Davidson grad has play in New York City's 'Fringe' festival

In a world filled with billions of people, finding a connection with someone should be easy.

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Actors Tiffany Nicole Green and Stephen Payne play Ponce and Walter in Kumrades Won't, which will debut at the New York International Fringe Festival on Aug. 15. The play, written by former Augustan Christina Watkins, will be performed five times at the festival.   SPECIAL
SPECIAL
Actors Tiffany Nicole Green and Stephen Payne play Ponce and Walter in Kumrades Won't, which will debut at the New York International Fringe Festival on Aug. 15. The play, written by former Augustan Christina Watkins, will be performed five times at the festival.

But often it’s not, and that is the basis for Kumrades Won’t, said playwright Christina Watkins.

“It’s about loneliness and self- loathing,” she said. “It’s about the way we try to connect with people and sometimes get in our own way.”

Watkins, who graduated from Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School in 2005, began writing the play in late 2009.

After graduating that spring from the University of Evansville with a degree in theatre in performance, she found herself living in an attic apartment in Atlanta and wondering what to do with her life.

During a visit to New York City, she was fascinated by the number of people crammed into the city.

“I was just struck by how, logi- cally, we should be able to connect with someone in all these people,” she said.

Then a friend told her something that has stayed with her ever since – “Loneliness doesn’t exist. It’s just self-loathing,” she said.

“Whatever it is we don’t like about ourselves we project on others, and it keeps us from connecting,” Watkins said.

That is the idea she wanted to explore with Kumrades Won’t.

The play’s two characters, young Ponce and aging Walter, work in a diner. Late one night, they find themselves stranded in Walter’s apartment as a snowstorm rages outside. Lonely and damaged in their own ways, they begin to talk and forge an unlikely connection over whiskey and poetry by e.e. cummings.

“It’s this whole idea of two people in a room, and they can’t leave, so what do they say to each other?” Watkins said.

The play will be performed for the first time Aug. 15 at the New York International Fringe Festival.

The festival is the largest multi-arts event in North America. It takes place in 20 venues over 16 days and features 200 arts companies from all over the world, according to the festival’s Web site.

Watkin’s play was chosen from more than 1,000 entries, she said.

It will be performed five times during the course of the festival.

“I’m very excited,” she said.

The play has read aloud several times over the years, most recently in front of an audience in New York, but that’s not the same as seeing it performed, Watkins said.

At a reading, the actors may have rehearsed the script, but they do not have the lines memorized, nor are they dressed in costume. They simply read the play, in character, in front of an audience.

“It’s been over a year since I’ve heard it out loud,” she said.

The next time she hears the play, it will be at its debut at the festival.

She said when she writes a play, she hears the characters in her head. When the play is read, the actors bring their own interpretation to the characters. But the characters aren’t fully realized until they are performed, directed and in full costume in front of an audience.

“It just feels very complete,” she said of seeing one of her plays being performed.

Watkins has written one other full-length play, and entered two pieces in a one-minute play festival in New York last year.

In 2009, she helped found Fabrefaction Theatre Co. in Atlanta, a nonprofit theatre company that provides performance opportunities to artists of all ages.

Last year she graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in social work, and currently works in Chicago as a counselor at a residential facility for youths with severe mental illness and behavioral issues. She also works with adults as an outpatient therapist at a private practice.

She said she thinks that her work is very similar to writing stories.

“It’s about people’s stories. It’s about listening. It’s about connecting,” she said. “It’s much more similar than I anticipated.”

FUNDRAISING EFFORT

Participants in the New York International Fringe Festival must pay their own production fees. Because the play is an independent effort, Watkins has set up a fundraising campaign to help pay for the actors, props, space rental, registration, insurance and other costs associated with producing the play.

More information is available at www.indiegogo.com/projects/kumrads-won-t-at-the-new-york-international-fringe-festival


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