Once Upon A Bride There Was A Forest produced by FLUX Theatre Ensemble
An Interview with Kristen Palmer

Indie Theater Now asked Kristen Palmer a few questions about this upcoming event.

Who were the key figures who made this production happen—could be other artists, people who inspired the story, producers/producing company, etc.

FLUX Theatre Ensemble has supported the play since its very first outing and are producing this World Premiere. I had a first reading of the play ten seconds after I finished it as part of Tina Howe's playwriting class at Hunter College where I was a student. To cast the play I drew heavily on FLUX artists - including Rachel Hip-Flores who claimed the role of Josie from that moment on - and Gus Schulenburg, who while not in this fully realized production, brought a singularly heart-breaking reading to that first airing of the script. FLUX went on to spend a day at their annual retreat staging the play site-specifically in a reading that Heather directed and Becky Byers was in, and they included it in their Food:Soul Reading series earlier this year. The only other play production experience that has proceeded in this way was with Blue Coyote's production of Departures where they did a reading then committed to production. Indie Theater has the ability to do this in a way that larger institutions don't and as a playwright these opportunities are the best.

Why is this a play, as opposed to a film or a web series or a novel (or anything else)? And what is it about live theater that attracts you most, that keeps you revved and jazzed to work in this form?

Without divulging the secrets of the play, the way the story moves through space, time and emotional states could only be realized on stage. The liminal space created in the dark of the theater, with every element etched out ahead of time and performed for a living audience is, to me, the singular space for this story to exist. It's a fairy tale, a foray into the darkness of the inner self, and a comedy. I think theater audiences still want to be surprised. They commit to showing up at a specified place and time and sitting in the dark for however long the play is. Who does that anymore? Most of the time you have no idea what you're in for. I am so excited by that situation. Come. Listen to this. See this. Feel this. Writing for the stage mirrors an iceberg - most of it happens underwater. Then there's the part everyone can see - but that part won't be buoyed up and visible without all that under-water part - and that above the water part is amazing! but it can also crash into things and wreck them, so its powerful - and the whole thing can melt while no one is looking and throw the world out of balance.

Who taught you how to be a playwright? This could be specific teachers, or role models whose work you’ve seen or read, or of course any combination.

I had a terrific theater teacher in High School, Fred Franklin, who had us make plays for everything - for teacher's meetings, pep rallies, German language symposiums, art galleries. So the idea of making work for performance to fit in a wide range of containers was nurtured early. I connected this to my own writing much later though - not until I was working with a theater company that produced new plays and I was reading scripts by Sheila Callaghan and Anne Washburn - writers who were my contemporaries. That's when I started to cobble together scripts and I continue to learn the most about how to be a playwright now from other playwrights - and Tina Howe must be mentioned here especially as a tremendous teacher & mentor.

What have you learned about this play as it has evolved from first draft to the present version? And what has surprised you in this current production-what did you discover in the work that you didn’t realize was there?

Revisions of this play have, more precisely than other projects of mine, have been about peeling the layers back to get to the core. There is a demanding narrative structure to this play - demanding in that there is a spine that has insisted on itself from the beginning and any deviation from it results in a weaker story. The characters, the language, the imagery and world of the play erupted fully formed on the first draft of it. The work has been in revealing the trembling bones underneath it all at in just the right way.

Without giving away any important surprises—what moment or moments do you most look forward to when you see this play being performed?

There are tremendous designers working on this play. Kia Rogers and Will Lowry have been considering this play since its first reading with FLUX. And the rest of the team are just tremendous. There are some particular moments that I am excited to see realized with an audience. Unfortunately any details will contain spoilers. So, you'll have to come and see.

posted December 4, 2014
Kristen Palmer

Kristen Palmer