Tuesday, March 27, 2012

From pastor to playwright - Kristine Holmgren's plays ask, "Is it ever too late to start again?"

Where did these ashes come from? See PAPER DADDY!
As a pastor — especially as a woman pastor — Kristine Holmgren has always found a comfort zone in the public eye.

In addition to thirteen years of weekly preaching from her country-church pulpit in Hager City, Wisconsin,  Holmgren reached people across the country through the informally syndicated column she wrote for the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune and her frequent commentary for National Public Radio's All Things Considered.  

That exposure has perhaps helped prepare her for her newest venture as a playwright. 

In 2008, after working for a for-profit Minneapolis-based online university, Holmgren hit the wall.

 "It was soul-killing work; my first time outside faith-based communities. " Holmgren said. "I wasn't used to the 'dog-eat-dog' atmosphere. I didn't want to get used to it."

At age 59 - at the stormy genesis of the Great Recession, Holmgren did the unthinkable.  She quit her job. 

"I needed time," she said.  "We clergy folks call it, 'a period of discernment.  I needed to recover my spirit.'" she said.

It was during this time Holmgren wrote her first play, “Paper Daddy,” which will premiere April 13 at the Northfield Arts Guild Theater in Minnesota

PAPER DADDY is the story of Charlie, a woman who survives the Great Recession by renting rooms to a variety of colorful characters. She is the newly widowed ex-wife of a former college dean whom she has not seen in years and is now faced with the responsibility of taking care of his ashes.

The play explores the many meanings of forgiveness and the difficult role of fatherhood.  Paper Daddy asks the question, "Is it ever too late to start again?"

Her first play was followed by three more.

Her comedy SWEET TRUTH, premieres at the Berlin Theatre in Columbia,  Missouri in summer, 2013.

Her third, THE GOD GIRL, is in development with the  Minnesota History Theatre.

And her fourth, GROWING UP GOODRICH, is still in process.

“All my plays are all about redemption,” Holmgren said. “When I sit down to write, I'm amazed at the the characters who come to me, demanding I help them find their way back to a life of meaning. Writing is my vehicle to share my hope for my community and my world.”

 THE GOD GIRL is based on her experiences as a student at Princeton Theological Seminary, from which she graduated in 1979.

“It was the classic battlefield against women’s rights. So that’s what I wrote about,” Holmgren said.

The Minnesota History Theatre will offer a public reading of Holmgren's play in May, 2012.  Holmgren's play focuses on the pressure for the seminary to see the damage of patriarchy while telling the stories of women who feel assaulted rather than nourished.

Physical attacks, humiliation, sexual harassment and inappropriate use of power are a few of the realities Holmgren and her classmates experienced and which are portrayed in the play.
Holmgren’s was the first class at Princeton to have a large number of women — about one-third of the class. Administrators, faculty members and male students weren’t used to having so many bright, independent women on campus, she said.

Telling such a story in public isn’t nerve-racking for Holmgren, who sent the script to former Princeton classmates and her advisor. They all love it, she said.

She expects a wide audience for her plays.  Paper Daddy is selling out quickly.  Her play “The God Girl,” has a broad appeal as well.   The majority of theater-goers are female and want to see more stories about women and their gifts, Holmgren said.

Holmgren knew she wanted to be a pastor since she was seven years old, and a lifelong interest in writing helped fuel that calling. Her experiences as a pastor are now providing insight and ideas for her plays.

“I've been a pioneer all my life," she said.  "I hope my plays advance my reputation as a woman who stands up for what she believes.”

In writing plays, Holmgren has learned that her training in ministry and wide exposure to people have given her “the resources I need to be that kind of person in every venue I pursue in life.”

 A "talk back" to the cast and playwright is scheduled following Paper Daddy on Friday, April 20.

Holmgren will be present.

For tickets to see Paper Daddy, contact the Northfield Arts Guild Theatre in Northfield.

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