New York’s “busiest theater artist” sets her sights on Minneapolis

Sybil Kempson has been in Minneapolis a lot recently as she helps the acclaimed troupe Elevator Repair Service prepare her latest play “Fondly, Collette Richland” which will get a preview presentation at the Walker Art Center this weekend.

She’s going to be here a lot more though, having today been appointed playwright in residence at Playwrights Center.

She’s really taken to the area having visited regularly as she worked on “Fondly” for the last 18 months.

“I thought you were going to ask me what it’s about” she laughed on the phone the other day. “And our response that we have decided on is “About two hours.”

Having sat in on part of a rehearsal at the Walker, I can see why she puts it that way. She uses the term “strange” to describe the surreal story which spins out over those two hours.

“There are a lot of traditional elements of a contemporary theater piece,” she said, “But everything sort of veers off course and you are going to know right away that something strange is going on.”

“I use strangeness with a lot of reverence,” she adds.

There is a man and a wife, and some sort of a journey, and a lot of laughing. It’s funny stuff, as in funny peculiar and funny hilarious.

Kempson is the darling of the New York theater scene, as a performer and as a prolific writer. Over the years she developed a reputation of being the busiest theater artist in the city. She has now set performing aside because she says she was working non-stop. She is looking forward to taking some of the ideas left over from “Fondly” to create a new work.

“I am excited beyond belief,” she said about the residency. She wants to develop material she researched about Mary Shelly, creator of “Frankenstein.”

The residency is four weeks spread over a year, with the a reading at the end. Something tells me it will be a wild and crazy time with the emphasis on strange.