Senior named finalist for playwright award
Margaret Hynds | Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Notre Dame senior Kaitlyn Farrell was recently named one of three finalists in the Beckwith Theatre Company and Dowagiac Dogwood Fine Arts Festival’s “Emerging Playwright Award” competition.
The contest is designed to recognize young playwrights between the ages of 18 and 30 living or studying in Michigan or northern Indiana. Though Farrell’s play, titled “Ambrotypes,” did not win the competition, she received $250 for being named a finalist.
”She didn’t win, but it was awesome exposure in the local arena for work,” senior Robert McKenna, who played Jason M. Hawley in the play, said. “Everyone has to start somewhere.”
The play was originally commissioned for ND Student Players, an on-campus theatre troupe, but it was not performed as scheduled in the fall and was not re-scheduled.
“In January, one of my original actors [McKenna] came to me and said, ‘this play needs to be put on,’” Farrell said. “That’s sort of how it got started again.”
Farrell said she worked with McKenna to acquire funds from the student players and began the process of casting the show.
Around the time Farrell began preparing to stage her work at Notre Dame, she submitted “Ambrotypes” to the Emerging Playwright’s competition.
“I had written the play in about three weeks over the summer, but over Christmas break, I spent another week editing, [and] I added another scene. … It wasn’t until spring break that they called me and told me I was a finalist,” Farrell said.
Farrell said she originally got the idea for the play when she visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Photography and the American Civil War” exhibit last summer, she read about the work of Alexander Gardner, a Scottish immigrant who became a battlefield photographer. Gardner became the subject of “Ambrotypes,” which fits into the genre of historical fiction.
Since Farrell was named a finalist, the Beckwith Theatre Company staged a reading of the play at the beginning of April, she said.
“That may have been one of the better things to happen to us,” freshman Nick Lindstrom said, who played Alexander Gardner in the ND Student Players production. “Kaitlyn got the chance to see complete strangers perform it, and they interpreted the script in an entirely different way than she did. She brought that back and it helped shape her vision.”
The Notre Dame production was staged one week later, April 24-25, in the Washington Hall Theatre Lab.
“It was my first time directing a full-length play,” Farrell said. “I tend to be more quiet, and I’m definitely more interested in script analysis and playwriting, and it’s pretty rare that playwrights get to direct their own work, so it was definitely a good experience.”
Farrell said the production was based on a very collaborative process.
“I loved just watching the show, listening to the words that I wrote. … It’s a very kind of transcendental experience. Just sitting there, and I know what the next line is going to be, but I’m always surprised by how they present it,” Farrell said.
After she graduates, Farrell plans to move back to her home state of New York.
“My hope is to maybe get an apprenticeship at a theater. I would love to work in script analysis, but my hope is to continue playwriting as well,” she said. “I would like to get the play published this summer, but sometimes you need to have a full-scale production before they’ll publish it.
“I’ve just loved being able to share my work with other people.”