WAR STORIES Director, Kip Fagan, Q&A

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kip Fagan
kip fagan

KIP FAGAN is a director of new plays. Recent NYC credits include: Susan Soon He Stanton's Today Is My Birthday  (P73);  Zayd Dohrn's The Profane,  Heidi Schreck's Grand Concourse  (Playwrights Horizons); Jenny Rachel Weiner's Kingdom Come (Roundabout Underground); Ike Holter's Exit Strategy (Primary Stages); Jesse Eisenberg's The Revisionist and Asuncion, Halley Feiffer's How to Make Friends and Then Kill Them, Heidi Schreck's There Are No More Big Secrets, Sheila Callaghan's That Pretty Pretty; or, The Rape Play (Rattlestick).

Regional credits include: Alliance, Long Wharf, Woolly Mammoth, Williamstown, Humana, George Street Playhouse, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Portland Center Stage, Marin Theatre Company, City Theatre.

Taught and/or directed at Juilliard, NYU, SUNY Purchase, National Theatre Institute, Strasberg Center. NEA/TCG directing fellow, Clubbed Thumb affiliated artist, co-founder of Printer’s Devil in Seattle. 

How did you get involved with AITAF and with the development of War Stories?

I've known Adam Driver and Joanne Tucker since their salad days at Juilliard, and have watched the development and flourishing of AITAF with a lot of admiration. I've done a couple of readings at bases, and fortunately for me Joanne and Erica Newhouse thought of me for the Bridge Award workshop.

What was your initial response to the play? What struck you most when you first read it?

The humor, the humor, and the humor. To be super frank, when I got the script and the title page said "War Stories," I had a fear it might be a dour, solemn fortress of a play. Nothing against those, but they're not really my cup of tea. I find that when a play or any piece of writing makes me laugh, I immediately trust it and will go wherever it wants me to go. And Vinnie's play goes to some pretty dark places. By page two I was laughing obnoxiously loud and annoying everyone in earshot, and I emailed back to say "for sure I want to work on this." 

How did you and Vinnie work on the play together? What was the journey of the play's progress during your development process?

Vinnie drove down from Baltimore to DC where I was directing a play, and we walked around the Penn Quarter for an hour chatting about his script. Mostly I wanted to tell him how f***ing funny it was. And we talked a lot about how to identify the dramatic engine of the play. He did some rewriting and we had some phone conversations. The way he tackled the "engine" issue I thought was pretty stellar and improved the play substantially. After the first day of the workshop, our task was mostly identifying places to streamline, threads that could be cut. And now post-workshop there's a brand new draft that I'm reading right now.

As a director, what's it like to work with a first-time playwright?

With seasoned playwrights, the big thing for a director is establishing a relationship where the writer can really trust you. Often with first-time playwrights, the task is to get a playwright to not trust you so much. Like, their attitude can be, "You're the director, you've been doing this a long time, so you must know best." But a vast majority of the time, the playwright knows best—it's their play. With a more novice writer, the director's job is to ask the right questions and go very easy on the prescription so the playwright can find their way.

What are the challenges and rewards of working on theater dealing with military themes?

Lots of rewards come to mind, challenges less so. The audiences on the bases are so hungry for story, it's such a pleasure being in the room while they're listening to the plays. And the discussions after are unfailingly illuminating, bracing, and thought-provoking. Also, meeting the military personnel—particularly when we were onboard the USS Carl Vinson—is incredible. They're so competent! And excited to answer our boneheaded questions about their particular areas of expertise. We in the theatre can learn a lot from them.

 

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