04 Aug F30 Countdown – Caitlin Turnage
And thus we have reached the last day of our countdown. After spending the last thirty days being introduced to our talented finalists we cannot wait to meet them in person. If you still want an opportunity to meet our Final 30 and to see their hard work live, it’s not too late to buy tickets or your very own festival pass. After each evening of performances everyone will gather at a nearby bar which gives everyone the opportunity to meet the playwrights, directors, cast, crew, and Samuel French staff. Also, don’t forget that if you buy a ticket to our Saturday Finals you are also invited to attend our wrap up party at Classic Stage Company; there will be food, drinks, and you’ll be one of the first to hear which six plays get selected for publication and licensing by Samuel French.
Now, without further ado, let’s meet Caitlin Turnage!
Caitlin Turnage holds a degree in B.F.A Playwriting and Dramaturgy from the University of Houston. She’s pursuing her masters at Texas State University. Her play It’s a fine day for a picnic was featured in the first ever University of Houston ten-minute play festival. In 2015 she was named as a National Finalist for the Gary Garrison National Ten Minute Play Contest for her play Jigsaw Cactus which was read in Washington D.C. as part of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and produced in L.A. as part of Scribe Stages Motel Plays: Lost and Found. Caitlin’s one-act play In a Darkroom, The Lord Knows was the recipient of the National John Cauble Short Play award. She’s a past attendee of the Dorsett Theatre Writer’s retreat in partnership with Theresa Rebeck and the Lark.
When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?
I used to perform little pageant shows in my grandma’s house in Mississippi with my cousins. I loved to dress up. I loved performing on the “stages” in the kids section at local book stores, and I’ve always loved story telling. I think the moment I knew I wanted to write plays forever came after seeing a friend’s college production of Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart. After that I just became a writing fiend and something in my brain really clicked. I couldn’t imagine a world where I wasn’t trying every second of every day to convince someone that the world we live in is a beautiful mess, and that’s what plays do for me.
How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
I went to a small private Christian school my whole life. The Holes in Human Flesh was really inspired by these students who would go on these week long mission trips. The way they would come home and discuss everything they had witnessed, always really shook me. I was vastly fascinated by the kinds of people who go on these trips, and the people they meet, at such a very young age, too. How do these two young people shape and mold each other, especially when they’re at two such different places in their lives in every way. I wanted to explore that and the guilt, separation, and abandonment surrounding this brief and seismic encounter.
What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?
Oh god. This is hard. Um…Unapologetic, visceral, instinctive, occasionally nihilistic, and poetic.
What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?
I think my familial Mississippi roots always have a strong impact on my writing. There’s a slow story-telling way of life in the South that always permeates the way I think. I also think my upbringing as the daughter of a musician and music-lover has contributed to the way I write. I hear words like melody because there’s always some music going on in my head. Because of these two things my characters linger on, and cherish words, because I was always taught to enjoy the sound. As a student, early on, I was impacted by Brian Friel’s Dancing At Lughnasa–the language in that text is some of the most beautiful I’ve heard, and the focus and lingering on the absence of language–it’s a piece that still very much gives me chills. I’m fascinated by the tradition of Oral Storytelling and what that kind of closeness–hearing the story-teller breathe and think–does for the audience. I’d like to imagine and hope that I might be allowed to reach into the chest of the audience with my script, grab their heart, and yank it too me as close as I can. That’s the kind of storytelling I want to be part of, and bear witness to and that’s the kind of work I’m inspired by.
What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?
I am secretly a major fan of the tv show River Monsters–It’s my guilty pleasure.
What are some of your favorite plays?
The Nether By Jennifer Haley, Anna Bella Eema by Lisa D’Amour, Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel, Hot ‘N’ Throbbing by Paula Vogel, and Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams.
Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?
I’m currently working on a few projects: one is an adaptation of the Kokopelli myth about racism in small town America (Stone Pebble Girls), and another is a look into purity culture and the effects it has on young girls in private christian schools (In a Darkroom, The Lord Knows). They can both be found on my New Play Exchange website along with other works
Her play The Holes in Human Flesh will be performed on August 10th at 6:30pm. The last day of a Mission trip in South Africa, a missionary realizes she’s leaving more behind than her faith, and has to deal with the consequences of the grief her religion and her friendship may have wrought.