Kira Obolensky at Ten Thousand Things Theater Company

Playwright

Kira Obolensky is a playwright and writer who lives in Minneapolis. She is currently a Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence with the award-winning theater Ten Thousand Things. New work includes The Changelings (upcoming, Spring 2016); Forget Me Not When Far Away (spring 2015, TTT); Why We Laugh: A Terezin Cabaret, which premiered in two international festivals and recently played in Minneapolis; Cabinet of Wonders (produced by Gas and Electric Arts, Philadelphia; Open Eye Figure Theatre, Minneapolis; 2010 Barrymore nomination for Best New Play). Kira is a Guggenheim Fellow and has also received fellowships and grants from the Henson Foundation, NEA and Irvine Foundations, Bush Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Le Comte du Nouys Foundation, and a Pew Theatre Initiative Grant. Her play Lobster Alice was a Kesselring Prize winner; The Adventures of Herculina received Honorable Mention/ Kesselring Prize. She attended Williams College and Juilliard’s Playwriting Program and has an MFA in Fiction Writing from Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers. She is the author of three published books about architecture and design and is the co-author of the national bestseller, The Not So Big House. Her novella, “The Anarchists Float to St. Louis,” won Quarterly West’s 2009 novella contest. She is also the cofounder of The Gymnasium, a cross-sector consortium of creative risk-takers. She is a core writer at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, and teaches playwriting at the University of Minnesota and is on faculty at Spalding University’s Low Residency MFA Program for Writers.

Theatre

Ten Thousand Things brings lively, intelligent theater to people with little access to the wealth of the arts, invigorating ancient tales, classic stories, and contemporary plays through vital, open interactions between actors and non-traditional audiences in prisons, homeless shelters, and housing projects, as well as for the general public.

Residency Activity

This past Mellon residency has been both fruitful and transitionary for both playwright Kira Obolensky and Artistic Director Michelle Hensely. Kira wrote two plays for Ten Thousand Things during this time period: working with a cast and director to devise Park and Lake, which we produced in February/March of 2018, and procuring rights to adapt a memoir called Prison Baby. While Kira finished the draft and presented it, ultimately working with the author of the memoir proved too difficult and she determined to end the collaboration. Kira’s also spent time completing two other plays: The Overcoat, a musical with Brian Harnetty, which she presented in the Ruth Easton Series, and Stewardess, which is being produced next season at the History Theater. Kira also has written two screenplays and a television pilot as she considers what the next steps will be for her post-residency. Kira spent time this residency developing a teaching program at Shakopee Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison for women, where we have performed for years. That intersection with incarcerated women has been amazingly meaningful for all the TTT teaching artists and for the women.  TTT held a national conference in December bringing together about 100 practitioners in the field who are interested or work in our model. Kira participated in the conference, addressing about 70 people on the subject of stories. 

This past residency has been one of transition for Artistic Director, Michelle Hensley, who retires from her position in June. Michelle has been active in the national and local theater communities, bringing together a group of female artistic directors to discuss leadership issues on a regular basis; receiving the Lifetime Achievement award from the Ivey’s here in the Twin Cities; and continuing to speak at gatherings and conventions about her work with TTT.  Kira served on the Transition Committee and helped whittle down the long list of applicants to the finalists. We are all very excited to welcome Marcela Lorca to the A.D. position shortly.  Michelle plans to take a year off as she considers what comes next: her “ sabbatical" begins in September 2018. Kira's friendship with a visiting Fulbright playwright from India inspired the writer and a director to consider the TTT model in their work in Delhi.  Michelle has recently been named a Fulbright Specialist and will go to India in 2019 to help set up a TTT model there. Kira plans to join her, post-Mellon residency, to assist.  

More from the Residency

Why Kira Obolensky, Why Ten Thousand Things?
Essay

Why Kira Obolensky, Why Ten Thousand Things?

15 March 2016

Michelle Hensley and Kira Obolensky discuss their shared joy in collaborating at Ten Thousand Things.

Considering The Audience
Essay

Considering The Audience

Writing for Diverse Audiences

6 September 2015

Hayley Finn interviews playwright Kira Obolensky about her work with and residency at Ten Thousand Things in Minneapolis.

Ten Thousand Things & Kira Obolensky
Essay

Ten Thousand Things & Kira Obolensky

A Long-term Playwright Residency Model

8 June 2014

Hayley Finn writes on the creative partnership between playwright Kira Obolensky and Artistic Director of Ten Thousand Things Michelle Hensley.

Imagining the Audience: a talk by playwright Kira Obolensky at Ten Thousand Things hosted by HowlRound in Boston—Friday 29 July 2016
Video

Imagining the Audience: a talk by playwright Kira Obolensky at Ten Thousand Things hosted by HowlRound in Boston—Friday 29 July 2016

As part of Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s National Playwright Residency Program convening hosted in Boston at HowlRound, Ten Thousand Things playwright-in-residence Kira Obolensky talked about how her work with this award-winning theatre in Minneapolis has changed for her how she thinks about the audience. Livestreamed on the global, commons-based peer-produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Friday 29 July at 1:30 p.m. EDT (New York) / 12:30 p.m. CDT (Chicago) / 10:30 a.m. PDT (Los Angeles). Share your thoughts with #howlround in Twitter.