to be bold in our definitions of what constitutes a "platform" or a "stage" from which we can edify and entertain an audience.