Q&A: Caitlin Montanye Parrish
Caitlin Parrish’s career began at age 18 when she won the 2003 National Young Playwrights Competition with her first play The View from Tall, which subsequently ran off-broadway. A forthcoming adaptation of The View from Tall marks the beginning of her film career, as both screenwriter and co-director. Her collaborator and co-director Erica Weiss directed her sold-out hit A Twist of Water for Route 66 Theatre Company, which also enjoyed an off-broadway run at 59E59. Route 66 also recently produced the world premiere of her play The Downpour, which was named a finalist by the American Theatre Critics Association for the Steinberg Award for Best New American Play – an honor A Twist of Water received in 2011 as well. Her work in television includes stints as a writer for Emily Owens, M.D., and two seasons of Under the Dome. She is a recipient of the prestigious Humanitas Award for her original television pilot Painkiller.
Everybody has heard the cliché writing advice, “write what you know.” When putting the story together of these two Irish natives in a western setting, did you ever feel out of your element?
Oh, for sure. But less because the characters are outside my time and experience, and more because Erin and Keith have created such a specific world with PleasureTown. When you’re trying to write for someone else’s baby, there’s always a worry that you’ll get the voices wrong, or even just facts. My first draft set a scene in the PleasureTown train depot, only for Keith to tell me that PleasureTown has no train depot.
What about the medium? You’ve written for T.V. and the stage, how does writing for an auditory medium differ?
It was my first time taking a crack at it! Each medium has its own language and math that you have to relearn when you’re approaching a new project. I’d never had the pleasure of writing foley directions before, so that took some getting used to. On stage or screen, you have the benefit of knowing that the audience will see certain things, you can rely on silent moments to propel the story. Working on something entirely auditory was very difficult, but an awful lot of fun.
Strong female characters are critical to any good story. Who or what were your inspirations for writing such a dynamic anti-heroine?
Again, Erin and Keith had such a clear idea of Clayton’s background that extrapolating from their initial story comments was pretty clean cut. I don’t know if they anticipated as much murder and co-depedency, but the female character Clayton reminds me of most, in terms of situation if not personality, is Christine Penmark in Maxwell Anderson’s The Bad Seed. She’s a young mother, convinced that it’s her fault that her daughter is a murderous sociopath and trying desperately to figure out a how to stymie the very destructive behavior of a person she can’t help but love with all her heart.
What did you enjoy most about writing this episode?
Seeing how far I could push the darkness. The citizens of PleasureTown are incredibly complex, but no one’s been as… shall we say “icky,” as Mudd. Keith and Erin gave me a lot of leeway, which was incredibly gracious.
If you lived in PleasureTown, what would be your occupation and or/pastime?
I’d be the resident playwright for the PleasureTown Players. I think non profit theatre would have a fighting chance there.