Teenage angst takes ‘Wild Horses’ into adulthood
Getting a play produced once is often hard enough, but for Allison Gregory’s latest piece “Wild Horses,” it will see a guaranteed run of at least three productions outside of the Contemporary American Theater Festival. “Wild Horses” is part of the National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere’s repertoire.
“Wild Horses” is a one-woman show that takes an honest look at a summer which forever altered an adolescent girl, as portrayed by her grown-up self.
“CATF was the first to produce the play. The other companies share resources and information with one another about each premiere. It is a nice way to spread the excitement and process of developing a play,” Gregory said. “It is nice to know this play will have at least four productions. With this play, I don’t foresee making changes between each production. The script was solid.”
Gregory is one of the privileged few to have a world premiere with CATF for two years in a row. Her last production, “Not Medea,” was part of CATF’s repertory last season. However, Gregory said the writing process for this production didn’t quite go the way she expected.
“I thought I was writing a play for a particular actress and it ended up becoming a three-person play. I really wanted to write a one-person play, and I thought I was writing about a mother teaching her daughter to drive. I have two teens and I was thinking about the dynamics, thoughts and feelings. As I wrote it, however, I realized it was a different story I was telling,” Gregory said. “I thought, ‘What if it were one character voicing all of these different characters?’ One summer in this woman’s life that changes her and her perspective of the world. It was a visceral way of telling a coming of age story.”
Gregory has come to position herself as a veteran playwright, but being on the writing end the scripting process wasn’t always in the plans.
“I began performing as a dancer in college and morphed from there. I eventually got into acting and was literally put on stage before I had any training. The longer I acted however, the more I learned about new plays and that all the playwrights weren’t dead,” Gregory said.
While acting played a key role in her theatrical development, Gregory claimed she stepped into playwriting on a whim.
“I started to get an interest in what it was like to be the person with a message, so I wrote my first play. I was in college and was supposed to take an acting class, but it was full, so I took a playwriting class instead,” Gregory said.
For any playwright, the important thing is to write what you know. Many take the opportunity to promote a cause or tell the story of historical characters lost in time. As it goes, every playwright’s experience and process looks different. According to Gregory, her inspiration has changed as life has progressed.
“It seems like the range of subject matters I write about changes as I experience different phases of my life. My last three plays have been about motherhood or being a parent – so I don’t know about what I’m writing when I write,” Gregory said. “I think one of the strong impulses for me in writing this play was to remember the difficulty of being a teenager and the impossibility and how hard it is despite privileges or perceived advantages – the teen years are a hard time for all of us.”
Audiences will get varied feelings and emotions stirred up in experiencing “Wild Horses,” but there is one element Gregory wants to come across loud and clear.
“What I learned watching my kids is that the teenager is still very much within me. She is still afraid, excited, passionate and defensive,” Gregory said. “I hope audiences can let themselves feel that again and enjoy the memory. We all ultimately survived – and it’s a good thing – but at the time it feels like survival isn’t guaranteed or possible.”
Gregory attributes much of the CATF production’s value to the cast and crew.
“Kate Udall really embodies the character beautifully. It is a physical production and Kate is remarkably fearless. She brings an enormous amount of sensitivity and charisma to her interpretation of the role,” Gregory said. “Working with director Courtney Sale was paramount to it being a good experience. She really helped me realize what the play was about – and what it wasn’t about. That relationship has been nurtured by CATF, and I am grateful.”
As the 2017 CATF season is beginning to wrap up, it will hopefully not be the last audiences see of Gregory’s work on Shepherdstown’s stages.
“I have a six-woman play about the Mitford Sisters, who were blue-blooded Brits who became infamous in the 1920s. They were the intellectual Kardashians of the 20th century. I also have a children’s play based on Judy Moody,” Gregory said. “I’m always starting a new play. Having a play two years in a row at CATF has been a highlight for me. It is a remarkable festival – it truly is a privilege.”
While audiences are sure to be singing the praises of “Wild Horses,” Gregory was quick to praise the work of her peers.
“I think this whole season is exceptional. There isn’t a bad play in the bunch,” she concluded.
“Wild Horses” is a rolling world premiere play directed by Courtney Sale and stars Kate Udall as Woman. The production runs at Studio 112. Remaining performances include: Today at 2 and 6 p.m.; Saturday, Thursday and July 29 at noon; Sunday at 8:30 p.m.; Tuesday at 8 p.m.; Wednesday and July 28 at 6 p.m.; and July 30 at 4:30 p.m.