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PerformanceOnstageWith 'The Kind Ones,' a gift play for a...

With ‘The Kind Ones,’ a gift play for a woman in a Montana shelter

Miranda Rose Hall's new work at Magic Theatre contemplates what happens when systems fail.

Playwright Miranda Rose Hall came out to San Francisco’s Magic Theatre in 2019 to develop The Kind Ones (Sat/5-February 20) as part of the “Virgin Play Series.” She says along with developing that play, people at the Magic snuck in a reading of another of her plays, Menstruation: A Period Piece. That let her know that the Magic was special, doing things in its own way. 

Hall says she had the core idea of the play, but during the workshop she figured out what happens on stage and off, and whittled down the characters to four, then possibly three, to the current number, two, including Nellie, a Montana farmer, and Fitz, a barista who shows up at her door. 

Getting to work with other people instead of being alone in a room helped a lot, Hall says. 

“I think of myself as a very generative artist, and I throw a lot of paint at the wall and lean on my collaborators to tell me if it’s working or if I’m rocketing into outer space or if I’ve sort of thrown the baby out with the bath water,” she said. “The former artistic director Loretta Greco gave us her office and we hunkered down with some snacks and tried to figure out the spine and overall structure of the play.”

After graduating from Georgetown University, Hall spent two years with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest, first serving residents of a long-term care and end of life facility in Alaska, and then those of a domestic violence shelter in Montana. 

Hall says she wanted to be of service to others and settled on this organization since its core values of social justice, simple living, community, and spirituality appealed to her. 

Hall calls The Kind Ones a “gift play” for a woman she knew at the shelter in Montana—a woman who loved to tell stories. The woman had been a journalist and Hall says they connected over their shared love of writing. 

“She would get this twinkle in her eye and tell me this story about her grandmother who was a rancher and was assaulted by a hired hand,” Hall said. “She plotted, and she got an axe and came up and killed him, chopped him up and fed him to her pigs and they ate all of him. She’d say, ‘Miranda, if you ever got a problem, get yourself a pig,’ and that was her ongoing joke.”

Press material about the play says it “contemplates the role of community and the heart of good and evil when systems fail.”

The idea of what to do when systems fail—and creating a kind of shadow system to deal with things—is something Hall considers a lot. She thinks that partly comes from a story her mother, a journalist in Baltimore, covered for months—about Joseph Palczynsk, a man who had been convicted of beating several girlfriends and died in a shootout with the FBI.

“How did we get from a charming man to one holding his girlfriend and her family hostage? Palinsky had done his time and seen the shrinks and gotten court orders and obeyed some of them,” she said. “The system sort of worked and this is the outcome. That question has been present for me ever since I started thinking about how the world works.”

THE KIND ONES runs Sat/2—February 20 at Magic Theatre, SF. More info here.

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