Theatre in the time of Covid-19: A chat with playwright Kate Walat
We caught up with our friend Kate Walat, playwright-in-residence and assistant professor in the UAlbany Theatre Program.
Kate has partnered with us on numerous events including the Burian Lecture Series funded by the Jarka & Grayce Susan Burian Endowment; and Authors Theatre, a program that invites audiences to provide creative input to authors of plays-in-progress.
Kate presented her play-in-progress "Southern Haunt" at an Authors Theatre event in April 2018. That play went on to become a finalist for the O'Neill award at the 2019 National Playwrights Conference (one of 67 finalists out of over 1400 scripts submitted).
Kate received her BA from Brown University and her MFA in Playwriting from the Yale School of Drama. Get the latest news from Kate on her website: www.kathrynwalat.com/
Q: How can Theatre students make the best use of their time during these days of social distancing?
A: There’s been an explosion of online resources that actually give Theatre students access to performances and professionals that they wouldn’t normally have. With live theater not happening, companies across the country (and internationally) are posting filmed performances and hosting live readings of plays on Zoom. There are also a lot of conversations between theater artists, and master classes with theater professionals, that are being offered. Most of these are free, or by donation.
Q: What was your experience teaching remotely at UAlbany?
A: I miss being in the same room with my students!
But being able to connect with them in new ways is also wonderful. Students who were reticent about participating in class are sometimes the ones contributing the most to online discussion boards. Also having people Zoom from their homes, and sharing emotions about this strange time, brings us together in different and sometimes more vulnerable ways.
Q: Where are you social distancing?
A: I’m right here in Albany, together with my family. My at-home office is in a closet. It’s a big closet – with a window – so I often forget that’s what it is, but when I’m on Zoom people will sometimes pick up on that.
Q: Any action you would like us all to take at the present time?
A: I recommend laughter yoga. https://laughteryoga.org/
Q: Is there anything you'd like us to read?
A: UAlbany Theatre Program wasn’t able to present our annual FRESH ACTS festival of play readings this spring, but the students have continued to develop and collaborate on their plays. We’ve created a manuscript of the five one-acts, interviews with the playwrights, and director visions for staged version of the plays.
It’s incredible work! You can access it at this link.
Q: Is there any recipe you'd like us to try making?
A: Cool Whip makes a lot of things more yummy.
Q: What do you do to stay active?
Walks around the now nearly deserted Empire State Plaza.
Q: Any new writing you'd like to share?
A: A recent opera collaboration of mine, “The Echo Drift,” that I co-wrote the libretto for, has its premiere production available online now at American Opera Project: https://www.aopopera.org/aop-tv
Q: Any advice for the Class of 2020?
A: This might not be the graduation that you once imagined, but I hope you might (in new ways) celebrate, rejoice, and experience all the pride that a graduate should!