I’m here with Kirin, the playwright for Endstation’s upcoming new work, Counter/Top, a play that takes place in Lynchburg’s Texas Inn.
Kirin, I understand you’re from the area, did you grow up in Lynchburg itself?
Yeah, my family moved here when I was about seven, and my parents lived here until last year. I moved around when I was young, but Lynchburg is the place I consider my hometown.
What is your history with company?
I started with Endstation as an actor. I was in Romeo and Juliet, their first professional summer here at Sweet Briar—that would have been 2008. I came back the next year as an actor in another Shakespeare and a work of Joshua Mikel’s. After that I’ve been a playwright—so I’ve been with Endstation since 2008, but in different capacities.
So why the T-Room?
The T-Room is a Lynchburg staple, known by everybody from the truck drivers there at six in the morning to the VES students there on a lark on a Friday night. It’s maybe the most prominent cultural mixing pot in Lynchburg. It’s a great establishment. The people who work there are wonderful and interesting and the people who go there—you can’t help but get sucked in by the atmosphere, it’s a really sort of warm, bizarre subset of Lynchburg culture.
The idea of a local ingredient for playwrights was introduced maybe three years ago. It was open-ended that summer, and when it was proposed to the playwrights, the T-Room was the first place to pop into my mind. One of the ingredients that year was a tea party. Out-of-towners, when you mention the T-Room, they think it’s a tea parlor.
I think that’s what I assumed the first time I heard the name.
Exactly. I think that was how I got to it that first summer. I thought the T-Room would be a great setting.
Can you tell me a little bit about the history of the Playwrights Initiative and the process each summer?
I think Geoff Kershner has always been interested in new works, so the Playwrights Initiative in various forms has been a part of the Endstation summer since the beginning. As Endstation was figuring out what its purpose was and what it wanted to do, the local ingredient became very important to them. About three years ago, they solidified that and gave the playwrights a local objective.
It had been open ended before that and had just been good writers writing whatever they wanted to, but then it shifted towards writing something this region would appreciate specifically. We’ve always had public readings. Counter/Top might be the first play to move out of the Playwrights Initiative into production. Tearrance Chisholm, who has been a part of the initiative since the beginning, wrote In Sweet Remembrance, but that wasn’t started in the initiative. Josh Mikel has, of course, written several things for Endstation but I don’t think those started in the initiative either. So Counter/Top is exciting as it’s the first Endstation production that really started in the initiative.
So at this point you’ve been going to rehearsals, and seen the designs from others involved, what are your thoughts on where the process has taken your work now that it’s moved off the page and into production?
This is the most exciting point for me. The play isn’t out of my hands, but I’ve tried to give it to the people working on it. I’m always more interested in theatre as a collaborative art. I’m in it to see what other people are going to do in their roles. It’s very exciting! I think they’re painting a replica of the T-Room sign for the set, building a whole diner on stage. Walt and the cast are doing great work, and I get to let it go a little bit and give it to the people who are going to do it, let them take the reins.
Counter/Top opens July 2nd at Lynchburg Park & Recreation’s Miller Center, with performances July 3rd, 9th, 10th, & 11th at 7:30 PM, and July 5th & 12th at 2:00 PM. Ticket information is available here.