Interview: Kelly Smith

Flat Earth Theatre had the chance to sit down with playwright Kelly Smith about her two 2021 projects with Flat Earth Theatre: Her ten-minute play "Reset" in the 23rd Annual Boston Theater Marathon on Wednesday, May 26th at noon, and her collaboration on 7 Rooms: The Masque of the Red Death in which she is building "The White Room"!

headshot of Kelly SmithFlat Earth Theatre: You’re working with Flat Earth on two different ten-minute-or-shorter plays at the moment – "Reset," which is coming up in just a few days in the Boston Theater Marathon, and "The White Room," which you’re writing as part of our 7 Rooms: The Masque of the Red Death project. What’s your background as a playwright? Do you specialize in short pieces like these, or do you also write longer works?

Kelly Smith: I work across genres so I think my background in short fiction and poetry are always in conversation with my playwriting and sometimes that results in stories that don’t need two acts! I do longer works as well, but practically, it’s harder to get longer plays produced. So doing shorter plays can keep the writing muscles moving, while collaborating more often. But overall, I’m most interested in what form would best serve the story I’m trying to tell!

FET: Both "Reset" and "The White Room" deal in some way with the internet, and how we live our lives these days so much online. Is that something you’re usually drawn to writing about, or have you found yourself exploring this theme particularly due to the pandemic?

KS: I generally love the internet! I spent many of my formative years there and unknowingly honed my writing craft there on message boards, embarrassing LiveJournals, etc. With my personal experience, I find it hard to write a modern play without any mention of the internet given how embedded it is.

So it’s not new for me for the pandemic – but I think while the pandemic highlighted that virtual space can create incredible connection, it also reminded us that there is not digital equity. Everything from differing access to internet (much less high speed) to TikTok algorithms that reinforce structural inequities like ableist and racist biases. So I think plays about the internet are plays about society even though the setting is in a virtual plane. I’d love to see more of them!

FET: Is there anything else the two plays have in common?

KS: Both plays deal with the fact that technology is built and used by humans. So inherently there will be flaws in design and failures in how we interact with it. Characters in both plays come up against this – one forgetting the password she created and the other encountering the dangers of livestream.

Both also feature the incredible actor Lorraine Kanyike! We hadn’t collaborated before and here we are on two projects at the same time! Actors are so central to new play development and it’s been a treat working with Lorraine to bring these two very different girls on the internet to life.

FET: What’s it like being part of the collaborative process of building Prospero’s House with six (or really seven) other playwrights?

KS: After a year of virtual theatre, what’s exciting to me are plays created for the virtual space. And I’m really excited about what we’re creating here. Every playwright is a unique storyteller and has been a generous collaborator. One of the best parts of this process has been coming together with our individual stories and then figuring out how to link all of our rooms together in this one house! It’s been a fun and unique experience to create this piece and I think it will be a fun and unique experience for the audience.