From PlayFest: Kelly Younger on ‘Once a Marine’

A little Q&A with playwright Kelly Younger, whose play Once a Marine will get another reading at PlayFest Sunday:

What’s your play about, in a couple of sentences?

A shell-shocked marine returns home with no recollection of the life, or the wife, he left behind.  It is set against the backdrop of the current war, but I don’t really see it as a “war play.” It’s more a play about memory and loss; what we choose to remember and hope to forget.

What was the impetus that made you want to write it?

I’ve always liked plays and stories about homecomings, where the main character struggles to re-assimilate after a life-changing event.  But in those stories, it is often the people he comes home to who have forgotten about him, or who have so changed they no longer accept him.  So I started thinking, what if it was the lead character who had forgotten why he ever wanted to come home, and he was the one rejecting his own past?  I then stumbled upon a World War I novella by Rebecca West called The Return of the Soldier about a traumatized soldier who forgets everything – and everyone – and it inspired me to think about the way many Americans are starting to view this war, as something we wish we could all just forget about.  But is that even possible?  And at what cost?

Has it been produced anywhere else?

The play had a reading in New York, and now here at PlayFest, but it is available for a world premiere production.

What do you hope to get out of its inclusion in PlayFest?

I’ve already learned (and revised) a great deal based on insights from the talented director Richard Perez.  He understands the tone and the simple nuances of the play, and that is thrilling for a playwright.  Personally, I hope to meet loads of talented theatre artists and engaged audience members in Orlando.  This is my first time participating, and my first time to the area.  Professionally, I hope PlayFest is the tipping point that leads to a world premiere production of Once a Marine.

And some biographical info:

Kelly Younger is an award-winning playwright with work staged off-Broadway, in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, throughout the Midwest and South, as well as in Canada, England, and Ireland.  He is a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA Playwrights Unit, the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights, the Dramatists Guild of America, and is on the Board of Governors for Los Angeles Stage Alliance who host the annual Ovation Awards.

New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre commissioned Younger to write the stage adaptation of the novel Banished Children of Eve by Peter Quinn, and it will appear off-Broadway mid-2010.  He is also developing Rorschach, a full-length play about the famous Rorschach inkblot test.  In addition, New Repertory Theatre in Boston is developing his full-length drama Tender with workshops and readings scheduled for 2010.

Select other works include: Once a Marine, PlayFest 2010, Orlando Shakespeare Theater; I Think You Think I Love You (Playscripts; Smith and Kraus anthology Best Plays of 2005); Forgive me, Father (JAC publishing); Lady Gregory’s Ingredients (JAC publishing), winner of the Ireland National Lady Gregory Playwriting Award; Off Compass, winner of the 2007 John Gassner New Play Award through SUNY Stony Brook; Epiphany Cake; and Why Wyoming, Critics’ Choice Samuel French off-Broadway Festival.

Several monologues from Younger’s plays appear in various anthologies, and an excerpt of Younger’s translation of Trojan Women appears in Beth Henley’s play Revelers (Dramatists Play Service).

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Younger earned an MA in Classics at Loyola University Chicago and PhD in Drama Studies from University College Dublin in Ireland.  He is currently an Associate Professor of English at Loyola Marymount University where he leads workshops in Playwriting and teaches courses in Dramatic Literature.  Younger is managed by Washington Square Arts and Films in NY and represented by Creative Artists Agency in LA.

He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

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