Thursday, January 9, 2014

5 Questions with Kelsey Garrett

The second playwright from the 2013 Festival is Kelsey Garrett.

Kelsey Garrett
11th grade, Middletown HS South
1. What inspired you to write Mirror?

The primary inspiration for writing Mirror came from daily life; the books, tv shows, the conversations with friends, and the mirror in front of me. I think it's so easy to fall into this trap of comparing yourself with every body else and no matter what finding reasons why you simply don't measure up. Look at any campaign marketed to a teen demographic, you'll read taglines like "how to lose 10 pounds in three weeks" or "how to get the guy" or "how should you dress for your body shape?" It's so destructive. We're inherently telling our girls that they are not good enough in their natural state, and that they have to spend money and time and effort to make themselves attractive. Intelligence and virtues aren't talked about it, it's all about the looks. Confidence is only talked about in terms of how it relates to sex appeal.  So one night, I couldn't bring myself to pick out an outfit for school because nothing looked right, and I could not stop putting myself down. I grabbed my laptop and just started writing down every typical battle friends have told me about, or that I've had while picking out clothes, and I put in it the form of two different characters. That's what it feels like, when you have this low moment and you're staring at your reflection, trying to justify why it's okay to eat junk food or wear something tight against the angry tirade of this inner voice explaining that your legs aren't long enough for that skirt, your stomach looks huge in that or that maybe you should just stay home because you'll be the ugliest girl at the party. Writing it all down helped me realize how absurd, how hateful I can be to myself, and sharing it with others made me realize I'm not alone with this, nearly every girl and woman who's talked to me about it can relate to at least one line. It's both relieving and terrifying. 

2. Which do you prefer most: acting or writing?

The fantastic thing about acting is that you can explore a whole new realm of emotions and experiences that you may never actually explore any other way. As tough as a decision as that is, writing not only lets you explore this new realm, it lets you create it. Writing is an expression of acting in itself, so I'd definitely pick writing.

3. In your bio you talk about taking your first dance classes when you were nine years old. Do you still dance? What styles of dance do you enjoy?

I stopped taking dance classes in my freshman year, but I still continue to dance in school productions. My experience with dance classes definitely contributed to every one of my performances. I couldn't really narrow down a favorite. Musical theater allows you to experience so many different types of dance and merges them together to create something incredible, that the type of dance doesn't matter nearly as much as the effect the performance has. 

4. You have an impressive record of volunteer and community service. Please tell us a little about the programs with whom you work.

I primarily volunteer with my youth group, Saints by the Sea. We strive to help our communities in different ways, but we mainly work with donating food to our church's food kitchen and sending school supplies to needy children. The experience is absolutely incredible, it's so gratifying to watch a group of people come together with bags of bread and cold cuts or boxes of pencils and notebooks and then a couple hours later be able to pack 50-100 sandwiches in lunch bags and deliver them or receive a letter from a teacher explaining that the school children were thrilled by their new coloring books. 

5. If you could tour with any band or celebrity, who would it be?

Scarlet Johansson. She's just an incredible role model and actress. At ComicCon one year, an interviewer was bombarding the males of the Avengers cast with questions concerning redemption arcs and character development, and the reporter turns to Scarlet and asks her about her workout regime and how much weight she had to lose, and she simply refused to answer, saying to her fellow castmate "How come you get the really interesting existential question and I get the like, 'rabbit food' question?" I love that she refuses to release her weight or her diet plan because she wants to encourage confidence rather than a two-week plan. To see a woman like that, who is respected in Hollywood and across the country and still able to shut down anything suggesting sexism or promoting weight loss for the sake of weight loss, isn't exactly common. I'm a huge fan of her, and I'd love to see more men and woman follow in her example.

You can find Kelsey's bio, as well as bios for the other high school playwrights from 2013, on the NJ Young Playwrights Festival at