By Katie Berger
It seems like opening night was only yesterday, and yet it is already time to say goodbye to the wonderfully dysfunctional King family. As the cast and crew enjoys this final week of performances in Buffalo, I took some time to ask playwright Natalie Symons some questions about her experience creating this beautiful piece.
1. When did you begin work on “The Buffalo Kings”?
I started writing the first draft n the summer of 2013. Since then I’ve written dozens of drafts, and I’m still drafting – there were a lot of rewrites during the 2 week rehearsal process and over the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing edits based on what I’ve learned during the run of the show.
2. Was there ever a time you had to step away from the piece?
I’ve taken time away from it after I’ve heard readings and then done subsequent rewrites based on the feedback from the audience, director and actors. So essentially in between drafts I step back and get some perspective on the piece. It helps because then the story feels fresh, almost as if someone else wrote it.
3. What’s your favorite part about watching your own work. What is your least favorite?
My favorite part is watching the actors bring these characters to life. I love witnessing them breathe truth into it – both in rehearsal and during the run. I’m fascinated by it and for that reason I look forward to writing another play. The collaborative nature of working on a brand new play is so enriching for me both artistically and personally. At the same time I’ve lost many nights of sleep worrying about putting the pieces together and wanting to ensure that the story is honest and compelling, not only for the audience but for Eric and these seven actors who have put so much heart into this piece. Lillian Hellman said there is no greater public humiliation than that of a failed play. There were a lot of nights when I thought to myself this is going to be embarrassing.
4. Who are your biggest inspirations?
The writers that I admire the most have a gift for straddling the line between pathos and comedy. Woody Allen has heavily influenced me. Jim Taylor and Alexander Payne who wrote Sideways, Nebraska, Election and About Schmidt are big inspirations to me. Adam Elliot the Australian claymation writer/director – I’m in awe of his genius. I think Amy Herzog is one of the best female playwrights writing today. Larry David is one of my favorite comedy writers. Whenever I’ve had a bad day I watch an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm and all is well.
5. How do you deal with writer’s block?
I don’t write unless I have the entire story outlined in my head. I take long drives or walks with my dog Andy and construct the story and then I sit down to write it. Of course it always changes but I find that if I know the story that I want to tell it just flows. That doesn’t mean it’s good. The first drafts are usually pretty bad but at least the story is there. My best writing happens in the 4th and 5th drafts.
6. Are you working on anything right now?
I recently finished the 4th draft of a novel – a literary mystery about a young girl in a steel town in the 1980’s. So I’m taking one or two more passes at it before I look for representation and pursue publication. After that I’ve got an idea for another play – this one is a lighter comedy – or at least that’s the idea. It will probably be a dark and sinister comedy by the time I’m done with it.
Thanks, Natalie!! It has been an honor seeing the Kings on stage in their world premiere!
If you haven’t yet seen “The Buffalo Kings”, this weekend is your final chance!! Thursday at 7pm, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm and 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are going fast!