Jacqueline Lawton: How long have you lived and worked as a playwright in DC? What brought you here? Why have you stayed?
Kristen LePine: I moved to Northern Virginia in 2001 when my then-husband was transferred here for work. Within a couple of months, I was involved in a writer’s group and meeting other playwrights. Today, I’m a single mom with a 13 and 9 year old, and this area is now home.
JL: Have you ever been a member of a DC area playwrights writing group? If so, did you find it useful? Would you recommend that other playwrights join them?
KL: When I first arrived, I joined Ernie Joselovitz’s Playwright’s Forum. Not long after that, I met Robert Alexander at a playwright’s conference at Arena Stage. He told me about a playwright’s group he was running at Woolly Mammoth called PlayGround, and I joined that group, too. PlayGround was very useful for me. We met twice a month to workshop within the group pieces we were writing. The group was filled with abundant talent that was inspirational and motivational. We also produced an annual reading series where I met and worked with many actors and directors whom I continue to work with today. Currently, I am not a part of a formal writing group, but I do feel like I am a part of an artistic community with The Hub Theatre. I am a company member, and the Hub has commissioned 3 plays to date: FOOLISH FIRE, LETO LEGEND, and DIRE WOLVES. With each of these plays, I have had the opportunity to work closely with the artistic director, a director, and actors to help me from first draft to a polished draft ready for audience feedback.
JL: In DC, we have the Capital Fringe Festival, the Source Theatre Festival, the Kennedy Center's Page-to-Stage Festival, the Black Theater Festival, and the Hip Hop Theatre Festival. We also have the Mead Lab at Flashpoint Theater Lab Program. Have you participated in any of these? If so, can you speak about your experience?
KL: I have participated in the Source Theatre Festival (2003), The Kennedy Center Page-to-Stage Festival (2006, 2009-2012) Inkwell’s Play Lab (2008), and Active Culture’s Diving Board Festival (2009). My experiences have all been positive, and if I had the opportunity to participate in these festivals again, I would.
JL: What kind of work do you do to pay the bills? How do you balance this work with your writing?
KL: I teach Theatre courses at the University of Mary Washington and Theatre and English courses at Lord Fairfax Community College; additionally I run a freelance writing and editing company called Scribeworks. Teaching theatre and writing plays works hand in hand. I know I am a better instructor because of my experiences in the theatre, and teaching dramatic literature specifically has helped me hone my craft. I am happiest when I’m writing and I really enjoy teaching, so I find a way to make it all work together – though I’d be lying if I said it was always balanced and harmonious. It’s not; it takes planning and discipline. But, I am lucky because I get to do daily what I love to do!
JL: How many plays have you had produced in the DC area? Were any of these plays self-produced? If so, where and what did you learn from that experience?
KL: In DC, I have had loads of readings (like 20!) and one production with the Source Theatre Festival.
JL: If you could be produced at any theatre in DC, which would it be and why?
KL: Right now I am continuing to work with The Hub Theatre, who commissioned DIRE WOLVES and is producing a 2nd reading of the play at the Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage Festival. My relationship with The Hub Theatre’s Artistic Director, Helen Pafumi, dates back to my days at Woolly’s PlayGround. While working on LETO LEGEND with The Hub Theatre, I met Toni Rae Brotons of Pinky Swear Productions. Toni Rae brought the script to the attention of the ladies of PSP, and I am excited about the potential to continue the journey, so stay tuned. When I find smart, talented, and generous people to work with, who understand my voice and intention, I want to keep working with them.
JL: DC audiences are ...
KL: ... hungry for new plays (but that just might be my fantasy…I hope it isn’t.)
JL: DC actors, designers and directors are …
KL: ... dedicated, talented, and truly generous.
JL: DC critics are ...
KL: ... theatre lovers themselves, and this comes across when I read their reviews.
JL: How do you feel the DC theatre community has addressed the issues of race and gender parity ? How has this particular issue impacted you and your ability to get your work produced on the main stages?
KL: Last season, I saw a number of DC productions; over half of the plays featured female dramatists – and a few were by DC woman! That being said, the statistics circulating that DC theatres produce more male dramatists than female dramatists and the national reports that male roles out number female roles is ironic and alarming when matched against audience data showing that more woman go to the theatre. I want to believe that these female driven audiences support the theatre that they want to see, that speaks to them, and if race and gender parity is important, then it ought to be reflected in what these audiences choose to see.
Has this issue impacted me? I think my own self-promotion/circulation efforts impact me more than anything. At the end of the day, when I have an hour or two to myself, I tend to write. Still, I can’t complain because I get to write, find opportunities, work with incredibly talented people, and see my work on its feet.
JL: What advice do you have for an up and coming DC based playwright or a playwright who has just moved to D.C.?
KL: When I was a grad student, I took a summer workshop taught by Tina Howe, who stressed the importance of making connections in your own back yard. I took this message to heart, and when I moved to DC, I made a commitment to get involved with the DC theatre community. I would encourage any newly arrived or new playwright to see DC theatre, attend new play readings, join a playwright’s social group like the DC-Area Playwrights, join a writing group like the Playwright’s Forum, and socialize with other playwrights and theatre artist. And, when you find good people to work with, hold onto them. Without a doubt, I owe my success in DC to the connections I have made and maintained.
JL: What's next for you as a playwright? Where can we keep up with your work?
KL: The HUB Theatre is producing a reading of my play DIRE WOLVES at the Kennedy Center Page to Stage Festival on 9/3 at 7:30pm. I am also writing a monologue that I will be (gulp) performing at the Intersections Art Festival in March 2012. And, I have (finally!) started a website: www.kristenlepine.com; please visit me there.
Jackie – Thanks for including me in your project. I am honored to participate.
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I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!