Racey Plays follow-up: a chat with Kevin R. Free

Posted by Project Y - March 24, 2011

Playwright, Actor, and Theatre Artist Extraordinaire: KEVIN R FREE and I have a post-mortem discussion of his RACEY PLAY reading “A Raisin in the Salad: Black Plays for White People.”

In our reading, the stage directions were really important to the audience experience of the play. In thinking of staging the play, do you feel that your stage directions have their own voice?

KF:  My stage directions do have their own voice.  Thank God. I like to see myself as a “Negro Intellectual,” someone who says a lot of things before he gets to a point. I’d like my stage directions to read that way: long-winded often, funny at times, self-important always. I am not sure that any of my plays make sense to the reader without some form of my Negro Intellectual to hold hands and usher the reader to the danger (or comedy) of the next scene. I think it’s my way of saying, “I’m only angry and edgy in my plays; I’m more charming in real life. Read on (bitches).” I was happy to have David Carl read the stage directions and shocked and delighted that he became such a funny part of the reading.

The main character in “A Raisin in the Salad: BPFWP” is Kevin R Free. I know that I was excited to have the REAL Kevin R Free play the role. Moving forward, do you want to play yourself in the play?

KF:  I don’t think I want to play myself in this play (unless, of course, it is a requirement of the theatre who produces it). The play is about a specific moment in my career and I felt at the reading that I was tied to what I wrote, when I really wanted to say other things. Hmm. Now that I am writing this, I suppose if I had more rehearsal time and were directed by someone else, I would have found a way to make it work – even write newer material for the Kevin R. Free character. There’s also a moment in the show – “Black Plays FOUR White People” – in which Kevin R Free reveals the (very bad) beginnings of a solo show. That scene was really hard for me to play straight, without giving a wink and a nod about how I know how bad it is… Maybe that’s a good reason for me to play myself – because I’d be playing myself in the past, playing the me who doesn’t really see his own humanity in the same moments that others see it. I have colleagues who tell me that I MUST play myself. Perhaps they want to see the guts & gore associated with this play firsthand. Hmmm. I’m still thinking about it.

MB:  Although since this reading, I have FINALLY seen “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” by the New York Neo-Futurists, this reading was my first introduction to seeing that kind of work done.
Does the play work as a neo-futurist piece?

KF:  It DOES make sense as a neo-futurist piece, but a neo-futurist would have to direct it. I think it could either way. One of the facets of neo-futurism that most excites me is that, as performers, we don’t have to “get” why we do the things we do in our plays. If someone gives us a task, we have to do it. The task gives us our objectives. Emotions are organic, because they are real – we react to how it feels to do the task, or whether we succeed or fail to do the task. Further, we acknowledge that we cannot SEE what a scene looks like, so we trust that while we are doing the scene, doing our tasks, that the audience is “getting” what we often do not. It’s kind of freeing as a performer not to have to do anything more than what our director tells us. It is to me, at least. I don’t think that actors are robots, but I think – at least with this play – what we do can be simplified.

MB:  As part of the rewriting process, how do you streamline the action of the play?

KF:  I cut a couple of scenes and combined a couple of others, and I couldn’t be happier about it. There’s one more moment I’d like to add for now, and I think the play is now short enough for me to add it. I think the play needs a short moment to acknowledge the struggles of other people of color. I won’t go into what I think will happen, but it will definitely have an edge (and add to the number of people in the cast for that moment).

MB:  Thanks so much, Kevin, for being the first playwright to kickoff this series
 for Project Y!

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