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Arts Toolkit

Arts Toolkit: Drama

Kentuckians in Theater

Playwright Liz Bussey Fentress
Louisville, KY

Who Liz Bussey Fentress has worked as a producer, administrator, director, actor, and teacher as well as a playwright. She was associate producer of Horse Cave Theatre (now known as the Kentucky Repertory Theatre at Horse Cave) and executive director of the Playhouse in the Park, a community theater in Murray, KY. Before moving to Kentucky, Fentress toured throughout the Midwest with the Guthrie Theater and the Franzen Bros. Circus. Her first play, Liz’s Circus Story, is about her own experiences working with the circus. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin.

For a backstage peek into the development of Liz’s Circus Story, watch KET’s Electronic Field Trip to Horse Cave Theatre and visit the field trip web site. During the video, you’ll meet Fentress and see her working with her director.

In 2003, Fentress and KET adapted the play for television. That version of Liz’s Circus Story is available on tape from KET, and the accompanying web site has extensive background information on the circus, the play, and the process of translating the work from stage to screen. Fentress and three short scenes from her play are included on the Aspects of Drama DVD in the 2nd Edition Drama Arts Toolkit.

What “A playwright is someone who has something he or she has to say, a message to deliver.”

When “I write three days a week—always on weekdays, generally late morning until late afternoon.”

Where “A place I go to write is Hopscotch House, a retreat for artists in Prospect, KY that’s owned by the Kentucky Foundation for Women. I think of it as my office. And I have a study/office at home where I do printing, collating, and correspondence.”

How “You spend a lot of time working by yourself when you’re trying to structure the plot and put some meat on the bones. Then you go through this long process of reading the play for an audience, finding out what works and what doesn’t, and re-writing. They say a play is not written; it’s re-written. The next individuals you have to work with are a director and actors—the people who have to make the play live and breathe. Theater is collaborative, so you have to set your deadline with your collaborators.”

Why “I had a story that I had to tell, and because I worked in theater, the way I knew to tell stories was through theater.”

Getting There “College gives discipline [and] a sense of accomplishment and expands your world view. To be a playwright you have to be curious about life and participate in life. Then you have to find a structure through which you can write. For years, I took the playwriting class at Horse Cave Theatre. You have to have something to say and learn how to develop that. You have to read. And in order to survive in the theater, you have to be passionate about it.”

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