K.I.S.S.I.N.G. by Lenelle Moïse — Monday, March 16 at 7:30pm
Commissioned by the Clark University Theatre Department, K.I.S.S.I.N.G. follows several teenagers as they try to make sense of their economic inheritances and emotional baggage. When “around-the-way-girl” Lala meets brainy, affluent Dani, they muddle through their class differences to have an inseparable summer of firsts. Fueled by a mutual love of visual art and old school music, they flirt and debate in museums, forests and on the hood of Dani’s fancy car. It seems romantic. So why won’t he kiss her already?
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What first drew you to the theater?
Lenelle Moïse: I was a very sheltered and serious child. I grew up in a rough neighborhood and I wasn’t allowed to play outdoors. Theatre gave me much-needed opportunities to play. I discovered pure presence, creative problem-solving, discipline, ritual and collaboration. I love working really hard with skillful people to make something memorable and beautiful.
Tell us about the genesis of K.I.S.S.I.N.G.
Lenelle Moïse: After the Boston Marathon bombings, I was sad and shocked to learn that the suspects grew up in my hometown. Cambridge is a socioeconomically diverse city. It’s where I learned to move beyond tolerance toward empathy. K.I.S.S.I.N.G. is a romantic comedy set in a town that could be Cambridge. The play does not address the bombings, but it’s about teenagers bonding through their debates, across their differences. The news is full of examples of single-mindedness and rage. This play returns to openness and trust.
How much revision has it undergone?
Lenelle Moïse: I started writing K.I.S.S.I.N.G. in 2013. Last Spring, Clark University did a workshop production of my third draft. I had a Valentine’s Day writing deadline so the play got more romantic! On March 16th, the New Rep audience will hear a reading of my seventh draft. Editing is everything. As a Next Voices Fellow, I’ve cut three characters and developed the visual world of the play. My central character, Lala, is a budding artist. She’s learning about sensuality and love. We get to watch the world through her eyes.
Where does your approach to playwriting intersect with your approach to writing poetry?
Lenelle Moïse: I am very sensitive to body language, speech patterns and tone. These traits serve me well on the page and on the stage. My dialogue has rhythm.
How has your experience as a performer influenced your work as a writer?
Lenelle Moïse: I write characters that I’d be willing to play on stage—characters who will, hopefully, excite, inspire and challenge the actor.
Lenelle Moïse is the author of Haiti Glass (City Lights Publishers) and was a 2012-2014 Huntington Theatre Company Playwriting Fellow. She wrote, composed, and co-starred in the critically acclaimed drama Expatriate which launched Off Broadway at the Culture Project. Her two-act comedy Merit won the 2012 Ruby Prize. Moïse’s other plays include the The Many Faces of Nia, Matermorphosis and Cornered in the Dark. She is an internationally touring solo performer and was the fifth Poet Laureate of Northampton, MA. She has received awards, residencies and/or commissions from the Gaea Foundation, Southern Rep, Kitchen Theatre Company, Hedgebrook, Astraea, Clark University, Northwestern University and UT Austin. www.lenellemoise.com