HOLY COW! Reading Series Interview with Playwright Laura Marks

Posted by MB - November 29, 2012

Project Y is getting ready for our upcoming HOLY COW! reading with Playwright Laura Marks.  PY Literary Manager, Michael Doyle, talked with the playwright about this new play, writing theatre, and her next big thing.  Enjoy the interview:
Gather at the River deals with the clash between rural Christian fundamentalism and urbane liberalism.  What was the impetus for this piece and why were you drawn to it?
I actually received a real-life fundraising email similar to the one that begins the play.  It was so absurd, and yet so sincere.  And it got me thinking about the human impulse toward “good works,” particularly the way it manifests in my own urban community.
You are originally from Kentucky and most of the action of the play takes place in Kentucky Appalachia.  Was the Christian fundamentalist experience part of your own upbringing?
Yes and no.  I grew up in Lexington, KY, which is a small city with a university.   But my parents are both from small towns in Eastern Kentucky.  And I spent a lot of time visiting my grandmother there, and going to her little Baptist church with pink carpet and a mural of the River Jordan behind plexiglass.  Back then it was still possible to be politically liberal and Baptist—think Jimmy Carter, not Pat Buchanan.
 
The three Kentuckians in Gather at the River are part of an extreme evangelical Christian sect: they don’t listen to music, they make women cover their heads, and they’re strict Biblical literalists.  They’re certainly not meant to represent most Christians—or most Kentuckians, for that matter.  You can find groups like this throughout the fifty states. But I wanted to explore the absolute farthest poles of the red-state/blue-state divide.  And at the same time, I wanted to leave room for a third alternative: people who have faith, but don’t necessarily believe that they have all the answers.
 
 Why do you write for theatre as opposed to other genres?
I love the community.  I also find the limitations of the medium really intriguing.  And it feels like there are still plenty of discoveries to be made in the theater, and you don’t need tons of money to innovate.  There are endless ways to tell a story on stage.  It’s not like you’re screwed if you don’t have the budget for CGI.
What is up next for Laura Marks?
My play Bethany is opening in January at City Center Stage II.  The Women’s Project is producing it, Gaye Taylor Upchurch is directing it, and I couldn’t be more excited about our fabulous cast and dream creative team.  It’s a dark comedy, or perhaps a perky tragedy. I’m not sure which.  I wrote it in early 2009, and it takes place amidst the wreckage of the foreclosure crisis.  I was a bit concerned that by the time it reached production the economy would have recovered completely and the play wouldn’t feel as relevant.  Happily, or unhappily, that hasn’t been the case!

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