Playwright Spotlight: Holly Arsenault


Author of Marvelous (2016 Cupcake Spring Readings)

Where did the idea for Marvelous come from?

I was commissioned by Seattle Children’s Theatre to write an adaptation of The Snow Queen, the Hans Christian Andersen story. It was the same summer that Frozen, which is also based on that story, came out. So, I went to see Frozen just to make sure that I wouldn’t accidentally write something too much like it. And I didn’t really love the source material, and I was just kind of trying to find a way to write something that I would enjoy writing. It needed to a be a story about traveling–a traveling adventure, amongst traveling people. And The Snow Queen is very dark and has a lot of dangerous characters in it. So, I was trying to think of a traveling subculture with a bit of a dark underbelly, and I thought of circus people. And I set it in the deep south because I liked the contrast with the snow and ice.

What was your favorite moment in working on this piece?

Seeing the kids perform it for the first time at SCT.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am finishing final rewrites on my play The Cut, which I wrote under the auspices of the Rep Writers Group. It’s about a woman who is diagnosed with a terminal illness and asks her partner to kill her in their kitchen. I really like it.


And after that I will dive back in to my third full-length, The Manor, which I wrote during my second year in the Rep Writer’s Group (last year). It takes place in a dementia ward of a long-term care facility. The one man living there is having sexual relationships with a bunch of the women, and everything is going along great until this young aide starts working there and asking questions about consent. Nicki Minaj is also an important character. It’s a big mess right now, but I think it’s got a good, beating heart, and I’m excited to work on it some more.

I’m also the director of a non-profit called TeenTix, and we are getting ready to launch a major project, so that’s drawing a fair bit of my attention. Lastly, I am the parent of the world’s greatest four-and-a-half year-old, so really everything I just talked about is just what I do on the side.

Finish this sentence- “I love theater that…”

speaks its own language.

Who is your current artist crush (any discipline)?

Crystal Pite. CRYSTAL PITE. CRYSTAL PITE. CRYSTAL PITE. I’m saying it like an incantation because I’m pretty sure she’s in touch with the magic.  

What was the best advice you were given as a theater artist?

Jerry Manning told me “If you want to be a writer, just write every day.” I try to.

What is the one thing you know as an artist now that you wish you could tell your younger self? Fear is instructions for what you are supposed to do. Read them.

Outside of theater, what are you really into right now?

My son. My husband. Quick pickles.

What is your favorite and least favorite word?

Favorite: I’m trying to bring back cattywampus, which is a word that my late grandmother, Donna Jean, always used to say. It means disorganized or misaligned. Use it today!


Least favorite: Foodie

Any other thoughts you’d like to share? (About Live Girls! Theater, Love, Life, Puppies, …really – anything at all?)

Live Girls! is the reason I am writing plays. It was Meghan persistently asking me to write things–even when I insisted over and over that I was not a playwright–that set me on this path. We are so lucky as a community to have a company like this that is so dedicated to elevating women’s voices that it goes out and finds women who don’t even yet know they have a voice to share. I am eternally grateful for Live Girls! Theater.




Holly Arsenault is a Montreal-born, Seattle-based playwright and arts administrator.


Her plays have been produced in Seattle at Annex Theatre, Live Girls! Theater, 14/48: The World’s Quickest Theatre Festival, The Drama School at Seattle Children’s Theatre, Bainbridge Performing Arts, Infinity Box Theatre, and the One-Minute Play Festival, in Boca Raton by Parade Productions, in Detroit at BoxFest, and in Chicago at DePaul University. Her plays have been developed and read at Seattle Repertory Theatre, where she is an alumna of the Writers Group and at the University of Washington School of Drama, where she is also an alum.


Holly’s play Undo is the recipient of the 2013 Theatre Puget Sound Gregory Award for Outstanding New Play and the 2013 Seattle Theater Writers’ Gypsy Rose Lee Award for Excellence in Local Playwriting. Undo was a semi-finalist for the 2014 Princess Grace Award and was nominated for the 2014 American Theatre Critics Association new play awards. It is published Rain City Projects’ Manifesto v.4, edited by Chay Yew. Her play 24 Pictures of a Pilot, which was commissioned by Live Girls! Theater, was a finalist for the Heideman Award at the National 10-Minute Play Contest at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and was published in Rain City Projects’ Manifesto Series, v.2: Vivid Impact, edited by Steven Dietz. In 2013, Holly was profiled by the Seattle Times and KUOW as one of the “13 for 13: 13 arts leaders poised to shape the future of the arts in the Pacific Northwest.” She is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.