How to: Write a New Classic

My name’s Keiko Green. I’m a playwright, screenwriter, and performer. I was born and raised in Georgia, but I lived in Seattle for seven years, where I mostly worked as a regional theatre actor, before going off and getting my MFA in playwriting. And I, over my seven years in Seattle, was in seven plays at Seattle Shakespeare Company.

My first show with SSC was Othello, in which I played Bianca. Then the last show I did here was in 2019 when I played Helena in All’s Well That Ends Well, which where The Bed Trick was actually birthed. The play began from some talkbacks we were having at student matinees. The teenagers wouldn’t stop asking questions about the bed trick and the nature of it, kind of wrapping their minds around what it meant that the hero of a story would be manipulating the man that she loved into sleeping with her. And that really got me thinking about how we have such a strong sense of black and white, especially these days.

About a year and a half ago, Makaela first reached out to me and asked if I had anything that might be right for a Seattle Shakespeare commission. Personally, I wasn’t interested in the idea of a straight adaptation. I just really wanted to be in conversation with Shakespeare and something after the production of All’s Well That Ends Well that I was in. I had actually really been thinking about how to be in conversation with that specific play. At first I was thinking about writing a sequel to it, which I partially ended up doing. But once I pitched this idea to Makaela for The Bed Trick, it ended up becoming a little bit expedited. Because I had been thinking about the idea for years with the actual writing, it took probably like a month or two, and by last summer I had a draft ready.

We workshopped it one time here in Seattle and then we workshopped it one time at Chance Theater in Anaheim, where we got to have two public readings. We got to test out some of the material, which was really nice. And now we’re in the third week of rehearsals and the script is changing still. I think it will probably change until opening night. There have been little tweaks that we’ve been making, trims that we’re remaking, and there’s also some bigger structural things that we’re still figuring out. I accidentally almost always write comedies with a few exceptions. I always wanted to earn the emotional moments. And on the way to those emotional moments, I find a lot of fun with an audience and make sure that the emotional moments feel like a release or that they’re getting to release in the fun.

One thing that’s been interesting about working on this play was that even though I was writing a contemporary play, Makaela and I talked about structuring it a little bit like a Shakespeare play, so it’s written in five acts. There are bursts of poetry, and sometimes there’s contemporary verse that people may or may not pick up on. And weirdly, being in conversation with Shakespeare has made this feel even more contemporary and experimental, more than I was ever imagining.

When I did All’s Well in 2019, George Mount, our previous artistic director at Seattle Shakespeare Company, was in the production and a lot of things that he mentioned thematically about forgiveness are themes that have really made their way into this story. So this play feels so much the product of the Seattle Shakespeare specific experiences, and I find it so, so, so rewarding to be able to bring it back to Seattle Shakespeare.

Excerpted from an interview with The Bed Trick playwright, Keiko Green. Watch the full interview here!