Meet the Playwright: Ben Thorpe

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Ben Thorpe is the man behind the final Bare Essentials reading in this summer’s festival, Baby Shower for the Anti-Christ, happening this Wednesday August 22 at 7:30pm.

Hi Ben! We’re looking forward to your upcoming reading. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a local Atlanta actor and playwright, originally from Snellville, GA. I went to Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA and lived in New York City before moving back to Atlanta in 2015. I’ve acted in productions around town including ‘Hand to God’ and ‘Candide (Alliance)’, ‘Titanic’ (Serenbe), ‘Nobody Loves You’ (Horizon), and ‘Big Fish’ (Theatrical Outfit). I’ll be in the Actor’s Express production of Steve Yockey’s ‘Reykjavik’ this fall. I recently wrote the book for ‘Red: A Crayon’s Musical’ with music and lyrics by John Burke (based on the book by Michael Hall) that had its premiere reading at Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival earlier this August.

Can you tell us a little about the play we’ll be seeing on Wednesday?
A small, unstable cult in the suburbs of a southern town is prepping for a celebration of the birth of the Antichrist. When an outsider is invited for the evening, secrets about the past come to light and threaten to ruin everything the group has built.
Where did you get the idea for this play? What made you want to write it?
It was a weird series of ideas that kind of crashed in my head at the right time. I was re-watching ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at home and had the thought- I wonder what that baby shower would look like? Not a week later, I had a conversation with my best friend, a female actor in NYC, about darkly comedic roles for women in their 20’s. There aren’t a ton. I started writing the opening scene to ‘try it out’, to see where it went. Fast forward to months later and I had the shape of the play. In the years since, it’s been worked and edited and is now more about friendship, trauma, and talking goats. The characters have taken on lives of their own and the relationships between them have been what’s really interested me.
How did you get into playwriting?
I’ve always written in private, and only in the last few years have I let anyone see my stuff. I took a course with local playwright Neeley Gossett in 2015 and have been writing pretty steadily since.
What is the importance of staged readings in your own creative process and the development of your play?
It’s INCREDIBLY important for any new work, but especially this one. It’s a comedy that delves into some pretty dark subject matter. It’s invaluable to get feedback from artists that can view the play with fresh eyes and give honest feedback. I did an informal reading of this play a couple of years ago and got to working on it with new eyes. I’m excited to have the opportunity to do this next reading with Essential.
What do you hope to gain from this Bare Essentials experience?
I’m hoping to learn from what others see in the play. I’m an actor most of the time, and feedback is invaluable in that field. I view writing the same way. It’s a vital part of the journey.
What has your experience with this reading been so far?
Natalie Fox (who’s sooo awesome!) has been working and talking with me about the play, which has been fantastic. We did an informal table read in late July with the cast for this Essential reading and I got some great feedback. The cast of women that will be reading on the 22nd is reason enough to come out- trust me!
Where else can we see your work, either recently, currently or in the coming year(s)?
As of now, ‘Red: A Crayon’s Musical’ is looking at a full production for this upcoming Spring.
How did you find out about Essential and the playwriting contest?
I saw a bunch of shows (while in high school) that were produced by Essential and I loved seeing stuff Essential produced in town. When I moved back to Atlanta, I wanted to try my hand at letting others read my writing and Essential is such a great platform for the incredibly rich talent pool of writers in Georgia.

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Baby Shower for the Anti-Christ will be read at the West End Performing Arts Center this Wednesday night at 7:30pm. Directed by Natalie Fox. All readings are free and open to the public, donations gladly accepted.