G-chatting the Gift of Life: Talking POLLYANNA with Katherine Perry and Sarah Knittel

The brainchild of Philly actor-creators Sarah Knittel and Katherine Perry, POLLYANNA brings together ten artists from various disciplines: actors, writers, improvisers, and performance artists. Each artist secretly wrote a tiny play for another POLLYANNA artist in secret. Each artist will direct a different artist who is acting in a play that has secretly been written for them. Essentially all participants will have written, directed, and performed in three separate tiny plays, with the playwright’s identity remaining a mystery until after the pieces are performed. See the results this Sunday, April 23, at 8:30pm at Headlong Studios (with free wine!).

Sounds cool, right? Phindie editor Christopher Munden met Katherine and Sarah online in an informal Google Hangout to get the lowdown.

Sarah Knittel and Katherine Perry prepare for their interview with Phindie.

Sarah Knittel and Katherine Perry prepare for their interview with Phindie.

Sarah Knittel
i think i have too many tabs open on my computer
it’s stressing me out
Christopher Munden
What tabs? Tell me the most embarrassing one.
Sarah Knittel
just like mfa programs
Christopher Munden
That’s embarrassing
Sarah Knittel
most embarrassing is how to grow an aloe plant from a clipping
Christopher Munden
Tell me about Pollyanna. Where did the idea come from?
Katherine Perry
Sarah and I were talking about how as artists would like to branch out into writing/directing but didn’t really have a platform to do so in a low pressure setting, so we made one ourselves.
And I had the brilliant and terrifying idea: what if we wrote something in secret.
The ritual of terrible holiday gifts swaps was discussed and we decided to try and model a writing/directing event after one.
Christopher Munden
How did you pick the artists?
Sarah Knittel
People who either were interested in playing all the roles of writer/director/performer or already were displaying that in their work
Katherine Perry
A few are mutual acquaintances, many are artists who we find interesting and predicted would be up to the madness.
And a troll under the walnut street bridge told us we had to include chris davis
Christopher Munden
Trolls like Chris Davis
What was the process like?
Katherine Perry
We scheduled 3 meetings. At the first party participants chose the actor they would be writing a tiny play for. IT’S A SECRET
Sarah Knittel
except I know who wrote for me because the script said “Last Emperor of Mexico” on the back of all the pages
Katherine Perry
We called the meetings parties because we are fun gals who should definitely get our own buddy cop movie series
Christopher Munden
Who would play good cop?
Sarah Knittel
I’m the good cop
Katherine Perry
I’m the good cop
Christopher Munden
I know at least one of you has a mean cop streak
How long are they? Are they multi person or just one handers all of them?
Katherine Perry
They are all performed by a single actor
Most are 5-8 minutes in length
Some may have more technical elements, others not

Katherine Perry found this cool button.

Katherine Perry found this cool button.

Christopher Munden
What do you think the audiences will like about Pollyanna?
Sarah Knittel
free wine
Katherine Perry
The tiny plays are tiny
I’m not even aware of what most of the plays are about
Sarah Knittel
a real variety of themes and plays
Katherine Perry
So lots of surprises
Sarah Knittel
and then i’m SURE it will be an emotional ending when we reveal the playwrights
everyone will cry
and then a whole new batch of artists will sign up for next round
Christopher Munden
What was the best gift you ever got?
Katherine Perry
THE GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP
Sarah Knittel
the gift of life
Christopher Munden
Those are terrible gifts
Did you get a receipt ?
Sarah Knittel
the gift of life is non refundable
Christopher Munden
Have you ever done a real Pollyanna?
Katherine Perry
In second grade we did
I think I got novelty erasers
Sarah Knittel
no. i’ve only ever secret santa’d
Christopher Munden
Wait what’s the difference between Pollyanna and secret santa?
Sarah Knittel
from my understanding, there’s a little more trading involved with pollyanna. Ln secret santa you buy the gift in secret. pollyanna you just bring it to the room
i guess technically this is more of a secret santa of plays
Christopher Munden
That’s less catchy and a bit Christmasy
Sarah Knittel
yeah i’m not trying to start another war on christmas
Christopher Munden
What is the place of theater in our current political climate?
Sarah Knittel
major escapism
Christopher Munden
Which one of you would be cast as Steve Bannon in the Trump bio play?
Katherine Perry
Both
Sarah Knittel
I would love to play steve bannon with a mask of raw chicken on my face
Christopher Munden
You mean a Steve Bannon mask?
Katherine Perry
A true artist has no fear of salmonella
Sarah Knittel
but back to pollyanna
Christopher Munden
Oh yeah
What do you think the Philly theater scene lacks and how does this fill that void?
Sarah Knittel
I don’t think it has to do with what it lacks
Christopher Munden
Oh. Then pretend I wrote a perfectly insightful question and answer it
Sarah Knittel
for me, i wanted to give people a chance to challenge themselves… some of our participants have never taken a turn at playwriting or directing
stretch those muscles
Katherine Perry
I also think it’s a great low pressure way for artists to expand the circle of those they have worked with
Sarah Knittel
I personally wanted to write a part for someone they wouldn’t be cast as in this community
Katherine Perry
Each piece is like a tiny love letter for the actor it has been written for
Even if it’s like I’m writing you this piece because I want to see you as a possessed version of yourself
Sarah Knittel
the writer and the director are trying to make the performer look like a rockstar
Christopher Munden
That’s a good summary of the theatrical process maybe
Thanks ladies. I think there’s probably some usable bits from this conversation.

POLLYANNA features:
Katherine Perry (organizer/producer)
Sarah Knittel (organizer/producer)
Cheyenne Barboza
Stephanie Walters
Rob Cutler
Chris Davis
Gina Murdock
Harry Watermeier
Neil Bardhan
Christina May

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About the author

Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.