LCP Blog: Artists In Conversation
An interview with playwright Shaun Kempf and director Mark Myers
In 2017, Lake Country Playhouse will produce the world premiere of Blind Dating at Happy Hour, written by local Wisconsin playwright Shaun Kempf. We recently sat down with Shaun and director Mark Myers to discuss Shaun's history and journey as a playwright, his writing process, the world of Blind Dating at Happy Hour, and much more. Blind Dating at Happy Hour begins performances on January 27, 2017 at Lake Country Playhouse.
LCP: Shaun, what inspired you to become a playwright, and how did you pursue that dream?
Shaun Kempf (SK): I have always loved writing, but I found I loved to write dialogue because what a character says or doesn't say is so intriguing. It's fun to watch the characters come to life on the page, and more fun to see what happens once they get into the hands of an actor. I really feel like I'm still pursuing the dream of being a playwright, but I do so by always looking for new ideas and trying to write on a regular basis.
LCP: What is the first hook that inspires you to write a play? Is it an image, a theme, a character?
SK: The first hook that gets me inspired to write a play is constantly changing. It could be one line that pops into my head, a type of character or a setting. For this play, it was the setting. Then came Corwin and his situation, the rest just followed.
LCP: Shaun, what playwrights do you look up to, and why?
SK: I don't think there is just one playwright that I look up to. I read a lot of plays, but I enjoy reading other new works, Ken Ludwig, and Jeff Daniels is a pretty funny guy.
LCP: Blind Dating at Happy Hour centers on a familiar concept to most people - a blind date - what was your point of origin with this play?
SK: I definitely was partially inspired to write this play based on personal experience. My wife and I met online. It wasn't necessarily a blind date, but I understand Corwin's nervousness in the play.
LCP: Mark, what is it like working on a world premiere play?
Mark Myers (MM): It is kind of scary. Often when I start to plot out scenes, I will have watched the play before or watch parts of it on YouTube. However, in this case I need to rely on my actors and past experience as a director.
LCP: Talk a little bit about the collaborative process working with Shaun and the actors.
MM: Shaun and I only spoke briefly before LCP announced this project. As part of my process mapping out the scenes, I collaborate with the actors and ask if it feels natural saying this or that. Oftentimes, we need to rework a scene over and over again until we arrive at the finished product.
LCP: Blind Dating at Happy Hour deals with relationships in the now digital age. How do you think relationships are different now in the digital age and tumultuous landscape of online dating?
SK: I don't know if relationships have greatly changed. I think online dating sites give busy people - and who's not busy these days - another avenue to find someone, but it still comes down to being on the right site at the right time and being able to make a connection with that other person.
LCP: Shaun, where does Corwin come from? Is he based on real life people? And is there a real life Wes & Rosie's Tavern?
SK: Corwin, yeah, there's probably a lot of me in him. Though I'm pretty sure he's smarter than me. He wants what everyone, including the other characters, want, to be happy. There was a real life Wes and Rosie's Tavern. It used to be in Kewaskum, and was owned by my grandparents. Setting this play in their tavern is my way of honoring them.
LCP: Mark, who should come see this play?
MM: Everyone. Whether you have been on a blind date or not, this play is for you. The cast is excellent, Shaun wrote a brilliant new play an I only hope I can bring justice to it.
Blind Dating at Happy Hour runs January 27 - February 12 at LCP.