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Northern Kentucky Playwrights Building Names for Themselves Statewide

Theatre mavens planning a visit to the Kentucky State Fair later this month should absolutely schedule your visit for Aug. 22, when the Kentucky New Play Series will be on stage.

Among the six short plays is Covington playwright Morgan Patton’s Senior Prom.

The man behind the series, The Kentucky Theatre Yearbook 2016, and many other projects advocating Kentucky theater is William McCann, Jr., playwright, advocate, founder of Kentucky Playwrights Workshop, founder/producer of the Kentucky New Play Series, and editor of the two-years-in-the-making yearbook.

His goal is nothing less than “to change theatre and change Kentucky.”

McCann lives in Corinth and travels up I-75 regularly to see theatre and be involved in Northern Kentucky playwriting.

Keep an eye out for Patton, a Newport native who recently completed her MFA in Playwriting at Ohio University after earning her undergrad degree (BFA Playwriting and BA English) at Northern Kentucky University, where she was an Honors Scholar.

She’s already building a list of credits. She’s the first recipient of Kentucky Theatre Association's Roots of the Bluegrass New Play Contest for her 10-minute play Strangers in the Park. Her 10-minute play Yard Sale, about a mug and a teapot, was a regional finalist for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and was one of six 10-minute plays staged and developed there.

Senior gets the emphasis in Senior Prom. The play is “about the elderly, specifically an old man who is subjected to excessive cheeriness at a retirement home dance,” she explains. (Patton is a member of the board for the Kentucky Playwrights Workshop and entered her script anonymously.)

Patton “stumbled on playwriting” at NKU. She took a double major “because I loved writing stories and acting in plays, and while looking at the degree paths available in the theatre department, I noticed playwriting was offered as a BFA."

She laughs, “It first appealed to me because it didn’t require a dance class like the acting BFA - I’m terribly uncoordinated - but when I applied and was lucky enough to be accepted, I discovered what a perfect fit it was. It should have probably occurred to me sooner that playwriting is the perfect intersection between English and Theatre.

Soon enough Patton realized “playwriting suited me more and more.” She looked for a master’s program, and Ohio University offered a scholarship. She “jumped at the opportunity.”

Patton is looking at a bright future but that won’t take her away from Northern Kentucky any time soon. Her current passion is bringing a piece of her family history to the stage.

“I found some old family documents and discovered that my ancestor Thomas Kennedy II built the first stone house in what is now Covington, and the city was actually founded when they purchased the land from him. When we found out that the site of his house was in the park on Riverside Drive, a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember, it validated for me why Covington feels like home.

“Among the documents, I found these really beautiful letters exchanged between Thomas Kennedy III and his wife Nancy, who spent much of their time apart while he was away on business.

“I’m currently trying to turn their story into a musical, which is challenging but fun. One of the most positive experiences I’ve ever had watching my own work was when I wrote a country song that was actually a short play, so I thought, why not give it a real go? It’s definitely different than what I’ve done in the past, but I guess that’s part of what excites me.”

Patton identifies herself as “definitely… an ‘emerging playwright'.” She hasn’t had a script licensed yet or “a significant paid production. I’m still building my craft, and have focused more post-graduation on building the career that will support my writing. I’m currently working in the children’s department of the Covington Library, which I thoroughly enjoy.

“You could, in a way, say it’s a support-the-art job because I feel it’s important for me as an artist to have a steady income to rely on to pursue my art more comfortably and take risks I couldn’t otherwise afford, but it’s not just because I’m not crazy about the life of a starving artist. I love books, I love helping people, particularly kids, I love this community, so it’s been a great fit. I feel good about contributing to an organization that is so helpful to so many people in the local area, both with their education and entertainment.”

Patton says, “I can honestly see myself still being here in five years because I love the community and the history here, and I don’t believe the popular notion that you have to move to New York or Chicago to have a fulfilling career in theatre.”

For more information on Morgan Patton, visit her website at www.playsbymorgan.com.

The Kentucky Theatre Yearbook 2016 is now available by mail and on Amazon. It may sound pie-in-the-sky, but think about it: By creating an essential handbook for Kentucky playwrights and would-be playwrights, McCann is laying out possibilities.

Along with writers, including Northern Kentucky’s Phil Paradis, Teri Foltz, and Angela Forbes as examples, it’s a clear message: ‘Look, it can be done!’

This first edition, which includes how-to and where-to information and a listing of new plays produced by Kentucky playwrights here and elsewhere, includes short plays by Paradis and Forbes and a thoughtful essay by Michael Hatton of Northern Kentucky University.

For all information on Kentucky Playwrights Workshop, visit its website, newly re-designed by Patton: kyplayswork.org.

Kentucky New Play Series, 7 p.m. Aug. 22. Kentucky Playwrights Workshop, Kentucky State Fair Performing Arts Stage, North Wing of the Fair and Convention Center. The fair is located at the Kentucky Exposition Center, junction of I-65 and I-264, Louisville. Free with admission. Find everything you ever needed to know here: www.kystatefair.org/

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts