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Firehouse Theatre brings Festival of New American Plays winner for RVA premiere

Ben Weiner | February 4, 2015

“Theatre is the place where we can ask ‘what if’ questions and imagine all sorts of answers,” said Kelly Younger, author of This World We Know, a new play opening at the Firehouse Theatre this weekend. “I suppose the big question of This World We Know is what if we can know another world- a world of forgiveness and acceptance?”

Younger’s play is a story based on one of the few stories his father told him, of how he lost his trust in both his father and sister. While Younger’s real father chose never to speak to his sister again, This World We Know is an imagining of similar events if they had gone a different way.

“[Younger] has taken this personal experience and made it into something much more universal story,” said Kerrigan Sullivan, the play’s Director. “There’s lots of things in this play that all of us can relate to in terms of families and siblings and having old wounds that may never heal.”

The world premiere of This World We Know will be this Thursday at the Firehouse Theatre. The play won the Festival of New American Plays hosted by the Firehouse in 2013.

“A play is just a script until it is performed, so a premiere is always an exciting and terrifying ‘coming out’,” said Younger. “You never know exactly how audiences will react now that you’ve put yourself and your story before them.”

Younger expressed faith in the actors and Sullivan.

“Some of the final steps for the production and the play is to see how it is in front of an audience,” said Sullivan, echoing Younger. “It’s when [the play’s] journey ends and then starts a new life.”

Sullivan has been working with the New American Plays Festival for the past few years. This is the first full-scale production she has done at Firehouse. After seeing This World We Know win in 2013 and being selected to direct, Sullivan worked closely with Younger, who lives in Los Angeles, to ensure the distance would not create issue.

“I talked to Kelly [Younger] early on, we had several meetings before we started rehearsals,” said Sullivan. “I talked to him all the way through the process. When he came out for rehearsals, he participated in discussions and did some rewrites.”

Since going back to the west coast, Younger has been using phone and email to communicate with Sullivan. ”It helps to know your play is in good hands because, ultimately, a playwright has to give the script away for it to become a play,” said Younger.

According to Sullivan, Firehouse has been trying to stage the winner of the New American Play Festival for the last few years. Younger’s play is the first winner to receive the full production. Younger said he was “very honored” that his play was chosen.

Sullivan put her faith in the play because she believes that anyone can relate to the story.

“I think that I do think this play has broad appeal to different groups of people,” she said. “I think this is a universal story in terms of families and reconciliation. So I think that its something you can relate to whether you’re 20 or 80.”

On February 7 there will be a talkback with Younger. He said he was excited to meet more people from Richmond.

“I find myself much more interested in what the audience thinks than what I think,” said Younger. “I’ve learned wonderful things about my plays by hearing what audience have to say rather than what I have to say. If I had my way, a talk back would be a playwright asking the audience questions rather than the other way around.”

This World We Know runs at Firehouse Theatre from February 5 – March 7.

Tickets may be purchased here