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Home » With the Volt Festival, the Playwright Karen Hartman Comes Home

With the Volt Festival, the Playwright Karen Hartman Comes Home

by News Desk

I felt very excited and kind of raw. It’s a vulnerable thing to write about anything personal. And that play is about policing the sexuality of girls and women in a violent way. I’d written that play very swiftly, in my last year of graduate school. But it had come out of some real-life people I had encountered when traveling in Egypt, so it was a thrilling level of potential responsibility.

You went on to have a thriving career in regional theater, but you had far fewer productions in New York, though you live in New York.

Most writers don’t get their plays done at all. And almost nothing I’ve written has gone unproduced. I’ve worked with amazing people and been asked onto incredible projects. But in this sense of the cultural conversation, New York is an amplifier. So if I’m a mission-driven person, and my mission is to amplify voices, especially those of girls and women, and I myself am not amplified, then I am not doing my job. Also my work almost always involves getting on a plane and living by myself in artist housing. This festival is the first time that my own community, my friends, my writers’ group, my colleagues can see my work. On a personal level, that matters tremendously.

Why do you think your plays haven’t found a home here?

Generally, the one narrow path from the early-career buzz that I was fortunate to enjoy with “Gum” toward a steady midcareer presence in New York is a rave in The Times. “Gum” did not get that rave. So my road has been longer, and further afield. The sense I got was, “We don’t know where to put you.” The stories I tell, which are stories that I think a lot of people want to see, are off base, but not in a particularly cool way, in a way that’s emotional. I live in emotion. That’s my home.

What is it like having two New York premieres and one world premiere all at once?

The companies are exquisite — the level of artistry, these directors. I’ve described the nitty-gritty of it as like having triplets. They were all in previews at exactly the same time. I called Lucy Thurber, who had this festival of her plays at Rattlestick. She’s the only person I knew who had gone through something like this. She was like, “Trust. And check in with every director every day.”

What do you think unites these plays?

They’re all plays about how our intimate bonds meet our political moments and meet the laws of our time, but in very radically different times and contexts. How do we become the people in the relationships that we have capacity for? And how do our times work with us and against us? I keep coming back to this question of how do we get the deep, deep closeness that we need. Or maybe I’m the only person who needs this.

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