12 Jul OOB Final 30 Countdown – Kellen Blair
Welcome to day four of our Final 30 countdown, and say hello to Kellen Blair!
Kellen Blair is the Drama Desk nominated co-creator of Murder For Two (off Broadway: Second Stage Theatre and New World Stages. World premiere: Chicago Shakespeare Theatre). The show is currently touring the country and gearing up for several international productions (starting in Japan this summer). Kellen and Murder For Two co-writer Joe Kinosian are the recipients of the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Musical Work in Chicago (2011) and the ASCAP Foundation Mary Rodgers / Lorenz Hart Award (2013). Their work has been showcased on Broadway, the Kennedy Center, and theaters across the United States. Kellen is also the lyricist of Scrooge in Love (with composer Larry Grossman), recently awarded Best Score of 2015 by the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle.
1. When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?
I remember watching Dr. Strangelove as a young kid and thinking to myself, I want to do that. I wasn’t exactly sure what “that” was at the time, but I knew it had something to do with pointing out absurd things and trying to get people to laugh at them. I studied film at Chapman University with the intention of writing and directing movies. The directing thing sort of came to an end when I realized I wasn’t very good at the directing thing. And then one day I noticed that every time I sat down to write a screenplay, I usually ended up writing a play or a musical instead. I still love movies, but the live aspect of theatre got under my skin pretty quickly.
2. How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
I’ve become a little obsessed with vintage science fiction over the last year or so. I read The Sirens of Titan last summer, and (without spoiling the end) the idea that all of civilization might have such mundane and insignificant roots really stuck with me. I also teach high school film and playwriting classes so I am constantly exposed to ridiculous levels of teenage angst. Then one day I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if parents went a little too far in terms of trying to explain to a child the insignificance of a problem.
3. What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?
This question is far too self-reflective and makes me uncomfortable!
4. What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?
A few names and shows come to mind. Jeff Marx and his show Avenue Q. Jeff for convincing me to move to New York and apply to the BMI Musical Theatre Writing Workshop; Avenue Q for making me laugh out loud in the theatre and inspiring me to try to create the same effect. Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows (and my favorite show of all time, How to Succeed in Business) for being such great illustrations of first rate comedy and impeccable craft.
5. What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?
I still watch Survivor religiously… and constantly feel like I’m learning lessons that apply to the entertainment industry, which is terrifying.
6. What are some of your favorite plays?
Recently, I loved Hand to God. Also, anything by Martin McDonagh (especially The Pillowman). And it doesn’t get much better than August: Osage County in my opinion.
7. Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?
I’ve been writing a new musical (tentatively titled The More Things Change) with composer and co-bookwriter Joe Kinosian; we recently did a workshop with Second Stage Theatre and we’re excited about taking some next steps soon. We’ve also got several productions of our show Murder For Two coming up. As a born-and-raised Seattle guy, I’m most excited about the 5th Avenue / ACT theatre co-production next spring, which will be the show’s northwest debut. And we’re thrilled to be heading to Japan for the show’s international debut this summer. Check out www.murderfortwomusical.com andwww.kinosianandblair.com for other updates!
His play Madeline 14 Billion Jumps the Track will be performed on August 11th at 8:30pm. The parents of an angsty teenage girl try to help their daughter recognize the insignificance of a middle school social tragedy. Unfortunately they also end up revealing the insignificance of her entire existence in the process.