Going to Court with Playwright Holly Arsenault
While Seattle Rep’s doors are closed, we’re continuing to develop new plays online through The Other Season. Our virtual workshop of Court by Gregory Award winner Holly Arsenault inspired this conversation with Director of Casting & New Play Development Kaytlin McIntyre.
Online workshop of Court. Pictured: Adrienne Mendoza, Kaytlin McIntyre, Holly Arsenault, Emilie Hanson, Sophie Kelly-Hedrick, and Annika Perez-Krikorian.
Kaytlin McIntyre: What role has Seattle Rep played in your development as an artist?
Holly Arsenault: I came to Seattle Rep in 2003 as a Casting Intern and had to read a lot of plays, which became a huge aspect of my informal playwriting education. I later joined Seattle Rep’s Writers Group, which was an incredibly fruitful, nurturing, and terrifying experience that advanced me lightyears in understanding my own desires and goals as a writer. It solidified for me that playwriting is where I feel like I can be the most useful to the world and to the theater that I love.
K: What was your inspiration for Court?
H: I did not study playwriting in school and had never taken a college course in playwriting until joining the staff of the University of Washington School of Drama. One assignment was to “put something of yourself into the play,” so Court had an autobiographical inspiration. This girl, Rosanna, has been told that she might have to testify in a hearing over which parent will get custody of her in their divorce proceedings. This happened to me and I thought it was rich dramatic territory.
K: What was the online workshop experience like for you?
H: The play depicts these two girls sitting in a room talking together— it is small enough that the process of working together with everyone on screen didn’t feel so different from what we would have done together in person. Getting to workshop the play online with Seattle Rep and cast actors who are age appropriate for the roles was also a huge opportunity; I’d been able to work on Court at another theater before everything shut down, but not with teenage performers, so the Seattle Rep workshop was able to create an artistic experience much closer to what I had intended.
K: Has the pandemic shifted your interests as a playwright or influenced any new projects?
H: I haven’t started writing anything new, but I expect what we are living through will show up there. I had been feeling sad and not very inspired to make theater for the first few months of COVID-19, so workshopping Court at Seattle Rep was a perfect way to reenter this world. More than any other place that I have had the opportunity to work, Seattle Rep has been the place that has opened up the possibilities of what my life as an artist could look like. The way that this theater continues to hold space for my work, support it with professional artistry, and believe in me as an artist—even amidst the challenges of a global pandemic—is of incalculable value to me.