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Interview with Katie Taylor, writer of Pros and Cons for Plays by Young Writers 2017

December 28, 2016

Playwrights Project will produce its 32nd annual festival of Plays by Young Writers, sponsored by the Sheila and Jeffrey Lipinsky Family Fund, at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 19 – January 29, 2017. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 365 plays submitted by students from across the state. Four scripts will receive full professional productions, and two scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.


Pros and Cons

By Katie Taylor

Ages 18, Woodlake

Directed by Phil Johnson

Katie is a student at the College of the Sequoias. Her winning play, Pros and Cons is a clever farce about formerly incarcerated friends who reunite for a fresh start as they reenter society. Despite their altruistic efforts, old habits die hard and whacky escapades ensue. In the playwright’s words, “the road to comedy is paved with good intentions.”

How did you first get involved with writing?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I first developed a love of storytelling from my family; my parents and siblings read to me, constantly, until I learned how to read for myself. After that, of course, my favorite authors helped me along. It began with Carolyn Keene, Madeline L’Engle, etc., and in later years has turned to Austen, King, Tolkien, Pratchett, you name it. I’ve always wanted to be able to do the same things that my favorite authors do, and make people think in the way that their books have made me think.

Your play is a farcical comedy about the serious subject of incarceration. How do comedic conventions help artists such as yourself delve into such complicated subject matter?

Comedy is my first answer to any question. In this particular instance, I drew a lot of inspiration from Donald E. Westlake’s hilarious fictional crime books. The characters, though seemingly unlikable criminals, are made lovable to the audience through Westlake’s writing style. I wanted to do something similar in this play. I wanted my audience to be able to look at a very real subject, one that is perhaps not pleasant, or very talked about, and be thinking about it without realizing that they are thinking about it. I think that good art always leaves the audience with more questions than they came in with, and less answers. And if you can get them to laugh while thinking, so much the better.


How did you come up with the idea for your script?
Lots and lots of brainstorming in different directions with different friends. I think that the initial breakthrough came one day when joking around with a good friend of mine; he was once falsely accused for a rather serious crime. Somehow, we came to the question: what if he started thinking that he had actually committed the crime, even though he hadn’t? What if, because of people inadvertently playing tricks on him, he became convinced that he was guilty? And that was very much the direction of the original script, although it changed so much in the process that that original idea is no longer in play. But bouncing that one idea off of three different friends is what solidified the base for the script which is now being produced.


What themes are involved in your piece?
I’d say the biggest themes are centered around important questions: why do we love people? Why do we trust people? Do you define a person by their actions, their words, or something else entirely?


What is the message you hope the audience takes away with them?
Again, I’d much rather my audience take away questions than answers. I want them to take away a laugh, and I want the questions that I bring up to stay with them after they leave the theater.


Do you plan to continue writing?
Absolutely. I’ll never stop writing.

What are your career goals and/or aspirations?
Right now, I’m looking to graduate with a B.A. in English, and work as an editor for a publishing house. It’s always been a distant goal of mine to teach English at a community college, as my English teachers have always been my personal heroes, but that is nowhere in the near future.

What advice would you give to a peer as they embark on writing their first play?
In addition to English classes, and reading, and however else you better your writing, take some acting classes. Or, if you can’t do that, talk to actors about how they go about their roles, and talk to directors about how they approach a script. Nothing has helped me more with character development and motivation than the acting training I’ve had. Also, the more you work hands-on with plays, the more comfortable you become with how they work, how they flow, what they require. Onstage or backstage, I believe that experience in the theatre is invaluable to a playwright.

Are you currently working to develop any other plays?
Definitely! I’ve learned so much during this editing process with my Dramaturg, Ruff Yeager, and I’m anxious to apply it elsewhere. My first editing project is the play I submitted last year, How To Strike a Match. (Katie’s play How To Strike a Match was a semi-finalist in the 2015 California Young Playwrights Contest.) Then, I’d like also to clean up the full version of Pros and Cons, which was cut shorter for the festival, but has much editing to be done in its entirety. After these are done, I’m excited to start writing a play that’s been on the back burner for about six months, which is centered around a high school clique.


Pros and Cons can be seen during Program B of Plays by Young Writers, on Friday Jan. 27th at 7:30 PM and Saturday Jan. 28th at 2:00 PM. You may purchase tickets for Fri. Jan. 27 at 7:30 PM here, and for Sat. Jan. 28th at 2 PM here. 

For more information, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or Visit 

*Photo courtesy of Geri Goodale of Reminisce Photography.

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