In our final week of rehearsals, dramaturg Sara Keats took a few moments to reflect with playwright Courtney Meaker and director Kaytlin McIntyre. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Sara Keats: The three of us have been working on this play for a while now—I think you guys first invited me to the team last October —but I wasn’t around for the early drafts or the initial pitch to Annex. Tell me a little bit about how this play got started.
Courtney Meaker: After I graduated college in 2008, I worked at a summer camp in Vermont for a very small stipend. The counselors were all recent college graduates and all about to begin our lost year—that/those time(s) when you’re directionless, when before you’d known exactly where you were going. Summer camp was a great distraction from thinking about the future, but it occurred to me that each of us quickly realized the economic situation we were all in, the fact that we were working ridiculous hours for not much break time, and a very small stipend, and I saw each of us start to devolve into the teenagers we were watching. We were like them. They had rubbed off on us. We were annoyed and snippy with our bosses. We wanted to hook up with each other in secret and shirk all of our duties. Many years later, I decided to write about that time, but to focus it on queer women at all girls summer camp, and their economic situation. Naturally, it became it a horror.
Kaytlin McIntyre: Courtney and I first started working together when she joined the Seattle Rep Writers’ Group.
CM: Kaytlin was leading it the year I started and I was still playing with what I wanted The Lost Girls to be. She read an incomplete draft and wanted to take it to Annex.
KM: I’d admired Courtney’s work for a while, but I was particularly drawn to The Lost Girls’ combination of humor and high stakes, both the supernatural and ultra-familiar. Not to mention, it’s an ensemble of women, and these women are complex and flawed and brave—the characters in this play feel more connected to the people I see in my world than some other plays.
SK: And how refreshing to have a play with a bunch of queer characters that’s not overtly about being queer. That’s something I was excited about by this play from the get-go: Courtney, you’re so good at weaving your politics into the fabric of the play, without it being all issue, issue, issue.
KM: Right, and those issues do sometimes pop into the foreground, like the conversations in the play around student debt and college-educated people looking for work in the ressions, plus some of the moments in the play that deal directly with the rock-and-hard-place-ness of being a woman in this patriarchal world.
CM: The thing I’ve always loved most about this play is seeing the relationships between these women unfold in its humor, sadness, and psychological torture.
SK: This time last year, there were seven characters in this play and we lost one. What else has changed in the development of the play in the past year we’ve been talking about it?
CM: This draft is light years ahead of where I started. There used to be many more characters, for one. In one draft, the kids were visible. In another draft, there was a magic coat. In a lot of the drafts the haunting was hinted at without any explanation whatsoever, and also without being that scary. And there used to be dot matrix printer at the center of the action. So, yeah. It’s changed a lot.
KM: RIP, dot matrix printer sequence.
SK: It was sad to see it go, but I think where you landed with that sequence it better.
SK: I’ll say for me, one of the great joys of working on this project has been getting an upclose view of both of your untangling of the multitude of things going on in this play. And it’s also been so great to see it come to life in this space; I’m so excited for you to see it.
CM: Having to work on this play in Iowa City while [the cast and production team] toil away in rehearsals in Seattle has been really hard for me. I’m excited to see everything that’s happened under Kaytlin’s direction, the actors’ talent, and the designers’ thrilling spectacles.
KM: As a director, I’m excited to get to the point in the process where I hand this story over entirely to the actors. So much of the very root of this story—both the serious parts and the humor—are so personal. I can’t wait for the actors to fully own it on opening night and throughout the run.