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Image courtesy of Grace Connolly
On October 27, 2016, Cleaver Magazine published “Dreams of the Clockmaker,” written by Sean Gills, as the first edition of our new feature, Radio Plays. This feature consists of audio plays that have been directed and produced by Cleaver editor, Grace Connolly. Each recording is about ten to twenty minutes in length. They are free to the public and available for MP3 download. As we move further into January, and closer to release of “Everglades,” the second edition of Radio Plays, I thought an interview with Connolly would be the perfect preface.
Before being named as Head of Production for Cleaver Magazine’s Radio Plays, Connolly graduated from Kent State with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Then, she pursued post graduate studies at UCLA’s Extension’s Writers Program and the Primary Stages Einhorn School of Performing Arts (ESPA). She has had several pieces of short fiction published, to include: “Never Apologize/ Year of the Pig” in Blue Stockings Magazine and “Flying” in Cleaver Magazine. Her latest play, The Last Great, can be read on The New Play Exchange and is set for its next read later this month. Additionally, Connolly has been featured in small blurbs on Vice and Playbill.
Through several exchanged emails, we discussed the inception of Radio Plays, Connolly’s wishlist for the perfect submission, and her perspective on theatre, writing, and vegan ice cream. That conversation is represented in the interview published below.
Rosie Huf: Why Radio Plays?
Grace Connolly: In our original discussions about the creation of this play-based feature, Karen Rile, the co-founding editor of Cleaver Magazine, had initially suggested video. But, at least in my eyes, sometimes theatre loses its theatricality when on screen. Unless, of course, you are ABC Television Network, live-streaming mega-hits like Sound of Music with a budget that allows for full effects. Our best option—which took into consideration our audience, our budget, and our interests—was decidedly radio plays. This style allows us to keep production values high without comprising the innate theatricality that draws so many to the theatre. In this case, the fourth wall is the ear. Also, radio plays are a great way to take drama on the go. It takes a classic form of entertainment and, with the contemporary ease of the podcast, makes it accessible for anyone, anywhere.
RH: Out of the myriad submissions received, why did you choose “Dreams of the Clockmaker” as the first produced radio play? What about this script spoke most to you?
GC: I’ve been a big fan of Sean Gills work for quite some time and have followed his career closely. When he submitted his work to Cleaver, I just loved the suspense and the journey of the character of The Woman on the Stage. She has a good gig going, but nothing is ever the same after The Clockmaker shows up one day. He is also just such a fabulous old school villain.
Right away, I had so many ideas that complemented the stage directions Gills had already written in to the script. Utilizing sound effects—some live—and direction, we were able to bring this play to life in production. It just leapt off the page.
RH: How did you choose the actress that read for the “Dreams of the Clockmaker”?
GC: I met Kelly Chick through a friend of mine, Olivia D’Ambrosio, who runs Bridge Repertory Theatre in Boston, a fantastic young theatre company that just celebrated its 4th Season. I highly recommend anyone in the Boston area to check them out.
RH: Throughout the play, you signify scene transitions with the ticking of a clock and utilize tracks of audience applause. Chick’s smoky, well-paced voice also adds to the effective allusion that we are watching her perform rather than merely listening. Can you discuss your process of creating depth of scene while producing this play as an audio recording?
GC: Kelly and I had so much fun recording this. We first tried recording in segments, but something was lost doing it that way. She could only keep momentum and flow intact when we recorded straight through. So we did it in one take, which of course we recorded three times. Prior to recording, we talked in terms of dramatic beats and ideas we could play with throughout the scenes. It was just better to treat it as a live performance, which I think really enhanced the experience for the listener.
RH: You have already selected the next eight to ten minute play that you will produce. It is titled “Everglades” and was written by Brough Hansen. This play juxtaposes the lives of two brothers, both born and bred in the Everglades. In the process of revealing his characters to the audience, Hansen speaks metaphorically and overtly to the 2008 US Housing Market Crash as well as to political and social perspective. When do you begin recording, and when might listeners look to download this play from iTunes? Is there anything about this script or recording that you would like to share with readers?
GC: We begin recording on January 14th with actors Nick Lemedica and J. Todd Adams, Rachel Klein will direct. The piece will go live on iTunes at the end of January.
In addition to the podcast and script on Cleavers site, listeners can look forward to a Q and A with the playwright Brough, which reveals more insight to the process and story.
RH: As you begin reading submissions for your next produced radio play, what do you hope to find in the winning script? What character traits, forms of narrative, or thematic elements excite you?
GC: I just need things to happen and unfold. In general, I’m not a big fan of “sit around and talk” plays. I need some element of action, even if it’s subtle. I want mostly to be surprised and to feel a connection with at least one of the characters, though that doesn’t necessarily mean the character has to be likable. I’m fairly open in terms of genre and themes.
RH: Not only do you produce, you are also a playwright. You wrote a full-length play, titled, The Last Great, which you are developing for a January 2017 read. On NewPlayExchange.org the description for this play reads, “Jameson, a 15 year old intern at a regional theatre meets leading lady Mira. They answer emails, play theatre games, and run lines from a production of The Seagull as a not so innocent seduction occurs.” It sounds very intriguing. Can you offer more insight into this play as well as your inspiration for it?
GC: Oh, this play has already had such an interesting journey. The character of Jameson first came to me several years ago. I had initially only the seed of an idea about an unlikely group of friends and this bitter, eccentric 20-something. Eventually, the backstory as to why Jameson is the way she is prevailed. Jameson is a fragile young piano player. Mira is a charismatic older actress. They come together and share this intense connection. For me, the story of why that happens is the one to explore.
I ask myself questions, such as: why does Mira single out Jameson? Why can’t Jameson let go of Mira? Mira is not a monster. Jameson, she is young but also not totally emotionally okay, which really sets her over the edge. When Mira sees what her actions have done, she hates herself for it. She removes Jameson from her life, but Jameson doesn’t have that ability to let go. The ripple effect, 10 years after the fact (and beyond), is fairly astonishing.
RH: What is it like to for you to write a play vs. produce one?
GC: Totally different beasts. They are both collaborative, and producing is actually a welcome relief. I can immerse myself in someone else’s world. It’s not always as easy to live in the ones you create. Especially mine, since I write a lot of high drama.
RH: As an emerging playwright, who are your greatest theatrical influences, living or otherwise and why?
GC: This list is long but contemporary. First, Christopher Shinn and his plays, especially Dying City and the psychological themes explored within. I’m a huge Annie Baker fan, love what she did with The Flick. I just recently caught this piece by Leslye Headland at 2nd Stage, titled, “The Layover.” My god, I was jealous I didn’t write that first. I think it’s so important to see contemporary plays and to be familiar with what contemporary playwrights are doing in the now.
Classic Playwrights: Chekhov! Ibsen! Shakespeare (do I even have to say that? Never get sick of that guy).
RH: What advice would you give to young creatives looking to pursue a future as a playwright?
GC: Use a timer. Stop saying things like writers block or lack of inspiration. Just do the work. Learn to take criticism and remember that no one owes you anything. If you do get criticism, you’re actually lucky. So, use it!
RH: Something fun and absurd: what is your favorite flavor of ice cream (vegan ice cream counts)?
GC: I like making my own vegan ice cream with frozen bananas and coconut milk. It’s a lot of work and your hands get really cold but it’s worth it. Highly recommend!
*If you are interested in submitting a seven to ten page manuscript to be considered as the next edition of Radio Plays, click here for submission guidelines.