The following is an interview with Sarah Kelly, playwright of the play, War Stories, which is currently playing at the Actor’s Workout Studio in North Hollywood, CA. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Kelly about adapting the play from its original format (which premiered at the 2016 Hollywood Fringe Festival), the cast of actors involved with the production, her future plans for the show, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: The play, War Stories, made its premiere at the 2016 Hollywood Fringe Festival and recently began a new run as a full-length play at the Actor’s Workout Studio in North Hollywood, CA. For our readers who may be unfamiliar with the show, how would you describe its premise?
Sarah Kelly: War Stories is a romantic drama about the intersecting love lives of four people in Los Angeles. The classical Roman poet Ovid famously said, “Every lover is a soldier,” and the title draws from that idea. All the characters in War Stories want love, but their obsessive quest in search of it can sometimes lead them to do terrible things. And as the story unfolds, you start to learn more about how they know each other, and how their lives overlap, and it gets quite messy and complicated. The city of Los Angeles functions as a fifth character in the show, a city of dreamers where creative success is often equated with love, but where that success can be elusive and leave people feeling a unique sort of loneliness.
BD: What inspired you to tell this story, and how would you describe your creative process in bringing it to life?
SK: A year and a half ago, I was working on another show with War Stories’ director, Stacy Ann Raposa, a solo performance workshop called Barenaked Angels. In that show, an ensemble of eight actors each wrote a ten-minute solo performance piece about a true event from their lives, and then Stacy, as the director, took everyone’s individual stories, chopped them up, and wove them back together to create a cohesive whole. Something about that concept really appealed to me; the way that an audience member could follow the threads of different individual stories and watch them ultimately connect back together. So, I thought about how I could do something similar, but this time as a fictional piece where I created the ways that the stories overlapped, rather than the autobiographical storytelling of Barenaked Angels, where those connections happened organically. And as I thought about the ways that fictional characters’ lives could intertwine, romantic entanglements naturally held the best potential for drama.
In terms of the creative process, I started off by writing a monologue for each character, where they introduced themselves to the audience. And then I just wrote and wrote and wrote; wrote from the voice of each character. And little by little, their stories started to emerge.
BD: What can you share with us about the talented cast and crew involved with the performance and their contributions to the show?
SK: The cast is as follows: Alexander Carroll as “bad boy” actor Jake; Roxanne Jaeckel as the beautiful, but damaged, actress Chelsea; Samuel Martin Lewis as the introverted writer Sam; and I play Jen, the therapist who gets a little too involved with her clients. In an ensemble piece about relationships, the chemistry among the actors is vital to making the story work. Fortunately for me, we found an amazing group of actors who are not only right for the roles they’re playing and are incredibly talented, but they’re also wonderful human beings who are committed to telling this story. I feel very lucky to get to work with all of them.
BD: Given that the performance was adapted from a one-act to a full-length, two-act piece, did you find that returning to the show provided a new perspective to the content?
SK: Oh, absolutely. The one-act version that we did at Hollywood Fringe was a world premiere, and with any new material, there’s a lot of workshopping involved. The actors we cast and the audience members who saw it at Fringe asked a lot of smart questions about the characters, their backstories, why they made certain decisions, etc. So ,I got a lot of valuable feedback about what parts of the story were missing and what people wanted to know. And then, you live with characters for any length of time, they start to become real for you, and they start to tell you more and more about themselves. . .
BD: What do you hope that audiences will take away from the show?
SK: Ultimately, it’s a cautionary tale about the perils of pretending. How many times have we stayed in a relationship that wasn’t right for us, because we were afraid to be alone, or tried to make something work that just wasn’t meant to? I think we often try to be too logical and sensible about a phenomenon – love – that is completely illogical. Why do we love who we love? Why are we drawn to one person, and not another? Who knows? It’s a chemical reaction that we’ll probably never fully be able to be explain or understand. And when we attempt to be logical about something that defies logic, when we try to deny our feelings in favor of doing what “makes sense,” that’s when we get into trouble. In the words of Paulo Coelho, “You will never be able to escape from your heart. So, it’s better to listen to what it has to say.”
BD: What makes the Actor’s Workout Studio an ideal venue for War Stories?
SK: It’s an intimate 40-seat theatre, which is perfect for an intimate play like War Stories. We have a small ensemble of four actors (two males, two females) and the show has a real “confessional” feel to it. In between two person scenes, there are monologues where the characters address the audience directly, and in these monologues, they are at their most honest. The staging is simple and most of the shifts in time and space are done through light cues, so the show works well in a small black box theatre with a fluid set. And the Actors Workout Studio’s location in the heart of the North Hollywood Arts District means that we’re at the center of one of the creative hubs of Los Angeles, which is inspiring for everyone involved.
BD: The show will run through March 2017. Are there any future plans to perform the show at other venues?
SK: We’re performing for the next four weekends at the Actor’s Workout Studio in North Hollywood, on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through March 5, 2017. After that, I’d like to take the show to New York for a run off Broadway. And at some point, I’d like to try to publish the script and have other theatre companies produce it in other cities. Both of these are dreams of mine that I am actively working toward.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects that you would care to share with our readers?
SK: At the moment, I’m focused on making the L.A. production of War Stories as big of a success as I can in order to leverage that into a NY production. I also write a popular blog called Extra Dry Martini, and I’d encourage anyone who’s a fan of the show to check out my blog. There’s a real synergy between the writing I’m doing there and the writing in War Stories.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for War Stories?