With less than a week to go until rehearsals start for our 2015 MainStage production of Holy Laughter we sat down with playwright Catherine Trieschmann to get a behind the scenes look at the play. Born in Athens, Georgia, and now a resident of a small town in Kansas, Catherine has received the L. Arnold Weissberger Award, the Edgerton New Play Award, and the Otis Guernsey New Voices Award from the William Inge Theater Festival for her work. She is a columnist on parenting and playwriting at http://howlround.com/authors/catherine-trieschmann .
WAM is honored to be presenting the first developmental workshop production of Holy Laughter and we’re looking forward to having Catherine in residence with us at the beginning and end of the rehearsal process and collaborating with her as the script develops.
Catherine will be providing a writing workshop on Saturday, October 31- click here for more details.
WAM Theatre: What was your first encounter with WAM Theatre?
Catherine Trieschmann: WAM Theatre did a reading of my play How the World Began last year, and I met Kristen van Ginhoven at the New Play Summit in Denver a couple of months later.
WAM: Why did you chose to collaborate with WAM to move the script forward into its first developmental workshop production?
Catherine: Primarily, I was impressed with Kristen and her vision for combining philanthropy with theatrical performance. WAM Theatre has a gutsy, bold and empowering mission, which I really admire. I also appreciated how receptive Kristen was to the play’s needs moving forward. I told her what I needed in order to have a productive workshop experience, and she made it happen, even though it’s something the theater has never done before. I’ve enjoyed working with Kristen and my director, Megan Sandberg-Zakian, immensely.
WAM: What are you hoping to gain from this experience?
Catherine: To further the play’s development and give our audiences an entertaining and moving night at the theater!
WAM: Religion is a big, volatile topic. Were you afraid of addressing it on stage? Have you had any feedback, positive or negative?
Catherine: Many of my plays deal with religion in one way or another, so I wasn’t particularly afraid of the topic. This is the only time I’ve written a play entirely centered on a Priest, however, so I did have some concern about whether or not the play would appeal to non-religious theater-goers. Fortunately, it seems to have broad appeal, as everyone can relate to issues of leadership and community, which underneath the liturgy, is what the play is about.
WAM: What is your faith background?
Catherine: I’ve attended about every Christian denomination under the sun at one point or another, minus the snake handlers, but I’ve watched all the documentaries about them–does that count? I was Episcopalian for about three years.
WAM: Why did you chose to write about an Episcopal priest? (Face it, there are many funnier denominations!)
Catherine: Are there? I think Episcopalians are pretty funny. I’ll put it this way: I’ve written about evangelicals, Calvinists, and Baptists so far, and this is the first time I’ve written about religion in a purely comic context. I think the liberalism of the Episcopal church creates a safe context for the sort of character driven comedy I’m interested in at the moment. The play is not satiric. It’s about ordinary, well-intentioned people getting in their own way, as they seek meaning and community in their lives.
The play is also influenced by the great British tradition of parish comedy, BBC shows like The Vicar of Dibley and my personal favorite, Rev. The Episcopal church is, of course, a branch of Anglicanism, so I naturally gravitated to that denomination for this piece. Finally, the Episcopal church is rich with ritual, as is the theater.
WAM: Where will Holy Laughter go from here?
Catherine: Only God knows.
WAM: What else are you working on now?
Catherine: I’m working on a commission for Milwaukee Repertory Theater about rock n’ roll at the moment. So far, there’s no religion in the play, but I’ve only written the first act. It may show up yet.More Info Here