Playwright Spotlight: Kristen Palmer

Author, The Melting Point, Cupcake Reading Series [March 2013]
Kristen Palmer is a playwright currently living in Brooklyn.  Her produced plays include All the Girls Love Bobby Kennedy (Point of Contention Theatre), The Stray Dog (Rising Pheonix Rep), Local Story (Overlap Productions, Theatre of NOTE, Capital Fringe) and Departures and Something Decent (Blue Coyote).  Her awards include a Jerome Fellowship, Dramatist Guild Fellowship, and Connecticut State Artist Grant.  Her plays have been developed with New Georges, Circle X Theatre, The Playwrights’ Center, Soho Rep (writer/director Lab Alumna), P73 and The Women’s Project (Lab Alumna) among others.  She will earn her MFA from Hunter College in Spring 2013, where her newest play, Westward Mutations, will premiere.

Where did the idea for The Melting Point  come from?
The Melting Point began from some thinking I was doing about where I grew up – the southern part of northern Virginia.  This area has had a population explosion since I  left and is unrecognizable to me now due to high intensity development, subdivisions and shopping centers.  When I lived there, most parents worked in government -for the military, the CIA, the FBI, at the Pentagon, the White House – or in a mountain watching radar screens.  Most didn’t tell you exactly what they did or didn’t do. So I wanted to write about this place and absent adults and the sense of a world just up the road where the power is operating at a steady hum – at the same time as the local community felt relatively center-less.

I was also thinking about a woman I met who was studying to be a geologist, was in a PhD program and was about to graduate when she quit it all and joined a buddhist community in the desert.  She had hit a point where she could not balance the facts of global warming and the fact that big oil offered and/or funded the majority of opportunities available to her after graduation.

Then I found that word, ‘Cryosphere’ and the play actually began from that word and writing into first a community and then into a family that is melting but not facing its own changing structure – mirroring the bigger environmental shifts that we’re all living with and as a country not facing.

What was your favorite moment in working on this piece?
Cutting four characters out of the play and not missing them (much).

What projects are you currently working on?
I am getting ready to go into rehearsal for a new play, Westward Mutations that will be performed in NYC in May.  I get to play with some actors and a director at the Brick Theatre in Brooklyn on another new play, The Heart In Your Chest  this month in their Oven Series.  And I am in the midst of revisions on a play Sacrifice that will be read in April–that one is wringing it out of me.  And I’m working on an adaptation/extrapolation of the Persephone myth.  It’s a busy spring at my desk.

Finish the sentence- “I love theater that…”
transports me to its world.

Who is your current artist crush (any discipline)?
Anne Carson. Poet and translator.

What was the best advice you were even given as a theater artist?
As I theater artist I think it’s to show up and to find the people that you can sing with and keep them close.  As a writer I think it’s to build a happy life because you’re going to write regardless and you’ll want to write for a long time with the fewest distractions.

What is the one thing you know as an artist now that you wish you could tell your younger self?
Embrace this thing you do.

Outside of theater, what are you really into right now?
Oh I wish I could say something really cool like knitting amoebas or cooking paella – but outside of theater I’m into lesson planning for my teaching artist work and job seeking. Things feel a bit pressed this winter.  But things change and this summer I’m planning to get really into outdoor concerts and collage making and swimming in lakes, rivers and oceans.

What is your favorite and least favorite word?
Least favorite – any word mangled by government usage – ‘sequester’  or ‘financial cliff’ or whatever the next term divorced from meaning will be that will obfuscate actual discussion and understanding.

Most favorite – belly