Profile

Q&A

What is your full name?

Robert Alan Kolsby. I hate my middle name. I know you didn’t ask, but that’s how I feel.

Where are you from?

I’m from Philadelphia, but I consider myself a New Yorker. This means that I root for the Giants, Knicks, and Mets instead of the Eagles, 76ers, and Phillies.

How do you identify yourself as an artist?

I am an actor at heart. I love actors and the process of acting and I am never happier than when I’m rehearsing or performing a part. That said, I’m not a very good actor.  Or at least I believe I’m a better playwright, so it’s as a playwright that I’ve come to think of myself. Even so, while I’m working on a play, the first and most important consideration for me is that I’m writing something actors will want to do.

When did you know you were an artist?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to work in the theatre – certainly long before I had any idea of what words like “theatre” and “work” meant. At the same time, I never believed that I would, could, should end up in the theatre. I spent many years waiting to outgrow this artsy phase and searching alternative routes – waiting to feel that my true fate lay in law, or teaching, or some other noble profession. Now I say “fuck that.” (Am I allowed to say “fuck?”) Sometimes I regret the lost time but mostly I’m grateful. One of the beauties of working in the theatre is that no experience — good or bad (especially bad) — is ever lost. It’s all grist for the mill and I have lots of grist.

Describe your writing process.

A short play — one that’s ten or fifteen minutes — will often begin with a line of dialogue. At the start, I know nothing except those few words that comprise the line. From there I improvise until I have characters, a setting and a problem to solve. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. With longer plays I usually like to have the general story in mind before I begin. I especially try to have a provisional ending that I’m working toward. When I was younger I refused to work this way. It seemed boring to work from a plan – far more exciting to start each day knowing nothing at all. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to see the virtues of boredom.

How do you think the Shelter benefits artists?

Let me count the ways. The environment is warm and friendly. Members are encouraged to go outside their comfort zones. The critiques are generous but not gooey. Both strangers and veterans are made to feel welcome. It is a place where artists can fail without feeling like failures. Sometimes delicious baked goods are served. What more could you want?

What are your hopes for the year 2013?

Well, first I hope to survive until the year 2014. Beyond that, I just want to work in the theatre as much as possible.