My Writing Life
As I recall, I was first noticed as writer when I penned the immortal phrase, “tender pillows of ravioli” for a restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I was working as a waitress there and the owner wanted to jazz up the menu. In between dishing out spaghetti, I wrote a children’s play called WERNER AND THE MAGIC BOOTS that was produced for a children’s radio show on NPR called “The Spider’s Web.” I wrote a couple of other radio plays: THE COSMIC YANKEE, about Henry David Thoreau, and THE FIRST WINTER, about the first year of the pilgrims landing on Cape Cod. I sold them both to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I wrote for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, little monologues about famous composers, and I wrote some short stories. One of them was published in Cosmopolitan. I wrote a couple of screenplays, and sold one of them to Public Television. My first play, PERMISSION FROM CHILDREN, received a Drama League Award, workshoped at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York, and produced by the University of Oklahoma where I was Artist in Residence. My second play was a short comedy called WOMEN WHO LOVE SCIENCE TOO MUCH, which was produced off Broadway, and then in Chicago, and was made into a radio play for NPR. The Massachusetts Artists Foundation gave me an award for a play called DITCHED. Someone hired me to turn it into a screenplay, and the money allowed my husband and me to make the down payment on our first house. A play called THE STILL TIME was produced in Chicago and received the Connecticut Commission on the Arts Playwrighting award.
I was given a scholarship to NYU Tisch School for the Arts in Musical Theatre. I wrote the libretto for CLARA, an opera about Clara Schumann, and received a Rockefeller Grant to Bellagio Italy to work on it with the composer. The opera was subsequently produced by the Maryland Center for the Arts. Two years of work; four performances. I determined never to write an opera again, but for over a decade I was under the spell of musicals and composers. I wrote THE FIFTH SEASON (later changed to DAKOTA SKY) that received the Jane Chambers Playwrighting Award and was produced by the Olney Theatre. North Shore Music Theatre commissioned me to write a musical about an 18th century merchant ship: FRIENDSHIP OF THE SEA toured schools along the coast of Massachusetts for a season. I turned it into another musical, THE NAVIGATOR, which was performed at the Berkley College of Music in Boston.
Then I came to Utah and had brain surgery. My life changed. There were mountains and sky and something in the air (besides pollution I mean.) I wrote a play in Utah that I had wanted to write for years, about Margaret Fuller and the Transcendentalists: CHARM received it’s world premiere at the Salt Lake Acting Company. It received an Edgerton Award; it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Orlando Shakespeare and Kitchen Dog Theatre in Dallas produced it. THE PERSIAN QUARTER premiered at the Salt Lake Acting Company and received another Edgerton Award. It opens the season at Merrimack Rep in Massachusetts in September 2011. I’m a member of a great playwrighting group here in Salt Lake. I see my career as a playwright like this: a little stream growing bigger and wider as it heads towards the “far and boundless sea” to steal a quote from one of my own plays.
Kathleen Cahill has received many awards for her work, including the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award, a Connecticut Commission on the Arts Playwriting Award (twice), a Massachusetts Artists Foundation Award, a Rockefeller Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts New American Works Grant, a Drama League Award and two Edgerton Awards. Her plays include THE STILL TIME (Georgia Rep/Porchlight Theatre, Chicago), WOMEN WHO LOVE SCIENCE TOO MUCH (Porchlight), HENRI LOUISE AND HENRY (Cleveland Public, Firehouse Theatre, Massachusetts), SLAM (Plan-B Theatre, UT), CHARM, (SLAC, Kitchen Dog Theatre, Dallas, Orlando Shakespeare) THE PERSIAN QUARTER (SLAC, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Massachusetts) and COURSE 86B IN THE CATALOGUE (SLAC). CHARM and THE PERSIAN QUARTER are published by Dramatic Publishing. She wrote the screenplay DOWNTOWN EXPRESS, a film for David Grubin Productions in NY which began a limited commercial release at the Quad Theatre in New York City in the spring of 2012. Her musicals include book and lyrics for THE NAVIGATOR, FRIENDSHIP OF THE SEA (developed at the North Shore Music Theatre), DAKOTA SKY (Olney Theatre), WATER ON THE MOON (Signature Theatre readings), CAPTIVATED (Kennedy Center New Works Festival), PERDITA, (in progress) the operas CLARA, FATAL SONG, and A TALE OF TWO CITIES: PARIS AND BERLIN IN THE TWENTIES (all premiered at the Maryland Center for the Performing Arts). She is listed among the top 25 song writers in the new Directory of Contemporary Musical Theatre Writers .