(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- After leading the Women Playwright Series through 30 years of growth and excitement, Catherine Rust is happy to now hand the reins to their talented artistic colleague and WPS committee member, Mikaela Kafka.
Over the years Rust has led the Women Playwrights Series Program to help promote over 100 playwrights through the annual readings and the CSC Equity mainstage productions in partnership with the Susan Glaspell Award. Rust will continue to be a part of the Women Playwrights Series as an Advisor. Regarding the program and its new director, Rust had this to say:
“When we began this mission (in 1992), only 5% of all the plays being produced on the professional stages of the country were written by women. It’s not hard to infer what an impact that had, not only on our society, but more importantly on the way women were seeing themselves represented in the world. And I find myself heartened by the fact that, in recent years, the number of women playwrights being produced has finally begun to grow, to as high as 26% of all plays produced in 2017. Is that enough? (You know my answer!)
As the time has arrived for me to pass the baton to a leader with the energy, insights, and experience to take our program to the next level, I am delighted to watch theatre artist Mikaela Kafka take up the mantel. As a long-time, dedicated member of the WPS reading committee, Mikaela comes to the mission with the benefit of a depth of knowledge of its long history. As an active director and actor, she also brings a well -rounded perspective to the process, in addition to a rich network of relationships built during her own career of developing new work for the theatre. I feel confident that the program is in good hands.”
Taking over the position of the Women Playwrights Series Director is Mikaela Kafka. Kafka has been a member of the Women Playwrights Series for many years and has worked with many playwrights to both act and direct readings. In 2019 Kafka directed Apples in Winter by Jennifer Fawcett and starring Colleen Smith-Wallnau.
Mikaela Kafka has taken the time to answer some questions about her career, the Women Playwrights Series, and working in the theatre industry.
You've been a part of the Women Playwrights Series committee for many years, how has participating in this program influenced how you approach theatre?
I have learned so much. I was honored when Catherine Rust asked me to join. I had always had a passion for new works. Within the WPS program, I have really begun to realize how important it is and have honed my ability to know what the audience needs to hear and see, and when. From adjudication to in-depth discussions with the playwright, casting, rehearsing, putting it in front of an audience, and getting that immediate feedback!? The process is invaluable for all involved…well at least it has been for me.
When choosing plays for the staged reading is there a specific genre or trope that usually sticks out to you?
I love a good story! Historical pieces always interest me. But the major dynamic that draws me is a play that exploits the medium of theatre, nonlinear through lines, comedy, heightened reality. All of these illicit a fast-paced energy of entertainment. And through this, intrinsically you are moved. And hopefully have an engaging conversation in the car on the way home!!!
You’ve worked both as a director and an actor for these new plays, do you prefer one job over the other?
Theatre is truly a collaborative process. Each link in the chain is necessary. I love the team effort aspect. So, whatever part I am asked to do in order to further the piece…I am IN.
Many of these plays are very poignant and topical, over the years has there been a story that has stuck with you?
As I talk of theatre being a collaboration, the audience is the final piece of that process, that puzzle. I will never forget directing Shame by Sholeh Wolpe. The audience was engaged, laughing, everything you strive for. Great! But then… when the Mother presented the ring to her daughter, the audience simultaneously gasped and erupted in applause. We had 'em. We moved people. And they, as an audience, became one. It was one of my most fulfilling experiences.
If someone would like to get involved in the Women Playwrights Series, how would they go about doing so?
Updates will be on the website! And once I have my fancy new e-mail, I encourage you to reach out. It is a collaboration!!! Here's to a Great Season!
Centenary Stage Company’s 2022-2023 Women Playwrights Series will open submissions for plays soon. For more information about the program visit centenarystageco.org or call the box office at (908) 979-0900.