Kayak – An interview with Jordan Hall

Jordan - smallWriter Jordan Hall won the Samuel French Award for Playwrighting with her first play Kayak which is coming up at the Firehall Jan 7 – 17. Jordan gives some insight into what inspired the play and why it is still relevant 3 years later.

Q: What is this play about to you?

A: The stories we tell ourselves, particularly about our responsibility in moments and issues larger than we are. The cost of inaction. The cost of

action. Screwball comedies. Biblical tragedies. Also, S’mores.

Q: What’s your favorite line in Kayak?

A: There’s this little exchange between Peter and Julie when they’re broken up that makes both my writer-beast and secret-screwballcomedy-

fan very happy:

JULIE: How’s prosperity?

PETER: Prosperous? How’s self-righteousness?

JULIE: Justified.

Q: What inspired you to write this play?

A: So many things I was seeing and continue to see about the environmental movement and our personal reactions to it: My frustration with people who understand what’s happening and aren’t doing enough, my frustration with myself for not doing enough, the gap between us and the people fighting for us– how sad and ridiculous and hopeful and tragic and complex and simple it all seemed– and continues to seem.

Q: Which character in the play do you relate to most and why?

A: I think I relate to all of them at different times: I’ve been Julie– desperately agitating and making everyone around me awkward and uncomfortable; I’ve been Annie– exhausted and just wanting to keep my comfort, the life I feel like I work hard to deserve; I’ve been Peter– wanting so much to find a middle ground, a place where we can all move forward together.

Q: As a young person, what draws you to write for live theatre as opposed to novels or film?

A: Well, I write for all three– but I think the charm of theatre is presence. You can do amazing things with the imagination in fiction, and with the medium in film, but it’s hard to deny the power of a person, right in front of you, experiencing something. It’s a kind of communion.

Q: Do you think that the piece is still as relevant, even though it’s been three years since you wrote it?

A: I wish it weren’t still relevant. I love this play very much, but if, as a culture, we made it obsolete? I’d be ecstatic. Right now, we’re making choices about pipelines that could leave us dependent on tar sands oil for decades. The climate we and our children will experience, our future prosperity, depends on us making a shift to renewables, and middle class comfort-wise? Corporate profit-wise? That will suck. But the longer we procrastinate, the worse it’s going to be. We’re already in trouble. There was an article in Rolling Stone by Bill McKibben this July that did a great job of laying out the math: “We’re not just on the brink, we’re over the cliff, hanging on to a branch. Now what are we going to do about that?”

Q: What are you working on now? Is it similar to Kayak in anyway?

A: My current piece is called Traveling Light, and it’s focused on particle physcis and our relationship to the concept of genius, but I think it resonates thematically with Kayak in that it’s still a piece that’s about responsibility: About the people we trust to understand things we don’t, to make breakthroughs we can’t, and what that costs them and us in the process.

Q: This play has two strong female leading characters. Was that a conscious or political choice that you made when writing this story?

A: Absolutely. We’re under-represented in most media and all too frequently restricted to stories that don’t give our psychological lives the scope or subtlety afforded to male perspectives. Where we are right now, politically, makes feminineidentity contested ground: Feminism has become a complicated personal negotiation of values, Patriarchy still rewards certain behaviors, and all this restricts the stories we tell. In the face of that, what is there to do but to be in your own corner? So I write about my experience of being a woman. I write about the way I see us struggling with things that have nothing to do with feminism, and everything to do with feminism. I write how I see us struggling and failing and hoping– and what I really want is for the specificity of that to speak not just to women, but to everyone, in the way that all truly good writing uses the specifics of experience to address what it is to be human. And I am so proud Alley Theatre’s team includes so many insightful, intelligent, funny women in leading roles on stage and off. It’s a little slice of the world I want to live in.


Alley Theatre’s production of KAYAK is running Jan 7 – 17 at the Firehall. Jordan Hall will be participating in a panel discussion about environmental action in BC on Jan 11 following the 3pm show. Click here for more info and tickets.