Ruya Koman is quite the versatile entertainer. I first met her at a theatre festival a few years back when the play she was producing and starring in, Second Seat by S. Karlan, won best play.
For Ms. Koman, it's about working and creating, I found out. When she moved her focus into the film-making realm , and away (I thought) from the theatre, I noticed she took her winning ways with her.
As an actor, Ruya has appeared in numerous award-winning independent short films, and on "Gotham" as the D.C. Comics character "Mother". She is currently starring as the lead in the upcoming short thriller "Mourning Meal". As a director/producer, she recently co-directed, produced and starred in "Interference", which was selected out of more than 3,400 short films as one of the 15 semi-finalists at the 2018 NBC Universal Short Film Festival. But her work includes the New Voices in Black Cinema Festival at BAM (New York City), March on Washington Film Festival (Washington D.C.), the Harlem International Film Festival (New York City) and Chelsea Film Festival (New York City).
In 2016, she made her directorial debut with a short film that she wrote, directed and produced, "Reunion", which was an official selection at the 2017 ECU European Independent Film Festival (Paris, France), and the 2017 Chelsea Film Festival (New York City). She recently wrote, directed and starred in her new short film "Little Charlotte's Unannounced Visit" which recently screened at the 2019 Chelsea Film Festival (New York City).
Yup, she’s been busy.
When she recently re-emerged talking about her new play, the debut of her dramatic one-woman show inspired by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Anne Sexton’s life, Her Kind, I was intrigued.
In this one-on-one, LocalTheatreNY.com asks Ms. Koman to share some background on this new project.
LocalTheatreNY.com: What motivated you to write this one-woman show? Share the evolution of the work and how it ended up with this production opening this weekend?
Ruya Koman: "A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to work, as an actor, on a historical character, a real person that had made an impact on American history. I decided to do this because it was something that I hadn’t done before as an actor and unfortunately, these types of roles, even when they are written, are usually offered to big Hollywood stars in feature films backed by studios or in some cases independent films. I knew that if I wanted to play a historical figure, I had to do extensive research and write the material myself. Around that same time, I took one of legendary acting coach Susan Batson’s New Years Day workshops. Susan was already familiar with my work because I had taken her MasterClass a few years back. I had no idea that she was offering scholarships to students who “performed” exceptionally at this particular workshop. When I finished the workshop that morning (because it was an overnight workshop that ran for about 10 hours), I was one of the two students that won a one-year scholarship to Susan’s two MasterClass workshops."
"One of her workshops, Slices of Life, was centered on helping the actor to create a vehicle for their talent and then giving the actor a platform to express that creation—the creation is a One-Person show based on the life of a historical person. I think by this time I had already decided that I wanted to work on Anne Sexton because I had seen a picture of Anne Sexton online with her legs propped up on a wall and I immediately got intrigued by her. The first few months were spent doing a lot of research (reading, listening, watching). Then I started writing a number of scenes (probably close to about 50-60 in total in two years) and bringing them to class. These scenes were not all meant to be in the show of course; they were mostly a way for me to explore the life of the character and her relationship with people that were close to her. While I was doing all this work, I was also working on various film projects (directing, acting, producing) so I got side tracked quite a bit and had to take short breaks but eventually in the fall of 2018, I decided that it was finally time for me to write the actual “show”. In the fall of 2018 and in early 2019, I went to Harvard to do some more research (during those trips I also got a chance to visit Anne Sexton’s hometown and her homes). When I came back to New York in January 2019, I knew exactly what I wanted to write. It took a few weeks (maybe two months) to write the play. I then started meeting with my director Carl Ford and we started tweaking the script a bit. Around the summer of 2019, we started putting the scenes up on their feet and now, six months later, here we are."
LocalTheatreNY.com: Seems serendipitous that your director learns of your work, doing these scenes, and becomes involved. What has that experience been like? Has the play evolved or changed as a result of this collaboration? If so, how?
Ruya Koman: "I think Carl Ford had heard about my work on Anne Sexton through Susan Batson (because I was initially working on this piece with her). He then, came to one of our classes and he liked what he saw. Then he told me to contact him once I was ready to write the show. He definitely contributed tremendously to the development of the script. He had really wonderful suggestions and comments that only someone like him, who had absorbed himself in theatre and acting all his life, can come up with. The script evolved as a result of those discussions and I’m so glad it did. It became so much better!"
LocalTheatreNY.com: What happens next? Is there a foreseeable future track for the work and your performance?
"At this point, we do not know what is next for this production. We are putting it out there for the World to see and we are inviting everyone from casting directors, agents, film and theatre producers and directors to media representatives. For updates, you can follow us on Instagram @herkind_theplay and on Facebook at @herkindtheplay."
Her Kind follows the journey of Anne Sexton’s early career as a writer and how she became a published poet just a little over two years after she wrote her first poem. The play opens with Anne Sexton’s first therapy session with her then therapist Dr. Orne, who encourages Sexton to start writing, after one of her nervous breakdowns in 1956.
The play also provides a glimpse of what it means to be an American woman in the late 50’s and early 60’s as a number of housewives started entering the workforce.
The piece was written by and stars Ruya Koman, a New York based actress, filmmaker and writer. The piece includes poems written by Anne Sexton, as well as Anne Sexton quotes from various published resource materials. “Her Kind” is being directed by Carl Ford.
Admission is free. Please RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by/Starring Ruya Koman
Directed by Carl Ford
Executive Producers: Susan Batson and Carl Ford
Producers: Carl Ford and Ruya Koman
Assistant Director: Tanya Ruth
Set Designer: Taylor Tito
Stage Managers: Proverbs Taylor, Tanya Ruth,n and Nicole Beninato
Voiceover Actors: Brian Kelly and Ann Sackrider