“A Night of Sam Shepard:” An Interview with Erin Kirkpatrick


Photo by Caroline Ashford Arya

Eric Anderson, A&E Editor

On Wednesday, Dec. 7, showings began for Harper Joy Theatre’s “A Night of Sam Shepard,” a two hour theatrical event featuring productions of Sam Shepard’s plays “Cowboy Mouth” and “Action.” The two plays, respectively, are directed by senior theatre majors, Erin Kirkpatrick and Drew Schoenborn. Showings of the play will continue with evening showings running every night through Dec. 11 at 7 p.m., and matinee showings on Dec. 10 and 11 at 2 p.m., and The Whitman Wire conducted an exclusive interview with “Cowboy Mouth” director Kirkpatrick, which is here transcribed.

Whitman Wire: What is your background with Harper Joy Theatre?

Erin Kirkpatrick: I’ve been involved in the department since I was a first-year, and I’ve done mostly directing, stage management and costume design. This is my directing senior project.

WW: So this is not your first time directing?

EK: No, I’ve directed a couple projects involved in Harper Joy. I directed for the One-Act festival, which happens in February, and I’ve directed a couple independent projects as well.

WW: So how did “A Night of Sam Shepard” come together?

Photo by Caroline Ashford Arya

EK: So this year, there’s two of us who are doing our senior theses in directing, myself and Drew Schoenborn. And so we spent a while looking at scripts and deciding what we wanted to do, and the idea was that if we each chose an hour-long one-act, then we could create an evening of theatre, and the two pieces would be in conversation which each other. And I was really drawn to the script of “Cowboy Mouth,” because I’ve done a lot of directing where it’s just two people on stage being very focused on each other, and I wanted to continue to explore that dynamic with a really powerful script, and then [Drew] chose “Action” as another Sam Shepard piece to complement “Cowboy Mouth.”

WW: Have you encountered these two plays before [“A Night of Sam Shepard”]?

EK: I’d heard of “Cowboy Mouth” before I read the script. There’s a monologue in it that has been used in acting classes before. The main character Cavale talks about how she was cast as the ugly duckling in the school play and had a horrible experience with it. And it’s a really funny monologue, and it’s also really sad.

WW: So what can say about the experience of directing as a student?

EK: I think it’s really exciting because I’m learning how to do it as I’m doing it. So when I’m having a conversation with a designer, I’m both trying to relay what I want out of the process and learning the best ways to communicate with designers and with my actors in order to get the best final product.

Photo by Caroline Ashford Arya

WW: What would you say has been the highlight of working on this project?

EK: Definitely being in the room with my actors, just having fun with it, and, y’know, really finding the joy in creating. There’s a lot of music in the show, and so working on the musical parts and learning new instruments has been a challenge for my cast, but a lot of fun as well.

WW: And what are you most excited for people to see?

EK: That’s a good question. It’s a play that’s about frustrations and loving someone, but also being repelled away from them at the same time and that conflict. I want the audience to be excited by the relationship they see on stage.

WW: Is there anything else about the show you’d like to mention?

EK: There’s a lobster in the show, and so my wonderful costume designer Hannah [Hickey] has spent the last couple weeks building a lobster costume, and we had a guest artist come in to help teach us some construction techniques, but it’s gonna look amazing onstage. I’m really excited.

“A Night of Sam Shepard” will be running at Harper Joy Theatre through Sunday, Dec. 11.

Photo by Caroline Ashford Arya