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Resident Playwright Kathleen Cahill

kathleen02My Writing Life

As I recall, I was first noticed as writer when I penned the immortal phrase, “tender pillows of ravioli” for a restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  I was working as a waitress there and the owner wanted to jazz up the menu.  In between dishing out spaghetti, I wrote a children’s play called WERNER AND THE MAGIC BOOTS that was produced for a children’s radio show on NPR called “The Spider’s Web.” I wrote a couple of other radio plays:  THE COSMIC YANKEE, about Henry David Thoreau, and THE FIRST WINTER, about the first year of the pilgrims landing on Cape Cod. I sold them both to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  I wrote for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, little monologues about famous composers, and I wrote some short stories.  One of them was published in Cosmopolitan. I wrote a couple of screenplays, and sold one of them to Public Television. My first play, PERMISSION FROM CHILDREN, received a Drama League Award, workshoped at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York, and produced by the University of Oklahoma where I was Artist in Residence.  My second play was a short comedy called WOMEN WHO LOVE SCIENCE TOO MUCH, which was produced off Broadway, and then in Chicago, and was made into a radio play for NPR. The Massachusetts Artists Foundation gave me an award for a play called DITCHED. Someone hired me to turn it into a screenplay, and the money allowed my husband and me to make the down payment on our first house. A play called THE STILL TIME was produced in Chicago and received the Connecticut Commission on the Arts Playwrighting award.

I was given a scholarship to NYU Tisch School for the Arts in Musical Theatre. I wrote the libretto for CLARA, an opera about Clara Schumann, and received a Rockefeller Grant to Bellagio Italy to work on it with the composer. The opera was subsequently produced by the Maryland Center for the Arts. Two years of work; four performances. I determined never to write an opera again, but for over a decade I was under the spell of musicals and composers.  I wrote THE FIFTH SEASON (later changed to DAKOTA SKY) that received the Jane Chambers Playwrighting Award and was produced by the Olney Theatre.  North Shore Music Theatre commissioned me to write a musical about an 18th century merchant ship:  FRIENDSHIP OF THE SEA toured schools along the coast of Massachusetts for a season. I turned it into another musical, THE NAVIGATOR, which was performed at the Berkley College of Music in Boston.

Then I came to Utah and had brain surgery.  My life changed.  There were mountains and sky and something in the air (besides pollution I mean.)  I wrote a play in Utah that I had wanted to write for years, about Margaret Fuller and the Transcendentalists: CHARM received it’s world premiere at the Salt Lake Acting Company. It received an Edgerton Award;  it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.  Orlando Shakespeare and Kitchen Dog Theatre in Dallas produced it.  THE PERSIAN QUARTER premiered at the Salt Lake Acting Company and received another Edgerton Award.  It opens the season at Merrimack Rep in Massachusetts in September 2011.  I’m a member of a great playwrighting group here in Salt Lake.  I see my career as a playwright like this:  a little stream growing bigger and wider as it heads towards the “far and boundless sea” to steal a quote from one of my own plays.       

Playwright's Bio

Kathleen Cahill's awards include the Jane Chambers Playwrighting Award, two Connecticut Commission on the Arts Playwrighting Awards, a Massachusetts Artists Foundation Award, a Rockefeller Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts New American Works Grant, two Edgerton Foundation Awards and a Drama League Award. Her play Charm was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; her play The Persian Quarter was nominated for a Steinberg Award.(Both published by Dramatic Publishing.) Her produced musicals include for The Navigator, Friendship of the Sea, Dakota Sky; an opera, Clara, two opera/cabarets, A Tale of Two Cities: Paris and Berlin in the Twenties, the lyrics for David Zabriskie's Requiem, and an opera cabaret, Fatal Song ,(which is being produced by Utah Opera in November 2013. ) She is listed as one of the top twenty-five songwriters in the new Directory of Musical Theatre Writers. Her plays include the comedy, Course 86B in the Catalogue (Salt Lake Acting Company) The Still Time (Georgia Rep/ Porchlight Theatre, Chicago) the comedy, Women Who Love Science Too Much (Porchlight Theatre and NPR Radio) Henri Louise and Henry (Cleveland Public, Firehouse Theatre, Massachusetts) Charm ( National New Play Network Festival, Salt Lake Acting Company premiere, Kitchen Dog Theatre, Dallas; Orlando Shakespeare) and The Persian Quarter ( Salt Lake Acting Company, Merrimack Rep.) A new play, Monsterheart, will be heard in June at Kitchen Dog Theatre's New Play Festival. She wrote the screenplay for the independent feature, Downtown Express. She is Playwright-in-Residence at the Salt Lake Acting Company. For the past decade she has written the introductions presented by Laura Linney and Alan Cummings on Masterpiece/Mystery on PBS.

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