Whenever in-demand Seattle actor and playwright R. Hamilton Wright is opening in a new production, you’re likely to see an unassuming woman with standout curly red hair in the audience. And that is Katie Forgette, Wright’s wife and a longtime local actress (known best for her performances at Seattle Repertory Theatre during the 1990s) who has made a major — and successful — career shift.
Forgette is now a playwright, and her work is being produced in New York and around the U.S., but it’s been some time since a Seattle company has staged one of her scripts. That changes soon, as Forgette’s barbed comedy “Assisted Living” is given its world premiere at ACT Theatre. The play imagines aged baby boomers living in a “prisonlike” senior residence, and banding together to revolt against the powers-that-be. But don’t look for Wright in the audience: He’s directing the show (whose cast includes husband-and-wife team ACT artistic director Kurt Beattie and Marianne Owen).
We caught up with Forgette to find out more about “Assisted Living” and to inquire whether this comically adroit former thespian has any thoughts of getting back on the boards:
Q: You used to work in Seattle as an actress, mostly at Seattle Rep. Have you completely switched over to playwriting? Why?
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A: For the time being, yes. I think “acting” and I needed to take a break from one another. It was not an acrimonious parting, but the relationship was not always the healthiest.
Q: What was the inspiration for writing “Assisted Living”?
A: A number of factors came into play. The possibility that Medicare may be dismantled. The current/coming epidemics of diabetes and dementia. My own failure to address certain dietary failings — my love affair with sugar which is almost criminally stupid knowing what I know. And there’s the question, “When the government is picking up the tab, what is your responsibility to your country and your fellow taxpayer when it comes to taking care of your health?”
Q: Do you have any thoughts about the way old age is currently portrayed on TV and stage? Do you think it’s true to life? If so, what’s different about your play?
A: I think there are opportunities on TV and stage for older actors, but certainly not enough. I understand why: TV targets the biggest consumers. I think, though, as the boomers age — and there’s going to be a lot of them — we’ll see more plays and TV shows about the aging experience and what a rich time that can be (rich having both positive and negative connotations). You know, a storyline about a bunch of widows and widowers living in an apartment together (or group home) and their crazy adventures … maybe call it Really Old Friends. The characters in my play are “young” seniors, maybe 70, most of whom have taken really lousy care of themselves (the play is set in the future, by the way).
Q: How did the ACT Theatre production come about?
A: Kurt Beattie (ACT artistic director) had asked to read the play about a year and a half ago or more. I put him off because I didn’t think it would be his cup of tea. But he kept asking to read it, so I finally sent him the script and, lo and behold, he was taken by it.
Q: What else have you got going on in your writing career?
A: I’ve got a Sherlock Holmes adaptation making the rounds and another new play that a local theater is considering for next year, but you never know — fingers crossed.
Q: Do you want to get back onstage yourself? Any plans for that?
A: I don’t see that happening any time soon — although I nearly said “yes” when Warner Shook asked me to do “The Women” at ACT (several years ago). My god, the costumes! I still do the occasional reading for friends.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org