Meet the Labbies: MRINALINI KAMATH
Founded in 2004, the Ma-Yi Writers Lab is the largest resident company of Asian-American playwrights ever assembled. We reached out to a few of the members to learn more about the artists that are shaping the landscape of theatre for Asians.
Meet Mrinalini Kamath.
Mrinalini’s plays have been performed around the country as well as the UK, India, and Australia. Her play “The New Deal” will be a part of the Fall LabFest 2015 and will have a reading in the spring at Stage Left Theatre in Chicago.
Ma-Yi Theater Company: Who are you?
Mrinalini Kamath: Gaah – this is a hard question to answer. I’m a playwright who loves museums (best reason to live in NYC) and books and chocolate and hanging out with small groups of people and going to the theatre. At the moment I’m obsessed with a Canadian TV show called Continuum because the idea of being able to send someone back in time to prevent yourself from doing stuff you’ll regret is highly appealing. I’ll leave it at that for now. I also love the Museum of the Moving Image – I guess I’m a good Astorian.
MYTC: What kind of stories do you like to tell?
MK: I like having the capability to write about whatever interests me. The thing I don’t like is getting boxed in to telling a particular story about a particular subject in a particular way.
MYTC: What play(s) are you currently working on?
MK: Doing rewrites on my play THE NEW DEAL, about prisons and big pharma collaborating in the not-too-distant future. In the really *early* stages of a play having to do with prosthetics/bionics. And I just wrote my first draft of a one-minute ghost story for Naked Angels Radio (for Halloween).
MYTC: Is there a particular piece of theatre or art that strikes your fancy right now and why
MK: Hmm…the last thing that really blew me away was GUARDS AT THE TAJ by Rajiv Joseph. I also really enjoyed INFORMED CONSENT, by Deborah Zoe Laufer. It was a really beautiful blend of science and ethics, well-told. But I like all kinds of things.
MYTC: If you could meet one fictional character, who would it be and why?
MK: I have to pass on this one – there are a lot to choose from…
MYTC: How would you describe your style of writing and/or aesthetic?
MK: Um…I don’t know. I think it goes in phases. There was a period where I was writing mostly surreal stuff. Lately, it’s been more naturalistic. I guess I choose my style based on the story I’m telling.
MYTC: What makes you angry?
MK: Sometimes small, stupid things, like people walking slowly in front of me while texting (you are not a good multi-tasker, please stop doing that).
In terms of theatre, when people break the rules of the world that they established. I saw a play years ago where a character who had been clearly established as a dream character placed a vase of flowers on the table that another character notices and comments on, and it pissed me off (and apparently still does, since I still remember it).
In terms of life – good people dying too early. So wrong.
MYTC: What makes you happy?
MK: Hmm…hearing favorite songs, traveling, spending time with good friends or family, Astoria Park on a beautiful day, friendly cats. Re-reading certain books. Muppets.
MYTC: What is your favorite midnight snack?
MK: Probably cheese and crackers. Maybe cereal.
MYTC: Why do you write plays?
MK: Anything can happen with live theatre – if you’re a playwright, seeing your play performed gives you that weird excited feeling – exhilaration and wanting to vomit at the same time, because you no longer have control. Kind of like an amusement park ride.
It’s collaborative – you get a layering of visions – the writer’s, the director’s, the actors’. And if you’re lucky, each layer adds something good and you end up with something bigger and better than you originally conceived.
MYTC: How did you find out about the Writers Lab?
MK: Lloyd Suh told me I should apply.
MYTC: Are there any upcoming readings, workshops, and/or productions of your work coming up? Tell us when and where!
MK: Well…I have this reading that’s part of the Ma-Yi Writers LabFest on October 15th.
As part of a residency with Stage Left Theatre in Chicago, I’ll be having a reading in Chicago sometime in the spring of The New Deal. You can also hear my spooky short-short story on Naked Angels Naked Radio around Halloween time.
MYTC: Do you have a website?
MK: Under Construction – www.mkwriter.com
A graduate of the Writing Seminars program at The Johns Hopkins University and the MFA program in playwriting at the New School for Drama, Mrinalini Kamath‘s plays have been performed around the country as well as the UK, India, and Australia. Several of her one-act plays are featured in various Smith and Kraus play anthologies. Mrinalini is currently a Downstage Left Resident Playwright at Stage Left Theatre in Chicago where she will be developing her play, The New Deal. Her play Celestial Motions won the East West Players “Got Laughs?” comedy play contest, and was later translated into Marathi and performed in India. A finalist for the Ingram New Works Lab at Nashville Rep, she has also been a semi-finalist for the Princess Grace Playwriting Award as well as the O’Neill Theater Conference for her play The Nava Jeevan. A Tennessee Williams scholar at the Sewanee Writers Conference, as well as the recipient of the Fluid Motion Theatre and Film’s inaugural “Start the Story,” fellowship, and an alumna of Ensemble Studio Theatre’s emerging playwrights group Youngblood, Mrinalini is currently a member of the Ma-Yi Theater Writers Lab and the Mission to (dit)Mars Propulsion Lab for Queens, NY-based playwrights.