Director of Cultural Programming Nina Capelli interviews playwright Emma Carter about her experience as a finalist in the Harold Clurman Playwrights Division 2017-2018 season. Emma’s play Wicked Creatures was the center of an intensive workshop behind closed doors in December 2017. In June 2018 Wicked Creatures was one of five that the studio featured in the First Breath New Play Reading Series, which presents new work in free, public readings.
Was this experience artistically nourishing?
Yes, in many ways. It was wonderful to travel to New York, see the city, meet new artists, reconnect with old friends. The city nourished my soul by charging me up with energy. The people I met on this trip were all incredibly kind, supportive, and honestly seemed happy to help. Having a chance to sit down with the cast and director of Wicked Creatures and just talk about the script a little bit was particularly helpful, especially considering everyone’s impressive educational background and resume of experience. I’ve learned so much about my writing by listening to other people dissect it.
Are readings useful to you? And if so could you say in what ways?
Yes, the readings are helpful in many ways. 1) It’s helpful to hear actors I don’t know interpret my work. It’s illuminating to see how their choices differ from what I’ve seen other actors do, or how their interpretations of the characters line up with or differ from what I intended when I wrote the piece. 2) Hearing the play read in front of an audience is always helpful, especially if it’s an audience of people who don’t know me or my work particularly well. The audience’s reactions will tell me all I need to know about what’s working or not working. Each reading teaches me something new about the piece’s strengths and weaknesses. 3) It’s also helpful to network and meet new people! In this business you never know where your next opportunity might present itself, but the more people who meet, the more genuine connections you make, the better it is for everyone.
Did you feel that you grew as an artist as a result of this experience? And if so how?
I do think so! Every time we share our work and open ourselves up to critique or criticism we’re given an opportunity to grow. To practice vulnerability, letting go of our ego, letting go of control by handing the script over to actors and directors. Also, a playwright friend of mine saw this reading and was able to give me some really great feedback. At the time I was a little to overwhelmed to really absorb it all, but now that some time has passed and I’ve been able to go back and look at the notes he sent me again, I feel a renewed energy for working on Wicked Creatures, and making it even better.
Is there any other feedback you’d like to share?
I very much enjoyed being a part of the reading series, and appreciate the Playwrights Division for including me.
Emma Carter is a playwright, actress and teaching artist based in Kansas City, MO. She holds a BFA in Theatre Arts with a minor in Music from Stephens College, is a member of the Midwest Dramatists, the winner of KC’s Project Playwright 2015. Her works have been produced by The Living Room Theatre, The Fishtank Theater, Project Playwright, Midwest Dramatists and The Barn Players in Kansas City. Find copies of her work on the National New Play Network.