At only 20-years-old, Kelsey Amentt is by far the youngest and freshest playwright to earn her spot in the Philadelphia Theater Workshop, where her play will be funded, promoted, and performed this spring. A Philly native, Kelsey is thrilled to debut her voice and style on the main stage. Here’s what she has to say!
Her Campus: Kelsey, tell us a little about what you’re working on:
Kelsey Amentt: Last spring semester of 2010, I took a Playwriting II course with Stephanie Fleichman in the theatre department. Her whole program is to have students write a full-fledged play. So I’ve already had this whole idea for a while, and it was one of those things where I was just waiting for an opportunity to get it down on paper, so I finally did. I had an old high school professor contact me saying that she’d heard of this contest and thought I would do really well. So I sent in my play, and out of the 88 submitted, 8 were finalists, and then four of them were chosen to produce the actual plays, and, well, I’m one of the four!
HC: What do you earn for being a finalist?
KA: It’s a $20,000 grant that they spend on my play—real actors, real directors, set designers, lighting, costumes, music—basically everything. It’s a five-week intensive program with me writing and re-writing with all these people helping me along. What’s nice is that the actors know that if I change anything, they’ll have scripts in front of them for all five weeks, and we’ll just rehearse according to the current script—so really it could be a different play every time it’s performed.
HC: Where will the show be performed?
KA: It’s at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philly, which is a huge space, so it’s really exciting. It’s hosted The Philadelphia Theatre Workshop run by Bill Felty, the artistic director. This is their fourth year hosting this program. They’ve had a range of well-known playwrights in the Philly area to little nobody’s such as myself, so you get to know all the Philly and New York theatre communities.
HC: When will you start working on it?
KA: The whole process is between April 18 and may 22 and the actual performances are May 1st, 4th, 14th, and 19th. I have a week and a half to get the first performance on its feet and then after I see how that goes, I’ll go in and make changes based on what the audience and the actors think. The best part is that after every play we have the audience do a “talk-back” and focus on what I’ve been changing in the script, so I get critiqued by the audience. I’m really nervous, but really excited!
HC: Will it be intimidating to hear the audience’s comments?
KA: It’s a little nerve-wracking, but I’m always open for change, because if the actors or audience don’t understand it, then people aren’t getting what I’m trying to say, which is the whole point: to communicate this one idea.
HC: What isthe idea?
KA: Its about a disintegration of a marriage, between a man and his wife, and they’re not sure why but they’ve been having issues. Then the husband gets in an accident; basically he runs out on her and gets hit by a truck, which puts him into a coma. In the coma, he sees his dead father-in-law. The father-in-law says, “Ok, you’ve been an awful son-in-law. I’m going to send you back to make it up to my daughter. You have a week to do so, and it’s been seven years since you’ve gone into the coma.” So everything has changed: his son who was three is now ten, his wife is dating another man…so he has to try and save his soul to figure out why he loved the woman he first knew.
HC: Where did your inspiration come from?
KA: I assure people that my parents are happily married! My parents are always asking “Is this me?” and I say “No, no!” The inspiration is more that people in our generation are getting married so young and I just don’t think they know what they’re getting into half the time, and its so nice to imagine being with the person you love for the rest of your life, which is ideal; of course everyone wants that. But it’s just deciding when the right time is, I guess.
HC: What do you anticipate?
KA: Its definitely going to be difficult, but it’s more exciting than anything else, I mean, this is what I want to do with my life, so it’s like, “Wow, I actually got the chance!” I was completely surprised when they first called me and said I was a finalist, I thought, “Are you kidding me!?” And of course, you go in, and it’s these adults in the ‘real world’ and they ask you all these questions…I’m the youngest one there, actually; the rest are in their thirties. It was a little bit risky, because they wanted to make sure I would be available considering school, and I said, this is my dream, so worst case scenario is that I take the semester off.
HC: What do you hope to take away from this?
KA: I mean I’ve always liked to act, but I don’t think it’s my strongest suit. I love to write and the idea of telling a story through a certain viewpoint. Also, I’ve realized that there are no good female monologues, and it’s really sad. Every time I would go out for an audition, I would have to find a monologue in my age range, without an accent…just plain, good monologue. All female monologues are either the sassy friend, or “he left me.” And that’s it. When I auditioned people for my show, these women come in and it’s so sad because they’ve probably looked through stacks and stacks of monologues and chosen one that doesn’t quite represent them, and yet, they choose it anyway because they figure that’s the best they’ll get at this point. That was probably the one thing I remember telling myself in 9th grade, is I need to write good monologues for people.
HC: Where will you go from here?
KA: The whole idea is branching out and communicating with people and the fact that they understand my silly little language on this big sheet of paper just amazes me. this is the first serious thing I’ve written, everything else has been comedy, so to know that I can do serious? It’s like Oh my God! There’s something just about images that really appeals to me, its like this visceral feeling you get when you see something and you say, “Wow, that really hit me; that really worked.” So I think I’m going start up a screenplay…I have an idea in mind but I really want to develop it more. I’m always trying to expand my repertoire. I just love telling stories; it’s the best.
HC: How can we see the show?
KA: Get tickets! On Facebook, join the group called “Seven.” As soon as I have the information, I’ll be sending out mass messages to all members. Or just Google the show!
HC: Any advice to other writers?
KA: Just keep plugging away. You may not feel successful now, but you’ll realize as you go through phases of different things, you’ll find what you like and don’t like in your writing and you’ll find you.