"Call Me Adam" chats with playwright and director Kim Ehly about her show Baby GirL which is currently playing in the 2014 NYC International Fringe Festival through August 24 at The Kraine Theatre (85 East 4th Street, between 2nd Avenue & Bowery). Click here for tickets!
Baby GirL: After coming out as a lesbian and being alienated by her adoptive family, Ashley, a spirited young daydreamer, goes on an extraordinary journey to find love and a place to call home. When Ashley's fantasies meet reality, expect the unexpected!
For more on Kim be sure to visit http://www.kimehly.com!
1. From August 8-24, your show Baby GirL will be playing in the 2014 NYC International Fringe Festival. What are you looking forward to most about having your show in this festival? I don’t even know where to begin. The Fringe offers the chance of reaching and inspiring more people in a city that has the ability to help this story live on through the patrons, the potential for other productions in, around, or outside of NYC, and the chance to work with a really talented team. The play was conceived in NYC and it is cool to bring it back to the place of inception.
2. How do you feel the Fringe will help nurture Baby GirL in a way another festival might not? The Fringe is a platform that can draw audiences that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to cultivate. This show is super relevant and FringeNYC is the place for work like this to launch. There aren’t a lot of works out there by lesbian playwrights or adoptees and the Fringe welcomes unique voices.
3. What excites you about having this cast bring your show to life? I’m truly overwhelmed by the talent on that stage. They are genuine, hilarious, creatively spontaneous, open, professional, and most importantly passionate about this true story. Having that kind of authenticity on stage is invaluable in the telling of a true story.
4. Since this show is about finding love and a place to call home, where do you call home and have you found love? I have found true love. It took me a while though! Home is with my partner, Faiza Cherie and our 3 dogs, Monkey, Butter and Mona. Wherever they are, I am home. Oh and we have a house by a beautiful lake in Fort Lauderdale. Though, we are weighing options of where to land next.
5. Baby GirL made it's world premiere in 2012 in Florida at your theatre company Kutumba Theatre Project with a sold-out run and named one of the Top Five Plays by the Sun Sentinel, Top Ten by the Miami Herald & Best Debut by Florida Theater Onstage. You were also named one of the 9 most intriguing people in the arts community of South Florida & one of the 50 most influential people in the LGBT community of South Florida by the South Florida Gay News. Additionally, you are the first female playwright to win the SILVER PALM AWARD, honoring outstanding contributions to South Florida theatre as well as being nominated for a Carbonell Award & a Broadway World Award for Best New Work for Baby GirL. What do all these honors and accolades mean to you? You know, I was entirely surprised by these accolades. I didn’t really know I was a writer or that my words would be so meaningful to people. I wrote my story, because it had to come out. I wrote my story hoping that audience members would be comforted in knowing that we all feel alone sometimes and that we can find a place to fit in, in the world. I love that I was able to do that with a sense of humor. Hearing the audience roar with laughter is such a gift! All of the awards and accolades are a wonderful surprise. The biggest gift is the audience members that come up to me afterwards to share what the play means/meant to them.
6. How do you feel the show has grown since its premiere? This is such a fun show to work on. Since it’s a comedy, that lends itself to an atmosphere of exploration and that is even more apparent with this production. I’ve also grown as a director and a writer since the premiere, so that is a benefit to the process. This production is blessed with a cohesive, fun and dedicated family of actors, designers and assistants. The people make the project.
7. There are a lot of people out there who are adopted. What has the reaction from fellow adoptees been like after they've seen Baby GirL? This may be one of the most humbling aspects of sharing my story. Adoptees have a special connection to the struggles of "Ashley," our central character, because most of them know what it is to wonder about where we came from, who might be more like us, where we might find a sense of belonging that is only known with a birth parent, at least in the adoptee mind. The fantasy aspects of this show really resonate with adoptees. The reunion element is tricky for most adoptees and that is something most have a strong connection to with this story.
8. How did this experience make you stronger? What a great question. I grew up with a family member (I’d rather not say which one to protect their privacy), but I grew up with a family member that used to say "You will live a very lonely life, if you continue to be so opinionated." What they meant by opinionated is simply being "me," being the gay, artistic, liberal lesbian I am. What I have realized in putting my story out into the world, is that the more "me" I am, the more loved and respected and honored I am by my partner, close friends and even people I barely know. My world has become bigger since Baby GirL and my courage even stronger to speak my truth.
9. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright/director? Ironically, the family member that I quoted earlier is the one that said to me when I was a kid that I was a gifted writer, so that is where the inspiration began. I took a writing workshop when I lived in NYC (as an actor) for the heck of it and wrote a personal monologue for a scene study class. That’s when Baby GirL was conceived. Once I put Baby GirL out there and received such a warm reception, I realized I had found another place to call home, tapping on the keyboard. My degree is in Acting and Directing, so it was a natural progression for me to move from acting to directing. The ability to choose the play and put my stamp on it makes directing my preference to acting these days.
10. What have you enjoyed most about having your own theatre company? What challenges do you face? Having my own company means I can choose the stories I put out there into the world. It is an excellent way to have a voice in a very clear way. I am also able to put an emphasis on the "L" in LGBTQ, which is needed. Kutumba Theatre Project is focused on producing works for underserved populations, so I get to build a patronage with people who are hungry for their voices to be heard.
The challenge is convincing people that our voices are valid. My first and thus far only blog, which I posted on August 4th speaks to the struggles of wanting to write and produce work for a population that is underserved. The blog can be found at kimehly.com, if your readers are interested.
11. What's the best advice you've ever received? Be yourself and speak your truth. Live your life in the way that is meaningful to you, not what you think others want your life to be. In tough times, "Another train’ll be along in a minute." – My Gram used to tell me that, meaning there is hope and it’s about to arrive.
12. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? The ability to grant empathy to people, who don’t have it or lack it.
13. If you could be any original flavor lifesaver, which one would you be? Orange, because it’s yummy and it’s my favorite color and I might add, my partner is a ginger ;)
14. How do you want to be remembered?As someone who inspired change, inspired people to embrace who they are and have the courage to speak up for themselves and others, for being a loyal and loving partner and friend.
Kim Ehly is a veteran of the theatre and has worked in film, TV, theatre, commercials and voiceovers in NYC, LA, and South Florida. Kim recently directed Julie Johnson and The Beebo Brinker Chronicles, two of Kutumba’s smash hits. Kim wrote and directed her debut play, Baby GirL, as the inaugural production of her company, Kutumba Theatre Project. Baby GirL enjoyed sold out audiences and critical acclaim. As a result of that production, Kim was the first female playwright to receive the SILVER PALM AWARD for Outstanding New Playwright and was nominated for a Carbonell Award and a Broadway World Award for Best New Play. Kim’s play under her direction, also received the honor of being named in the Top Five Plays of 2012 by the Sun Sentinel, Top Ten in the Miami Herald, and Best Debut by Florida Theatre On Stage.
Kim has a BFA in acting/directing from FAU. She directed two shorts for an LGBT short play series (SILVER PALM AWARD). Kim wrote a short for that project called The Happy Ones. That short was selected to be part of Girl Play at The Women’s Theatre Project this summer and was voted Audience Favorite. Kim was recently commissioned to write two, one-minute plays, "T" and "Places," which premiered at this year’s One Minute Play Festival in Miami. She has directed for City Theatre, The Women’s Theatre Project, Island City Stage, The New Theatre, Naked Stage, and in NYC at Michael Howard Studios. Kim was recently named one of 9 most influential people in the arts community of South Florida and one of 50 most influential people in the LGBT community of South Florida by the SFGN (South Florida Gay News).