Though she’s been writing since she had enough object permanence to hold a pen, Kiki Penoyer got her real start in playwriting through the Seattle Repertory Theatre’s Artists In Residence Program, a partnership with Western Washington University to pair a select group of students interested in a career in theatre with a professional working artist in their field; this summer intensive program afforded Kiki an opportunity to work with local legend Bryan Willis and the late great Jerry Manning on workshopping Bryan’s script in the day, with the students joining in to workshop a play of Kiki’s during the evening. Over the course of the next three years at Western, Kiki would go on to be honored by the Kennedy Center three times for her writing, twice as a national semi-finalist for the John Cauble Short Play Award and once as the regional winner/national finalist for the National Critics Institute’s Theatre Journalism and Advocacy program.
During her final year, she finished the first draft of Taphouse, which received a public staged reading in January of 2012. Also during her time at Western, Kiki met Roland Carette-Meyers, who turned out to be literally the best person ever, and would become instrumental in making Taphouse good—he would go on to become the dramaturg for the Seattle premiere of the play, as well as the love of Kiki’s life.
Taphouse itself was written in response to the sleepy-small-town world of Bellingham, where WWU is located, and the hold this vibe seemed to have on so many people: there are people in every small town in America (and possibly the world, though Kiki’s never been cool enough to explore that in depth) who talk day in and day out of going somewhere else—but there never seems to be any explanation as to why they don’t. It reminded Kiki very much of the ending of Three Sisters, wherein one of the sisters begins crying and shrieking very suddenly about how she is never going to Moscow even after all she has said about it…but fails to offer a reason why she couldn’t just get up and go. Some several hundred pages of prewriting and rough drafting later, Taphouse was born.
Since that first draft, Taphouse has received a total of three fully-sponsored public staged readings in 3 different locations along the I5 corridor, and has undergone at least a dozen full revisions; where once there were over 140 pages of Chekhovian Bellinghammery, there are now less than 110; during the initial stages of writing, American forces were still on the ground in Iraq hunting for Osama Bin Laden—now they say the war is over, but not everyone has had a chance to come home; entire scenes have been clipped and rearranged—or removed entirely.
What stands now in the hands of Copious Love is what Kiki feels is what the play should have been about all along: not necessarily a specific town, not necessarily a specific time, but a look at the cyclical nature of the situation and the cyclical lives of the characters, and the way fear has always had a way of making people do the wrong thing—and the traps we set for ourselves while swearing we’re avoiding bigger, badder traps that could be further on down the line.
When Kiki is not writing or appreciating Chekhov, she can usually be found in West Seattle (Best Seattle), hanging out with her super awesome husband and their two very needy but lovable kitties, usually playing Mass Effect or marathon-watching Hulu.
– Kiki Penoyer