Renowned professor, playwrite imparts wisdom

Jenny Goldade

The UWO theater department produced professor Richard Kalinoski’s play The Boy Inside in Spring 2015.
[/media-credit] The UWO theater department produced professor Richard Kalinoski’s play The Boy Inside in Spring 2015.

Leaning back, eyes closed in his desk chair, sipping a Diet Coke, Richard Kalinoski, director, playwright and professor, humbly describes what he loves most about playwriting and plays of his that have been produced. Kalinoski, 67, born and raised in Racine, Wisconsin, did not discover his infatuation with playwriting until well into his undergraduate college career at UW-Whitewater. Specifically, a summer spent at Oxford University in England was his impetus to pursue playwriting. While there, he took a theater course on Shakespeare that increased his fascination with theater. Returning from Oxford, he wrote and produced a play at UWW that ended up selling out and was performed for several weekends. “It was sort of a clue to me that I may have some interest and talent in that area,” Kalinoski said. Kalinoski wrote an earlier version of his most well-known play “Beast on the Moon” while attending graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh where he got a Master of Fine Arts in drama. After a collegue suggested he continue work on his play, he then submitted it to the Humana Festival in Louisville, Kentucky and it was chosen and presented there in 1995. The play has now been produced in around 30 countries and translated into 19 languages. The play is about a child bride and an immigrant refugee, and the life and relationship struggles they go through. “I was interested in trying to figure out how people cope with the grief in their lives and at least try to show that on stage and that’s what happened with “Beast on the Moon”, which ends up being a positive end, sort of quietly happy ending,” Kalinoski said. “Not all of my plays are like that, so it’s been a real sustaining factor in my writing life.” Ryan Schabach, former student of Kalinoski at UWO describes “Beast on the Moon” as a world phenomenon. “Sometimes we lose sight in the confined world of academics and are not able to see the magnitude of a single play,” Schabach said. “Everyone of merit at all major professional non-for-profit theatres in America have come across this play in one way or another since its inception. That is a remarkable feat to accomplish. Its popularity around the globe is even more impressive.” Schabach said he is thankful for Kalinoski’s generosity and guidance. Schabach took a script analysis course taught by Kalinoski and was in the play “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” that Kalinoski.. He said Kalinoski helped him to connect with the character he was playing, and give him a better sense of how to develop a character. Schabach describes Kalinoski as sincere, compassionate and attentive. “When Richard imagines a new play, he is all in until every rock has been turned and every available avenue of understanding has been completed,” Schabach said. “He travels that world for primary research material and will stop at nothing to fully understand the characters he is creating.” Kalinoski had several other plays produced, such as “The Boy Inside”, which was produced last year at UWO. He said his heart truly lies with directing and playwriting. “In the process of directing, you, the director, have much more opportunity to, you know, help shape a young person’s interest and fascination with theater,” Kalinoski said. “And it’s much less restrictive circumstance…It’s hard to create that same unity in the classroom because students have other classes, but when they’re in a play, they don’t have other plays. Then they know they have to appear before the public and so that pressure actually helps them focus their energy, which makes them more available to listening.” “The Boy Inside” is influenced by the UWO football team and coach Patrick Cerroni. Cerroni said Kalinoski observed, and had full access to the football program for about a year. Cerroni said Kalinoski is an unbelievably talented at playwriting and puts a lot of work into doing detailed research. “He truly becomes a fly [on] a wall,” Cerroni said. Kalinoski said he is working on a new play commisioned by Fresno State University. “I haven’t had any real serious even reading of it yet, so that is a play I’m trying to get some people to read, and then there is a new play that I want to start at the end of,” Kalinoski said. “Sometime in November I’m going to start making notes about it. I don’t have anything down on paper yet. It’s just some thoughts.” Schabach said it takes a special person to write play because it can be a daunting task. “Writing plays at the professional level is extremely difficult,” Schabach said. “It is a lonely process that demands unwavering diligence and courage to be able to put ones initimate thoughts into the public eye.”