Taryn Temple – Playwright Of The Hit Comedy “The Princess Capers”
Playscripts sat down with author Taryn Temple to discuss her hit comedy The Princess Capers and what it takes to be an established playwright.
What was the inspiration behind The Princess Capers?
Taryn Temple: The basic premise of putting famous princesses in the same room and wondering what would happen came from a writing assignment in a class for my master’s degree. Once I had the princesses sitting down to tea together their conversation quickly turned to how boring everything was now that they had “settled down” with their princes.
It made me realize that of course these ladies would want more adventure!
Many of them took big risks and made daring choices before they met their respective princes. I didn’t think they’d be happy to give up their new-found spirit of adventure so easily. Creating a world where all of the famous princesses knew each other gave me the freedom to play with other well-known fairytale characters. The rest of the zaniness bubbled up from there.
So which character in The Princess Capers would you most like to be?
Either Beauty or Rumpel Stiltskin. Beauty because she’s not the traditional princess. She’s rough and tumble and she always says exactly what she thinks. Or Rumpel Stiltskin because I would love to live each day with that much energy and enthusiasm!
How did you first get involved with theater?
Acting was my ticket into theater. I was an outgoing kid who loved being up in front of an audience. I acted all through childhood and college, then tried some local paid directing gigs. Moving to Topeka, Kansas got me connected with Topeka Civic Theatre. Let me tell you, community theaters are a fantastic way to explore theater for people of any age!
They always need good volunteers, plus they often have the space and flexibility to allow fledgling actors, directors, set designers, costume designers, and even playwrights to explore. I worked for the summer camp program at Topeka Civic Theatre for nine years, directing two shows a summer. I was also a high school forensics coach. Reading so many scripts and producing so many shows gave me invaluable insights into what characters attracted my young actors, and what stories hooked audiences.
How did you start writing?
I have been writing in some form or another since I was a kid. I faithfully kept a journal all through middle and high school. I scribbled short stories in middle school just for fun. In high school when I was bored in the summer I created The Elyria Escapade, a newspaper for my unincorporated town of 100 people.
In college I attended a liberal arts school where every class involved writing assignments of some kind. Directing plays inspired me to write plays. Now as a Spanish teacher I’m constantly writing goofy stories for my students. Writing is writing, no matter what form. It works that creative muscle. Being an avid reader of all types of books has helped me immensely as a writer, too.
What’s your writing process?
First, I have to give myself a deadline. Like, a real deadline that I can’t extend or cheat.
Without a concrete deadline when other people will see my work I won’t make writing a priority.
One of the best deadlines was an audition date for a summer camp show. The script HAD to be done by then, no exceptions or excuses. Another way I created a deadline for myself was by inviting a group of theater friends out for coffee and donuts on a Saturday morning, my treat, to read scenes from a script aloud. Having a deadline holds me accountable to actually sit down and write.
Second, I do a ton of brainstorming. I’ll jot down plot outlines, character ideas and bits of dialogue on scraps of paper all over the house. The characters get inside me better when I write by hand so I intermingle scribbling scenes down on paper with typing on the computer. To spur my brain to action I take long walks and text myself the ideas that come to me. (This is also what I do when the dreaded “writer’s block” hits.)
When I’m writing I stay up late into the night. My wackiest writing happens when I get a little loopy at around two or three in the morning. My “judgy” brain gets frustrated and tired and stomps off to sleep which allows my silly side to come out and play. Sometimes once the characters see that my judgy brain has gone they will come say their lines in my head—my fingers fly across the keyboard to keep up with them. (This is one of the coolest feelings in the world!)
Any advice for playwrights just starting out?
Surround yourself with theater. Take in as much theater as you can, and from as many perspectives as you can.
Volunteer to crew a show, act, be an assistant director, help with spotlights, seat people before a show and take classes at local theaters.
I came to writing plays via a roundabout path of acting, directing, coaching forensics, taking classes and volunteering in lots of capacities at a local community theater. This helped me understand the mechanics of putting a script together and all the different aspects I needed to think about as I was creating the story.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to take risks and be silly! Not only does the world need more silliness and laughter in general, but the characters and worlds you will create when you tap into your wacky side will surprise you in the most delightful way. Even if you want to tackle serious subject matter remember that laughter is a ticket into people’s souls. Laughter creates an openness and a willingness to engage with material in a way nothing else can.
Taryn Temple is a writer, educator, director, and actor in the Midwest. Her scripts include The Princess Capers and The Redemption of Gertie Greene. Taryn enjoys sparking kids’ creativity on and off the stage through her work with the summer youth program at Topeka Civic Theatre and Academy. She has also been a member of Topeka Civic Theatre’s improvisational comedy troupe Laugh Lines for nearly a decade. She has a MLA from Baker University and BAs in Spanish and Communication Arts with a Theater emphasis from Bethel College. When she’s not at the theater Taryn enjoys teaching Spanish, training dogs, and dancing.