Tori Keenan-Zelt - Ingram New Works Playwright

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As we gear up for our annual Ingram New Works Festival (happening May 6-16, don’t miss it!), we want to introduce you to our three 2014-15 Lab Playwrights: Bianca Sams, Gabrielle Sinclair and Tori Keenan-Zelt. Since October, our lab playwrights have gathered here in Nashville each month with our Resident Playwright Nate Eppler to create, critique, read and write… and rewrite. Mainly to rewrite. And now the final product is almost here! Their months of hard work will be realized with our fabulous Nashville actors giving staged readings of their new plays for you, our wonderful audience. So before you come to the Festival, we want you to get to know our 2014-15 Lab Playwrights. Finally: Tori Keenan-Zelt.

Tori Zeenan-ZeltAbout Tori: Tori writes question-based plays. Tori is also founding Co-Artistic Director of Panglossian Productions, a non-profit developing new work in Williamsburg, VA. Originally and proudly from Pittsburgh, by way of Singapore, she splits her time among Virginia, New York, and a cat who lives in Connecticut. Read more of her bio and credits here.

Her play: Air Space is about a young couple who buys a $500 foreclosure in a small Rust Belt city and as they try to flip the house, they discover that the couple who built it never left and has been secretly living in the walls.

What is your favorite thing about Nashville so far?

Favorite Place: Santa’s Pub

Favorite Hair: Connie Britton’s

Favorite Playwright/Therapist/Travel Agent/Socialite: Nate Eppler

Favorite Person to Benignly Stalk: Ben Folds

Favorite Activity: Making plays, y’all!

Second Favorite Activity: Eating raw animals in restaurants made of reclaimed tubas and celebrities

What do you think of Nashville actors? Oh my gosh -- they are spoiling me like crazy! I can’t believe how game they are. It’s like asking them to play Marco Polo in a tree house that’s still being built, so there’s screws and old Coke bottles and splinters and missing boards, and it might have a mold problem, but they’re just like, “I bet the view is really great up there! Should I take my shoes off or…?”

How is this different than you expected? Andrew Kramer, who told me about the lab, said something along the lines of “It’s-the-best-it’s-so-great-do-it-do-it-do-it-do-it,” and he was chanting it and then there was a keg flip or something. So, he set the bar high. And it has been so much more than that. There’s a lot of well-intentioned lip service given to creative risk in the industry, but rarely the kind of supported time and space that it takes to turn big risks into new approaches successfully. You can take a play apart in a week and look at it, but then you really need time, space and other artists to put it back together and see how it works as something new. This “now what” process is crucial to making innovative work, and it’s really hard to come by. The Lab puts its money, people, space and spirit where its mouth is, encouraging us to dream extremely and then supporting a process of rigorous experimentation. It’s encouraging but not lax. They ask rigorous questions and, most importantly, listen for the hints that still-fragile new plays give as they whisper what they want to be. 

What would you be doing if you weren’t a playwright? Badminton. Or taxidermy. Or both. Probably both.

Ready to see Air Space and the rest of the new plays in our Ingram New Works Festival? Get all the details, and your tickets, here.