Accidentally personal: Kara Ayn Napolitano and her new play Leah in Vegas

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One of the amazing things about making plays in NYC is all of the interesting, creative people you get to work with, and one of the best things about that is seeing their work grow and change over the years. I worked with Kara Ayn a few years ago on a short I wrote for Working Man’s Clothes, that went up at Jimmy’s 43. She was a young director, the play was called Wanting It, about a couple of girls who skip class to huff paint and talk about sex. I loved her casting, her direction, her deceptively fun presence that belied a deep dedication to artistic creation. I’ve been a fan ever since, have been proud to premiere some of her work in Sticky, and love that she’s creating and producing her own work.

Kara Ayn’s play Leah in Vegas is going up in FringeNYC, so I thought we should talk about it.

Li88y
On your Kickstarter you talk about how Leah in Vegas is about, in part, how to reconnect with people when they “…see you for what you did instead of who you are…” What’s the difference between who someone is and the actions they make?

Kara Ayn
Actions do come from who we are. We make choices that are influenced by our personalities, preferences, and histories. However, actions are fleeting. We might do something in a moment that represents who we are or what we are feeling in that moment, but that doesn’t necessarily represent all of who we are. There is so much more to people than what they choose to do in an instant, but it is very easy to judge someone because of one, extreme action. The mistake made by my main character, Leah, happened fast, in a moment of weakness. I can’t say that what she did was right, but I can say that there is a whole lot more to her than that one moment’s action.

Li88y
I hear from people, well, on social media “…it was only one mistake, and now they’re paying for the rest of their lives, so unfair…” etc. It seems to me that our culture places far less value on thinking things through before taking action than acting according to how a person feels in the moment, phrases like “it just happened,” and “what could I do, I met someone,” spring to mind.

Kara Ayn
We should face consequences for our actions. Even something that, “just happened”. If you chose to do something, you chose to do it and that’s on you. What concerns me is if the consequences always match the crime. We have such a big legal system, and while I feel thankful for it, I also know it is flawed. Leah’s life is ruined forever because of what she did. It’s hard to say if she really deserves that. Some might say she does, but I’m not so sure. That’s a question I’m interested in the audience reacting to.

Li88y
The story has a very personal feeling to it. What was the inspiration for the story?

Kara Ayn
This play accidentally became personal. I set out to write a play about hitting rock bottom in Vegas because I was intrigued by the dark, secretive depths of the place. It’s exciting in a racy way. The kind of place where you could get caught up in enjoyment and lose yourself. As I got to know my characters better, I found that the story was really about reconnection after a major event that changed everything. There is someone from my past that I was once very close to. Then something big happened and things changed. Now I would very much like to reconnect with my friend, but I haven’t been given the chance.

Li88y
Do you think they might come to the play? Would you want them to?

Kara Ayn
My friend won’t come. I don’t know when or if we will see each other again. It might not happen. Part of me would would love it if this person came, though I wonder how they would feel about the play. However, I would rather a private meeting where we could really talk. And hug.

Li88y
You’ve produced your own work in the past, what do you like best about that, and what are some of the challenges?

Kara Ayn
I love building creative teams. It can be a recipe for success and for a great time. I think that’s my favorite part of self producing, surrounding myself with an awesome, inspiring team. I’m also an organizational geek and get all nerdy about making awesome budgets and production schedules. The hardest part is drawing a clear line between the playwright hat and the producer hat. They are two very different frames of mind. I find I can’t multitask the two at once, at all. However, when I get creatively tired, it is nice to switch over to the taskmaster mind. Likewise, when all the business stuff gets boring, it’s nice to relax and just write.

Li88y
That’s where I always get lost, in the juggle of the two. It’s a completely different frame of mind. As the creator you need complete mental freedom, but the producer needs to reign it all in. Does the producer inhibit the writer at all?

Kara Ayn
So far the only thing the producer in me may have inhibited is my paycheck. Darn producer. There are times when I would like to just write but have production elements to work on and have to give myself over to that frame of mind, but so far, on this project at least, I’ve been able to balance it well and am grateful to be able to switch back and forth. It is my first time in FringeNYC so we shall see how it all unfolds. I feel very lucky to have two awesome Co-Producers, Evan Greene and Stephanie Olsen, who truly care about the project. That means so much to me and I have deep appreciation for them.

Drift In Act Out is the official production company behind Leah in Vegas.

Drift In Act Out is the official production company behind Leah in Vegas.

Jenna D'Angelo plays Leah

Jenna D’Angelo plays Leah

Leslie Marseglia plays Brenda, Leah's childhood best friend

Leslie Marseglia plays Brenda, Leah’s childhood best friend

Jess, a Vegas go-go dancer; and Emily, Leah's neighbor/her daughter's babysitter

Samantha Cooper plays Jess, a Vegas go-go dancer; and Emily, Leah’s neighbor/her daughter’s babysitter

Victoria Bundonis (AEA) plays Mary Anne, Leah's mother

Victoria Bundonis (AEA) plays Mary Anne, Leah’s mother

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