Williamsburg man’s play pulls in Kathleen Turner

  • Peter Kennedy CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Actress Kathleen Turner is in Peter Kennedy’s play in Provincetown on Saturday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/9/2021 10:14:15 AM

WILLIAMSBURG — Local playwright Peter Kennedy is set to have his play “Family Game Night” performed this Saturday in Provincetown, starring no less of a luminary than Golden Globe-winner Kathleen Turner.

“Obviously I’m thrilled,” Kennedy said. “To be able to work with someone of that caliber is real exciting.”

“Family Game Night” is a dark comedy about a family game night that goes off the rails after a family member brings a game that forces people to talk about death and dying and their wishes for their bodies after death. In writing the play, Kennedy said he tried to include many different views on these topics.

“I tried to go across the whole spectrum,” he said. “My hope is it sparks a discussion after the show.”

Originally from upstate New York, Kennedy has lived in Williamsburg for about 18 years.

“Williamsburg is a really small community, and that really appeals to me,” he said.

Kennedy also has taught for about the same amount of time at the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School, where he teaches social studies and English. Kennedy said that he likes working with middle schoolers and likes that the school’s K-8 structure allows for collaborations between students in different grades.

Kennedy originally wrote “Family Game Night” as a 10-minute play, where it achieved success, getting performed at the Long Island City One-Act Festival at the Secret Theatre in New York City, and getting produced as a winning selection in the InspiraTO Festival in Toronto, where it received a People's Choice Award for Best Play. Kennedy then chose to expand his play into a full-length 90-minute play with no intermission.

“There’s been a lot of deepening and expanding of the characters,” he said.

He also credited the Northampton Playwrights Lab, of which he is a longtime member, with helping him to revise his play into full-length form.

“They were instrumental in helping me develop this play at the local level,” Kennedy said.

A showcase for works in progress sponsored by the Playwrights Lab was the first public performance of the expanded play.

Like its shorter predecessor, “Family Game Night” also achieved success, becoming a 2020 semifinalist for the Eugene O’Neill National Playwriting Conference, the Landing Theatre of Houston’s New American Voices Playwriting Festival, and Barrington Stage’s Burman New Play Award.

It was included in the 2020 New Works Virtual Festival, a fundraiser for the Actors’ Fund in which “Family Game Night” was read in a Zoom performance that featured Tony Award nominees Carmen Cusack, Richard Kind and Liz Larsen.

Turner was performing in another play as part of the festival, and Kennedy subsequently sent the script to her agent.

Turner then said that she wanted to be involved with the play going forward, and Saturday’s reading will be her first time performing in it.

Turner is known for such films as “Body Heat,” “Peggy Sue Got Married” and “The War of the Roses,” among many others.

In an interview, Turner said she found the premise of the script “really interesting” and she said that she has experience with estate planning and end-of-life issues for herself and with family members.

“This is something that needs to be explored,” Turner said.

Saturday’s reading will take place at Provincetown Town Hall at 7 p.m., and it will be a fundraiser for The Provincetown Theater.

Kennedy said he has been going to Provincetown for the past decade or so and that he and his husband recently purchased a house there.

He also said that it “feels like an honor to be presenting something at historic Town Hall.”

During the pandemic, Turner took a month off to rent a place in Provincetown, and she described her time there as a healing experience.

“This is kind of fun to go back, even for a weekend,” she said.

Kennedy first had a play he wrote performed in high school, and one of the actresses in that play is going to  be playing Turner’s character’s daughter in Saturday’s performance. He sold a play “Alibis” as a teenager that is still being performed by community theater companies.

After high school, however, Kennedy took a break from playwriting, and worked as a newspaper columnist before writing a play about 9/11 that was inspired by the phone messages people left on that day.

As for “Family Game Night,” Kennedy said that the goal after Saturday’s performance will be to further develop it.

Turner said the Zoom rehearsal for the play that she participated in recently went well, describing her fellow cast members as delightful.

“I’m excited to see what would happen with an audience,” she said.

She also expounded on the nature of performing.

“Performing with an audience, the excitement never goes away,” she said.

Bera Dunau can  be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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