Cecily Chen at Small Press Distribution has assembled a clutch of New Narrative books to offer at a discount, all of which are entirely worthy, and one of which is Kevin Killian’s Stage Fright, his selected plays. Chen’s write up is a crash course, so go to it!
From the 1980s to the 2000s, Kevin Killian wrote prolifically for the San Francisco Poets Theater, putting together “plays” that turned loose every part of the stage. These plays didn’t need professional actors or seasoned directors—sometimes, they didn’t even need to be performed. They were written merely to be experienced, read out loud by artists who hold the script in their hands, awkwardly but enthusiastically to whoever might listen, or read in private, with like-minded friends as company. In Killian’s own words, these pieces are “not only time based but fun based”—it’s all about what you can do with them, and who you get to do it with.
Stage Fright is the first instance where Killian’s plays are assembled into one single volume, and the result is dizzying and delightfully, unapologetically queer. In the opening interview with Heidi Bean, Killian remarks that with the Poets Theater, he tried to “harness some New Narrative energy [a]nd gay it up a bit.” Together, the energy of each play is amplified to an intoxicating degree. Killian’s plays are lively, digressive, absurd. They don’t always make sense, but they are always fun, even downright silly. The characters that show up include Jack Kerouac (“failed beat novelist and alcoholic”), Anais Nin (“international gadabout and diarist”), Gus Van Sant, Jamie Lee Curtis, Isabella Rossellini, and Killian himself, an endearingly cockamamie bunch that gently elbows us: laugh a little, anything goes.