Kimberly Gaughan hopes the audiences come away from her one-woman show with “a sense of nostalgia and a hatred of Nazis.”
Her piece is part of the M.F.A. Actor Solo Shows called "Where the Roots Take Hold," a showcase of completely original works from master's of fine arts students. Premiering Feb. 18, the series gives second-year M.F.A. students the opportunity to discover their artistic voices by developing their own content and engaging in the creative process. From the play's initial conception to the editing of the script, each of the eight actors are required to handle every step of the project themselves. The end result is eight unique stories that reflect the contrasting interests and styles of the participating storytellers. Although the plays will run between 14 and 17 minutes, Gaughan’s personal journey to the finished product has been months in the making.
Gaughan, an M.F.A. acting candidate, has been acting for 20 years, and the development of her piece began last semester. After wrapping up a writing class in the fall, Gaughan was able to rework her script during winter break and has been rehearsing ever since. While Gaughan’s period piece was mainly inspired by her “love of old Hollywood cinema and the desire to wear a fabulous dress,” current events such as the Weinstein scandal and the rise of the alt-right has shaped its message as well.
“My play, titled 'You Go to My Head,' follows Kay Francis, the biggest Hollywood star you’ve probably never heard of, as she navigates through late 1930s Hollywood and wrangles with the film industry’s ties to Nazi Germany,” Gaughan said.
In addition to shining a light on a lesser-known actress through a personal interpretation of Francis’ story, Gaughan has written a character that she wishes there were more of in the business.
“I’ve rarely had the opportunity to play strong, competent women," Gaughan said. "You’d be surprised how many plays demand that women just be in love with a man or cry a lot or do both of those things at the same time. Those roles get repetitive and don’t really reflect my own experience as a woman."
Although participation is a thesis requirement, Gaughan has not found the experiences any less rewarding. Despite its challenges, her work has led her to discover that she is capable of much more than she gives herself credit for.
“I didn’t know that I was a playwright. That was a great discovery," she said. "I was terrified of the blank page at first, but over the course of the project, I found my voice. I learned to dream big and then compromise in the most creative way possible. And more often than not, that compromise is more interesting than the original idea.”