Each month Brian James Polak (he/him) talks to playwrights about the things usually left unsaid. In conversations that dive into life’s muck, we learn what irks, agitates, motivates, inspires and—ultimately—what makes writers tick.
For this episode of the Subtext, recorded live last June, Brian traveled to Astoria, Queens to speak with Kari Bentley-Quinn. Originally from Stratford, Conn., Bentley-Quinn has had her plays presented at or developed with Lark Play Development Center, Lesser America, Halcyon Theatre, Theatre of NOTE, Premiere Stages, Astoria Performing Arts Center, the Brick Theater, the Secret Theatre, Caps Lock Theater, the Fringe Festival in New York City, Team Awesome Robot, and others. She was a co-founder of Mission to (dit)Mars, a theatre company based in Queens.
Kari and Brian start by commiserating over their shared New England roots, then delve into her family background, including her mother’s suicide attempt and her father’s stint in rehab; both parents ended up just floors apart in the same hospital while Kari was left home to care for her adolescent sibling.
She wanted to be a playwright from early on but first got bit by the acting bug, waylaying her writing plans for years. But after being told to lose weight many times and constantly being judged by her physical appearance, she returned to playwriting, eventually attending grad school at Hunter College, where she recalls Tina Howe telling her to “stop writing like somebody had a gun to my head.” This advice changed the way Bentley-Quinn approached her writing, allowing her to ease up on herself. It was during this time she started to experience a new level of success, acquiring an agent and winning the Rita and Burton Goldberg Playwriting Award.
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