My play NIGHT OF THE LIVING N-WORD!! at The New York International Fringe Festival
An Interview with Kevin R. Free

Indie Theater Now asked Kevin R. Free a few questions about his play NIGHT OF THE LIVING N-WORD!!.

What’s this play about? Please give us a brief synopsis (a sentence or two) and also talk about what you believe to be the most important theme(s) in the play.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING N-WORD!! is a slasher comedy about one family's struggle with the N-Word and its effects on them. The most important theme of the play is how no matter how we hope/wish/believe that we have left behind "Nigger," its effects live on in the present.

Why did you want to write about this subject/theme?

I wrote the original very short version of the play for Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind in 2007, after watching the NAACP's funeral of the N-Word in Detroit on CNN. I thought it was kind of ridiculous, even while it felt hopeful and heartbreaking. It inspired a living horror: A dead word whose inspiration and shameful connotations will never die.

How did you decide what names to give the characters in this play?

Because the play is a parody of Night of the Living Dead, I gave the two main characters the names of the two main characters of the film: Ben and Barbra. Because I LOVE Barbra Streisand, I kept the spelling untraditional.

Describe your writing process. Do you write longhand, on a computer, a tablet? Do you write every day? Do you outline the play beforehand?

I outline all the beginnings of my plays. Then I get frustrated and just start writing. With this play, all I had was a trailer with sound bites: "You buried the N-Word, but you left the shame, didn'tcha?" ; "Mom, it's not like Beetlejuice; it won't come back in our lives if I say it."; THE N-WORD IS PEOPLE! THE N-WORD IS PEOPLE!" I wrote the basic structure of the play in a weekend, because I had a deadline. Then I expanded on it over a couple of years, because people who read it encouraged me.

Is there a character in this play that you particularly identify with? Which one, and why?

I identify with all of them, but I think I am most moved by Channing. His journey kind of exemplifies the way things in the world rapidly change, even as they stay the same. I often feel as though I know everything, only to talk to someone - or read an article or live in the present - who makes me realize I know nothing. It is hard to concentrate on knowing stuff when I am still learning stuff. Hope that makes sense...

posted July 18, 2016