We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelley Girod and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelley, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I founded The Fire This Time Festival back in 2009, a year after I graduated from Columbia’s MFA Playwriting Program. After going through three years of my writing program, I came out knowing that I would need to make a space for voice in an industry that was still producing mostly plays by white men, and saving one slot, if that, for “diversity” in their season. I come from a big family in Louisiana, and my father was the first to integrate an all-white high school as a teenager, and then went on to establish a Family Medical Practice in Baton Rouge, so I was accustomed to the idea that many times Black people have to become trailblazers out of necessity, if there is a need,we find creative ways to address it. That was my thinking 15 years ago, and it remains the way in which I operate and approach programming and curation – what is missing, where is a space that needs to be filled and how can I do that?
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My writing primarily focuses on my upbringing in Louisiana. I come from a Black/Cajun/Creole/French-speaking family, and go back at least 3 generations of healers on my father’s side. I love my home state of Louisiana and have completed a trilogy of plays that deal with our history, our struggles, and our magic, and our unique place in America. All three of my plays are currently in some form of development and include This Stretch of Montpelier (Parity Production 2021 Commission winner), The Faith Healer (Atlantic Launch New Play Commission), and A Body of Water (Sundance IDP Grantee). I want the world to see these plays to see what is amazing about a place like Louisiana, but also what is under threat. Louisiana stands to be one of our first regions significantly impacted by climate change. As we lose coastline, we lose culture and language along with it. I feel that writing my plays is a way of bringing awareness but also a way of preserving a culture that may be vanishing.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
New York City is ever-changing and for that reason, I have no favorite place, I remain constantly surprised by what is around the corner.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Erez Ziv of Frigid NYC. Erez is operating a theater space downtown which is one of the last remaining spaces in NYC where a young artist off the street can walk in with an idea and Erez will say yes, let’s do it. This is essentially how my career in the theater started. I told Erez I had an idea, he said yes, gave me the theater for a week, and the rest is history. I call Erez Ziv the patron saint of the theater because he gives so much to artists and asks for nothing in return. Emerging artists need someone to say yes to them, and that doesn’t happen as often as it should.
Christine Jean Chambers