Kevin R. Free and The Fire This Time Festival

Kevin R. Free is a playwright, director, and actor with long experience in NYC, regional, and indie theater. He is the associate producer of the 2013 Fire This Time Festival, which bows at the Kraine Theater on Jan 21. In this interview, he talks about his work and the festival.

Martin Denton: Why is Fire This Time important to you and why did you sign on to be associate producer?

Kevin R. FreeKevin R. Free: Well, The Fire This Time Festival was the first theatre I saw in 2011, just before I entered my final run in Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. I was so excited by the diverse voices represented in the Festival that I knew I had to be a part of it. Further, I was embraced by so many people who only knew me as a playwright (A Raisin in the Salad had just run in FringeNYC the summer before). I was a part of a community without having auditioned or spent time with anyone, and I was (and still am) relatively untried! Then last year, when I had a 10 minute play in the festival, I felt so well-taken care of that I couldn't say no to Kelley Nicole Girod when she asked me join the producing team. I like building ensembles, and I thought producing the festival would be a great way to share experiences collegially with other artists of color.

MD: Why is Fire This Time important for audiences?

KRF: It's important, because it is different. It's different and EXCITING. It is a two-week festival, in which the diversity of expression is palpable and profound. Whatever we expect to hear from playwrights of the African diaspora, I guarantee we will be surprised by what we hear in this festival (or any festival that showcases work by playwrights of color, for that matter). Of our 7 plays in our 10-Minute play festival, only 2 are about race and identity. Only one of those two could be considered 'protest' drama. I am inspired by all these artists and the way they express their blackness—a universally relatable 'otherness' that simply says, "I'm here. Hear me."

MD: What does it mean to be the associate producer of this festival? What are your responsibilities?

KRF: I fell naturally into the programming end of the production: connecting with the new playwrights for this year's 10 minute plays about their new work for the festival; creating systems by which rehearsal schedules for each play are created; connecting with the playwrights from last season about their full-length play readings this year; planning and running the Technical rehearsals of all the 10 minute plays in the Festival. I will also be facilitating our opening panel on January 21: Submitting, Self-producing and other Survival Skills for Artists.

MD: You have a new play being read in the festival. Tell us a bit about the play—what it’s about, its genesis, themes, etc.?

KRF: My new play! I am finally excited about it. It is my full-length version of the play that I had in the Festival last year. It's called The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, or TRIPLE CONSCIOUSNESS. It tells the story of Darius, who has returned to his hometown in North Carolina to sing in a concert for a Marriage Equality fundraiser, and his two siblings. It's a play about all kinds of love and all kinds of self-sabotage. The reading of the play is on January 28 at 8:00pm in The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street).

MD: Looking at your entire career in the theater, do you think there are any overriding themes/ideas that have informed your work? If so, what are they and why do you think they are important?

KRF: The overriding them in my work is ME. I am man enough to admit it. I cannot write unless I am exploring some facet of myself. My first play that I wrote for the New York Neo-Futurists was a song called MY MOST SUCCESSFUL FAILURE; I think that title is the theme for all of my plays: It seems clear, but really isn't. My shaky relationships with both success and "success" have pushed me forward in all my work. I have thus far been unsuccessful at keeping a diary or journal for my private thoughts. Perhaps when I am gone, someone will look at my plays and be able to piece together a biography of me. I believe that will happen, but I don't think I'll be able to write an autobiography. See? Successful Failure again.

(January 20, 2013)