Kelly Galvin - Director for "Tall Girls"

Kelly Galvin – Director for “Tall Girls”

WAM: You were the Curator of the inaugural season of the Fresh Takes Play Reading Series in 2014. Now you have moved east to work towards your MFA in directing at Boston University. We miss you here at WAM and we’re glad you’re able to find time to direct The Tall Girls for this year’s series. Tell us about the experience of starting something new and then choosing to leave and let it grow and flourish under another person’s leadership.

Kelly Galvin: It was really fun and exciting to work with Kristen van Ginhoven last year to create Fresh Takes, but now I am following my dream and working towards my career goals, which is also exciting. Molly Clancy is doing a great job as the Fresh Takes Curator this season. She’s really passionate and the perfect person to take charge, and I am thrilled that the series is continuing on.

WAM: How did you find this play?

Kelly: Kristen has a contact at Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, where The Tall Girls premiered in 2014, who sent us the play and I fell in love with it right away. I didn’t fit well into last year’s line-up, but we kept it on the list for 2015 and I was thrilled to be asked to direct. The play is about stories and relationships that resonate personally with me. It explores so many aspects of what it is to be a girl – particularly the wonderful competitive experience and friendships that can develop through sports, which are seldom dramatized on the American stage.

Meg Miroshnik is one of my favorite playwrights and, I think, one of the most exciting playwrights at work today. She studied with Paula Vogel at the Yale School of Drama, and she’s part of The Kilroys, the group that is making this great list of plays by female playwrights. This is really an exciting time to be a female theatre artist, women are making wonderful work and supporting each other and demanding to be heard, which is really inspiring.

WAM: Tell us about the plot of the play from your point of view.

Kelly: It is the story of five teen-aged girls in a tiny, impoverished mid-western town called Poor Prairie, in a mythical moment in the 1930’s. Two strangers arrive in town, 15-year-old Jean and a man called Haunt Johnnie – he has a basketball, the only inflated basketball in town. The play is about the struggle of the girls to form a team, with Johnnie as their coach, and make it downstate to the championship. Miroshnik doesn’t talk much about the Great Depression or the Dust Bowl, but it’s evident that the town has been affected by both. Getting out of town is vitally important to these girls, and the basketball court is the one place that they can completely be themselves, where they can to continue to play, grow, and be children – in stark contrast to other their few other options, including marriage at 17 or 18, or holding a menial job. Those options feel very stark to these girls, while playing makes them feel really alive. This raises the question: ‘Who gets to have a childhood in this country and culture?’ That question is really important to me here and now. For all the lip service we pay to it, childhood really is a luxury.

WAM: Do you or did you play basketball?

Kelly: I did play in 7th, 8th and 9th grades, even though I am not a “tall girl” physically – as Miroshnik says in her stage directions “Tall is a state of mind not a physical state.” It surprised me how much I remember and I find it really is helpful to have a speaking knowledge of the game as I approach this play.

WAM: Sports are hard to stage though. In school there is, sadly, a real divide between athletics and the arts – those activities are often scheduled simultaneously so that students really can’t participate in both – hence actors are seldom athletes. What physical demands does this play make on the performers?

Kelly: Well, it won’t come through as clearly in a reading as it would in a full production, but what Miroshnik has done putting basketball on stage makes the action hyper-real. There are moments in the play where a character has to make a shot, which puts the actor in exactly the same place that a player would be in during a game.

WAM: There is only one male role in the play, which mirrors the population of the town where most of the men have had to leave to find work. How does this dynamic play out?

Kelly: I never really thought about it, but in my family growing up there was me, my three sisters, my mom and my dad, so we were five girls and one guy! And for me, after seven seasons teaching and performing Shakespeare, it is delightful to find the women on stage vastly outnumbering the men! But the structure of the play is focused completely on the dynamics of being a team and being a coach, and on the relationships between the girls than on male/female relationships. The compact cast brings to light the girls’ feelings of desolation structurally.

WAM: This summer will mark your eighth summer with Shakespeare & Company, where you started working right after earning your BA at Wellesley College.

Kelly: Shakespeare & Company has been a really fruitful place for me to work because they allow their artists to do so many things – from teaching, to acting and directing. I am really grounded in the aesthetic of the company and their focus on telling human stories clearly on stage. That’s why The Tall Girls appeals to me, because it tells that kind of story.

WAM: Now you’ve embarked on your MFA studies. Where do you hope they will take you?

Ultimately, I would love to be in a leadership position at a theatre company either as an Artistic Director or a Literary Manager, so I could direct and have a hand in choosing plays and crafting the seasons. Right now I’m finishing the first of three years’ work towards my MFA in directing. The first semester I got to assistant direct, and this semester I directed and started learning about the design process and writing, so I am really getting an opportunity to explore. I will do professional internships throughout the program. It is both exciting and exhausting.

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