When Laura King arrived for her interview as a potential Atlanta regional ambassador, she didn’t immediately launch into any kind of self-promotion. That probably wasn’t necessary since I’d been hearing her name from a remarkably diverse group of people, first in terms of her award-winning play Fallout, which had won (among other awards) both the 2014 KCACTF Region IV One-Act Play Competition and the 2016 Georgia Theatre Conference New Play Competition. The script features two “damaged” strangers taking shelter from an unknown menace in a family bomb shelter. Together, they try to figure out if what is outside is more terrifying than what they themselves are hiding. This complexity of subject matter also describes King’s busy life, where, from a home base in Barnesville, she was also spearheading a short political plays project in Atlanta; serving as a Literary Associate for YouthPLAYS publishers; teaching a broad range of courses at several Georgia colleges; and piling on a growing number of gigs as a free-lance dramaturg. Oh, yeah, and finishing an MFA in Playwriting at Hollins University while tucking a few other awards under her belt for both TYA and adult pieces such as The Cayuga Canal Girls, Merritt Anne and the Mighty Oak, and Check Mate. Despite all of this, King agreed to take on the (new) job of Southern Georgia regional ambassador in order to help expand our programming further throughout the SE. “As someone who must drive at least an hour to attend most playwriting events,” she figured that our regional DG members deserved it. Plus, it appears that being with other playwrights and sharing both work and energies fuels her own engine. (Re: teaching, she takes the position that the best way to learn a subject is to teach it.)
“I want my audience to leave the theatre a little more empathetic than when they entered it.”
King’s current project is an adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing set in a failing 1930s summer stock theatre with an underperforming Hollywood guest star. In general, “I aim to write funny plays about serious topics. I strive for fast-paced, witty dialogue and humorous characters. I write serious plays as well, but I think I’m better at comedy.” Maybe that’s because she found her love of theatre in the sixth grade while playing Dorothy’s Cowardly Lion. Whether related or not, food is a major player in many of her scripts including one winning piece from 2019 which ends in a major food fight. King’s own childhood in the Washington DC/Maryland area and her Grandmother’s Virginia was “Safe and fun…We played outside until dusk…” Much of the material for her plays comes from this and later fabric of her own family life. “My daughter, now 21, once asked me, ‘Does every play have to be about me?’” King explained, “I’ve found it easier to draw on her experiences, especially when writing plays for youth…” Actually, King began her playwriting career when her daughter was a teen because she knew “I had to have a life outside of hers, because one day she would have one of her own” and “I also wanted to teach her how to be independent and that women can re-create themselves at any stage of their lives”. This strength of philosophy has taken on new meaning during the past year when King’s husband died unexpectedly. Now King is trying to find a way in to write about widows, “which seems strange to me because I thought that stage would come much later in life.”
Looking forward, I asked for some tips to pass along to other writers. Free Writing! “Don’t stop yourself. Don’t edit. Just keep writing… It doesn’t have to be good; it just has to be done.” Amen.