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Friday, April 19, 2013

Why Bobby Keniston Writes for Younger Audiences: Bobby Keniston Interviews Bobby Keniston

A new House Seal made for me by my student, Claire Hamlin
Note:  Theater is a Sport is in no way affiliated with HBO or "Game of Thrones" (fine as the show may be)
At long last, Bobby Keniston, me, yours truly, is getting back to Theater is a Sport, and I would like to welcome you all for tuning in after my long absence.  It will be explained shortly.

I would like to get back to basics here at Theater is a Sport, just as I am trying to get back to basics in my own life.  Which is why this issue is dedicated to a question I am asked quite frequently:

"Bobby, why are you so handsome?"

Wait, that's not it (although I am asked that question quite frequently). 

"Bobby, why do you write plays for children and young adult audiences?"

Ah, there's the question.  And it is often approached delicately, as though it were a taboo subject. 

It's not.

I will, however, answer this question, and some others, in a way I find most comfortable.  So, yes, Bobby Keniston is going to interview himself again.

BOBBY KENISTON INTERVIEWER:  Bobby!  So goood to see you again!

BOBBY KENISTON:  It's always a pleasure.  You're looking well.

BKI:  Thanks!  So are you!

BOBBY KENISTON:  I've been trying to get in shape, improve my overall fitness.  I'm playing the role of "Prez" in The Pajama Game at Lakewood Theater this summer.  I want to look like a ladies man. 

BKI: That sounds like fun!  So, Bobby, I think the question on everybody's mind first and foremost is what's up with the long hiatus from "Theater is a Sport"?  It's been about 10 days!

BK:  I know, I know, and I feel awful about that.  I've been on vacation from teaching this week, but, vacation, for me, is still work time.  I have been writing a great deal to get some submissions into different publishers while there's still time for them to be accepted and make it into the fall catalogues.  So that has taken a good deal of my creative energy.  Also, my mother has been a bit under the weather this week...

BKI: Oh no!

BK:  It's okay, she's doing much better now. 

BKI:  That's good to hear.  So, from what I understand, you would like to talk a little bit about why you write for younger audiences, is that right?

BK:  That's right.

BKI:  All right.  Well, let me start by asking you a few questions.  What was the first play for younger audiences you wrote.

BK:  That would be Rumplestilskin the R-Dawg, Hip-Hop Minstrel.  I was only a few years out of college, and I was hired to direct a middle school play.  I decided to write it as well, so I could tailor it to the kids I had auditioning.  It turned out to be pretty good, if I do say so myself. 

BKI:  I'm guessing it is a much different play than the plays you wrote in college though.

BK:  That would be a correct guess.  I didn't write children or young adult plays when I was in college.

BKI:  Why not?

BK:  In all honest, I don't know.  I suppose at the time, and remember, I was young, I was trying to explore different aspects of myself.  Aspects that required naughty language and adult situations. 

BKI:  Is that the only reason?

BK:  In all honest, no.  It's not.  To be completely frank about it, I probably would have considered writing that type of play as "lightweight" when I was in college.  Not "serious" or "important" enough. 

BKI:  I see.  Do you still feel that way?

BK:  Not at all.  Remember, I was young.  I am older and a bit wiser now.  And I understand that writing for the youth and high school markets is very challenging, and also of utmost IMPORTANCE. 

BKI:  Why is it important?

BK:  Because youth and high school theater is the training grounds for young people who then may go on and pursue a life in the theater.  It is also where many people actually fall in love with the process for the first time.  It makes me very happy to think that some kid or teenager I never meet may be inspired to be an actor or a playwright because they fell in love with theater from being in one of my plays.  That very idea keeps me warm on cold days.  Keeps me writing on slow days.  Keeps me smiling on sad days. 

BKI:  Do you ever feel that your career in this field is keeping you from living up to your potential as a "serious writer"?

BK:  I do not.  Not anymore.  I've struggled with that idea, but I have won the struggle.  I think some people may believe that Iam not living up to my potential, but I don't see that as the case.  I am proud of my work. As I said, I think it is important, and there's no reason to defend it because it doesn't need defending.  I am a serious writer.  I work very hard at what I do.  And besides, I still write so-called "grown up" plays.  I just happen to write many more plays for children and high school students.  I like the market.  It's challenging.  And there happens to be a lot of space for a voice like mine, thankfully, and people seem to like my stuff.  That's always important. 

Here's an example of something I feel is important about the plays I write:  my play, Confession:  Kafka in High School is a play that attempts to take the questions that Kafka poses in The Trial and make them accessible and relatable to high school students.  I like to think that maybe some kids have been in that play and then been interested enough to go out and read some Kafka.  I think that's a pretty good legacy.  It might even inspire them to write their own absurd or existential stories, who knows?

BKI:  Do you hear a lot form kids and teenagers who have been in your plays?

BK:  Every now and again, and it is always exciting.  I heard from a girl in Australia recently who was working on a monologue I wrote called Falling (And Not Getting Up).  I've also developed online friendships with community theater actors who have been in my plays.  And about a month ago, I received a very nice e-mail from a student who was writing a report on my play How I Learned to Stop Being Afraid of My Gym Teacher.  That was very cool.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.

BKI:  Well, I think I speak for everyone reading this when I say that we all hope you won't be taking any more long breaks from Theater is a Sport, and it is very good to have you back. 

BK:  Thanks so much!

BKI:  Anything else before we sign off.

BK:  Sure.  If people would like to learn more about me or Theater is a Sport, they can follow this link:  https://www.facebook.com/messages/#!/TheaterIsASport.  If people want to learn more about my plays, they can go to www.brookpub.com, www.histage.com, www.hitplays.com, and www.playscripts.com and search for my name, read about my plays, take a look at a free preview or two, what have you. 

BKI:  Cool!  Anything else?

BK:  Yes!  My father, who is a very talented poet, has started a blog where he shares his poems with the world.  I'd like to give him a shout-out!  If you're interested in checking out my Dad's poems, follow this link:  http://www.azwosbiscuits.blogspot.com/

BKI:  Thank you, Bobby for taking the time to talk with us tonight.

BK:  My pleasure.  And remember:  theater is not just a craft or an artform.  Theater is a sport.  Good night.

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