Today we feature Marley Knittle, one of the playwrights whose one-act play, “The Montana Wolves Project”, is included in Pegasus Theatre’s Fresh Reads new play reading festival this month at the Bath House Cultural Center. (Go to www.pegasustheatre.com for tickets for the final performance tomorrow night, Saturday, May 27, at 8 pm!)
The play selection process for the Festival was “blind” — none of the readers knew anything about the playwrights whose work they were reading. What a surprise it was to discover then that Marley (one of the finalists) was a mere 16 years old!
We talked with Marley to better understand this talented young playwright.
Q: How long have you been a playwright?
A: About two months. I had written in novel form before, and at one point I tried penning a play. I found it difficult to switch from novel to stage, and the idea faded over time. I didn’t think about writing a play again until I heard about the Fresh Reads contest at Pegasus Theatre. It was the beginning of March, and I naively thought, ¨What do I have to lose? How hard can it be to write a play in a month?¨ Of course it was harder than I expected! But it ended up being my first play.
Q: What inspired you to write The Montana Wolves Project?
A: It’s based on a true story. Kind of. When I heard about the contest, I immediately went to an idea I had written down earlier in the year for a potential book. I scrolled through the notes in my phone until I found the one I was looking for. It simply said, ¨Story Idea: Moose Montana Wolves Project.¨ It took me a while to remember what in the world I meant, but when I did, I knew I had a story. Mr. Jensen, a 10th grade World History teacher, was giving a lecture, and as often happens, ended up going down a rabbit hole. He ended up talking about Montana. He said there was a time when the moose population elevated drastically, so they sent in wolves to see if anything would change. The wolves started eating local farmers’ cows, and to stop a riot, the government sent them money to shut them up when it happened. I sat there thinking, ¨There’s a story here, I know it.¨ And then I had an epiphany. ¨Why couldn’t they just kill their cows and get money anyway?¨ I didn’t really think about it again until I heard about the contest. I started writing it, and then restarted writing it, and then did it a couple more times because it didn’t really make sense. I finally decided to just start writing, keep it all in one place, and just go sentence to sentence. I didn’t know the ending until I got there, but I realized it was all meant to be there from the beginning.
Q: What benefit do you think you’ll get out of having a reading done of your script?
A: I’ve already gotten some benefits! When I finished writing my play, I thought it was terrible. I could barely read it without feeling I´d failed in some way. Then I went in to hear the first read through by the actors, and I was holding back tears. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s like the thing you created has been given life. Seeing it like that made me realize what worked and what needed to be worked on. It also gave me new ideas if I decide to make it a full length play.
Q: What, if any, research did you do before writing your play?
A: Most of the research I did was discovering things about Montana. Like “What’s the state animal?” And “How many moose are there anyway?” My browser search history probably looks pretty weird.
Q: What other creative activities do you pursue?
A: My first love for the arts was in theatre, which I started in 5th grade with a production of “Fiddler On the Roof.” Just like that, I was hooked. I know it’s cliche but it’s true. I’ve continued to do theatre since then in various places. I also found a love for writing around eighth grade when we were instructed to write a novel. I finished mine and realized there were still so many things to write about. I have about three unfinished books now, some of which have been unfinished for a while, and I keep getting ideas for new ones. But now some of those ideas might end up in other places, such as plays.
Q: Tell me three things that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
A: Well I definitely smile a lot.
- One of the number one things is knowing I made someone else smile, at a joke I made or something I wrote.
- Another thing is that feeling of getting something done and seeing how the little things in life come together to make something great.
- The last thing is coming home, throwing off my shoes, and watching British TV. With ice cream.
Q: Do you intend to continue writing plays? Will they be comedies as well?
A: I definitely plan on writing more, and it will probably be soon. I really enjoy comedies, because there’s nothing like making someone laugh and brightening their day. But the feeling of making someone get emotional to the point of tears is exhilarating too, and that feeling usually only comes with dramas. Hopefully someday I’ll end up doing both. Or maybe a mix.
Q: What advice do you have for a new playwright at the beginning of their career?
A: Well, here you are. Little did you know you’ve been a playwright all your life. Anyone CAN do it, at least anyone who has the physical ability to sit down and type. And once you’ve decided to actually take time out of your life and do it, you’re halfway there. Just remember to stay calm, because no matter what, your story will be told. And be patient. The right path to take with your writing will eventually become clear. Also, enjoy the process, remember what it feels like, and congratulate yourself after every time you sit down and add on to your story.
Q: Tell me something surprising about yourself.
A: I hate chunky yogurt and peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches. On a more serious note, I may come off as small and shy, but in reality I am loud, a little bit crazy, opinionated, caring…. And also small and shy.