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5 Questions with Faculty: Kathryn Walat

Kathryn Walat, left, in rehearsal for a workshop of her play Small Town Values at the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis, during the PlayLabs festival last year. (Photo by Anna Min/Min Enterprises)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Jan. 25, 2017) — Playwright Kathryn Walat came to UAlbany in the fall of 2016 as an assistant professor of theatre in the Department of Music and Theatre in the College of Arts and Sciences. Her plays have been produced in all over the United States, including California, New England and New York. She did an artists’ residency at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs in 2015, where she developed a draft of the play Jack London Was an Oyster Pirate.

Walat received her BA from Brown University, her MFA from the Yale School of Drama and previously taught playwriting at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.

What are your working on now?

I’m working on two new plays that I’m very excited about. One is Jack London Was an Oyster Pirate, and is inspired by the life of young Jack London, before he became a writer, when he was stealing oysters from railroad tycoons on San Francisco Bay and selling them for cheap to the working class people at the Oakland fish market.

The other I like to call my “sexy-spooky” play. It’s a romance with a ghost story that begins with two strangers in a bar in Savannah, Georgia, where I previously lived. That play is a lot of fun to work on.

What made you decide to pursue your field?

I began writing plays as an undergraduate at Brown University, and since that time it’s what I’ve kept choosing — despite the challenges — at each turn in my life. I love theater people and I love teaching. I feel very lucky that now I get to share my passion for writing and my experience in the professional theater world with my students.

If you weren’t teaching at a university, what would you be doing?

If time machines were invented, I’d be an ace reporter for a big city newspaper in the 1930s. A kind of Lois Lane character, typing up breaking news on a manual typewriter and yelling things like “stop the presses!”

What’s your favorite class to teach?

Playwriting I. It’s really fun getting to guide my students as they write their first plays.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

Just as you walk out of the Performing Arts Center, there is a beautiful view of the Carillon, which is often illuminated in the afternoon sun. I love to sit on the benches there, and take a moment to enjoy all the activity going on around me.

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