Kristin Slaney on Could This Meeting Have Been An Email / by Declan Maloney Drummond

How did you become a playwright?

I’ve been writing stories for I think my whole life. I used to be an actor (as is the case with many playwrights?) and that kind of naturally led to me finding my place more on the writing end of the spectrum. I also love the way people interact with each other.  I have a deep love of goofy misfits, and I like watching people try to communicate with each other, and so playwriting is an opportunity to put my favourite sorts of weirdos in the same room and to force them to grapple with one another. 

How did you become involved with Spicy Witch and their Writer-in-Residence Program?

I found the call last summer and was definitely intrigued by their work, so I applied (also, let's be real, is there a better name for a theatre company than SPICY WITCH? I'm really not sure there is). I really enjoyed the interview process, and everything they had to say about their philosophy about theatre. Also, they’re a company of kind, generous, intelligent ladies-- I had the opportunity to go on retreat with them last month, and I had a great time. They're honestly so funny and wonderful, and they seem to like my dorky jokes, which is always a bonus in my books.

What is Could This Meeting Have Been An Email about and how is it inspired by Mary Stuart?

COULD THIS MEETING HAVE BEEN AN EMAIL is a comedy about women in the workplace, specifically through the lens of two women who have kind of a "frenemy" status with each other for a while. One of my big takeaways from the original Mary Stuart was the relationship between these two queens, and that they had this interesting history together of trying to get along (the historical Mary Stuart and Queen Elizabeth used to write congenial letters to each other, before Mary showed up in England and everything went south). I was also interested in the idea of these women in power, who do have some control over things, but who largely exist in these systems both controlled and perpetuated by these kind of awful dudes that surround them. That also ended up kind of inspiring the structure of the play-- Act 1 has a more traditional feeling I think than Act 2. I guess Act 2 is also where I start to do whatever I want with Schiller's play, because while Act 1 exists with those particular power structures, Act 2 is where things go a bit haywire. 

Does your process differ writing a play inspired by existing source material?

Sort of, but I guess I'm usually inspired by some kind of source material. In this case, I read Schiller's Mary Stuart enough times that I could get a clear sense of the spine of the play, and once I had that sense I could figure out what I wanted to say about the original. Of course I'm also inspired by a ton of other source material in this writing Meeting (or Email? Still haven't figured out how to best "abreev" this one). Of course the American election is definitely a factor. I was reading Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels around the time of writing this play, so it is also an influence. I was definitely inspired by Roger Ailes's firing at Fox last year (which also hilariously/wonderfully applies to the recent Bill O'Reilly stuff too). It's also kind of an exploration of the issues around white feminism as well, because that's something I've been thinking about a lot over the last few years.

Have you been involved in the rehearsal process?

I have! Phoebe Brooks, the director, in addition to being a lovely human and sharp director, was also so welcome to having me in room, and always really respectful and generous to any thoughts I had. It was an incredibly fun room to be in-- fostered by Phoebe, aided by the hilarious lovely people both onstage or on the production team. It was a total delight to watch these people play around with the scenes, and they also honestly taught me so much about the play, which factored into my revisions of it as well.

What's next for you?

I have a musical going up this July in Canada called King of Berlin, which I'm really excited about. There are a couple other things that I don't think I'm allowed to talk about yet (so I won't, just in case). And beyond both that I'm working on a cycle of plays, a movie script, and a new pilot, all in various stages of "will this ever get made...?", but I'm enjoying writing them.