Spotlight on Robert Caisley, dramaturg for THE FRYBREAD QUEEN and Writing Workshop Leader

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Robert Caisley is an Associate Professor of Theatre & Film, and Head of the Dramatic Writing Program at the University of Idaho. His play The Lake received its Equity World Premiere at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre and was subsequently produced at the Mill Mountain Theatre as part of the 2005 Norfolk Southern Festival of New Works. Other plays include: Kissing (New Theatre, January 2009, previously produced at the Theatre Artists Studio in 2008 and Phoenix Theatre’s 2007 Festival of New Works), The 22-Day Adagio (Mill Mountain Theatre 2004 Norfolk Southern Festival of New Works), Good Clean Fun (developed at the 2008 Great Plains Theatre Conference) and Front (winner of the 1996 Fourth Freedom Forum Peace Play Award; developed at Sundance Writer’s Lab). His numerous short plays include Western Mentality (recently published in Mizna: Journal of Arab-American Literature), The Apology (2009 Northwest Drama Review), and Santa Fe, which was a finalist for the 2004 Heideman Award from Actor’s Theatre of Louisville and originally produced by Stageworks/Hudson as part of the 2005 Play By Play Festival, Hudson, NY. His new play Push was commissioned by Penn State School of Theatre.

Native Voices: How would you describe the field and/or profession of dramaturgy?
Rob Caisley: We help playwrights remember the play they dreamed about last night but maybe forgot to write down in their first draft.

NV: What have been some of your favorite projects you've worked on as a dramaturg?
RC: It’s always going to be my students’ plays. They’re at that really exciting time in their writing careers, when the limitations of their experience are truly a blessing. They haven’t developed the critic’s voice in their heads yet – as a result, they don’t talk themselves out of a risky choice in style or subject or construction.

NV: What drew you to the profession of theatre?
RC: My father has been an actor his whole life. I attended a rehearsal of a production he was in when I was very young: Lillian Hellman’s Little Foxes. He was the guy with the heart condition. He’s having an attack and he tries to stagger up the staircase to the medicine cabinet to get his pills … but his cruel and vindictive sister is keeping them from him, actually rattling the bottle as he tries in vain to reach her. My dad (a far more vivacious man at the time) did a spectacular fall backwards down the staircase. I stood up in the back of the theatre and screamed, “She killed my dad!” The magic of the theatre had completely hypnotized me!

NV: Which plays or playwrights have you been influenced by?
RC: I’m partial to the Royal Court Joint Stock Group of writers: Caryl Churchill, David Hare, Howard Brenton, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Jim Cartwright, etc.

NV: If you could sit down and interview anyone from the past, who would that be?
RC: Anton Chekhov.

NV: What's the longest standing item on your "To Do" list?
RC: Item #1 – Start this damned To Do list!!!

NV: What is your greatest indulgence?
RC: Wine.

NV: As you may know, our 2009-2010 Season marks Native Voices' Tenth Anniversary at the Autry. Where do you think theatre will be in the next ten years?
RC: Hmm. Don’t know. I’d like to see more epic, sprawling plays being written and produced like August: Osage County. We need some gutsy producers to allow playwrights to really expand their creative horizons. Things will move toward liquid scenery and digital tech to offset the staggering cost of production.

Rob has been a friend of Native Voices since its inception. In addition to serving as the dramaturg on Carolyn Dunn's Frybread Queen, Rob will also lead a Writing Workshop entitled "First Aid for Playwrights." This workshop is only open to retreat participants.


Jean said...

Where's Rob's Q&A? Wanted to hear his answers!

Rob's been a great friend to Native Voices over the years and we're just glad to get him back to Southern California where he belongs!!!

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