HOME OF THE BRAVE: Q&A with Lila Rose Kaplan

Q&A: Lila Rose Kaplan

Lila Rose Kaplan is a Cambridge-based playwright, whose works include The Light Princess, 1 2 3,   When Jesus Girls Come Out, and Wildflower.

She lives with her marine biologist, her opinionated cats, and her brand new daughter.

Lila Rose Headshot
Playwright Lila Rose Kaplan

What do you love about comedy?

To stop and laugh at something is such a great and simple moment in an otherwise complex universe. It’s such a joy to work on something that brings people joy.

I grew up loving Lucille Ball, the Marx Brothers. I remember listening to records with my mom, like Mel Brooks’ The 2000-Year-Old Man. So I grew up with a lot of kind of big comedy around. And I found that I love creating it too.

What do you love about farce specifically?

I think what I love about it is that it’s big, and it’s physical. It’s surprising.  One of the things I loved about writing this piece is that every scene has to have another big physical thing happening in it. I love clown, and I love slapstick… sort of “Big Comedy.” I had a real desire to put that on stage.

Cheryl McMahon, Joel Van Liew, Jordan Brodess, John Gregorio, and Karen MacDonald in Home of the Brave. Photo by Meghan Moore.

Any specific examples that influenced Home of the Brave?

As a kid, whenever I was home sick, I would just watch I Love Lucy all day. And then I saw One Man, Two Guvnors in London a few years ago, with a friend, and we laughed so hard we cried.

And we turned to each other and said, “why aren’t we doing this in the US?”

Do you think of it as a political comedy?

I think it’s a comedy about politics, and family. I think it’s about truth in family, and truth in politics. And for me, it’s about the fact that truth in family wins at the end of the day, over fabricated truth.

That family aspect kind of sneaks up on you… the story turns out a bit sweeter than you might expect at first.

It really speaks to me when we hear things about politicians being actual people. I remember reading something about Bill and Hillary Clinton when Chelsea was getting married. And I thought, “Right—they’re politicians, but they’re also just, like, parents, whose daughter is getting married.”

It’s always interesting to me when the public and private collide, because peoples’ lives are so publicized.

John Gregorio and Joel Van Liew in Home of the Brave. Photo by Meghan Moore.


Who do you love most in the play?

That’s not a fair question! I love everybody differently.

There’s something very dear to my heart about Val. I think Val is a character that we see often. And having gone to a liberal arts school, and taught at liberal arts schools, you just see that there are Vals in the world.

I love Owen, and his pure and simple path through a complex family and play.

I love Marianne, and how she’s got that wonderful, young adult turn-on-a-dime energy.

It was really fun to write Adrian. There was a point in the writing process where I realized that Adrian was just a classic villain, this sort of charming British rascal.

I love that Bernadette genuinely wants to do the right thing. And I love that Dora is just always right.

I love the family. I love that it’s an ensemble piece, and that you really need all six characters to tell the story.

Are you personally interested in politics, or do you just like writing about them?

I’m very interested. I’m often heartbroken. I grew up with this idealism about America, and the American Revolution, and I think that hitting my twenties and getting involved as an activist was a bit of a rude awakening—realizing, “Oh! That was a really lovely fairy tale, but it isn’t exactly the country where we live.”

While this play is very heartfelt and charming, I think some of that is there too. Why is it that no one actually talks about what’s going on? Why is it that the only way for Bernadette to be successful is to pretend to be all these things she’s not?

John Gregorio and Karen MacDonald in Home of the Brave. Photo by Meghan Moore.

Now that you’re a local, how do you like being a Boston playwright?

I love being a Boston playwright.

I arrived in Boston after seven years of writing in Southern California, and I feel like Boston audiences are game. They’re different ages and shapes and sizes. I did a free outdoor show with the Outside the Box festival at A.R.T., and I saw so many people—we had two performances that were both free, and there were just hundreds of people there. It was just amazing to me, to see how Boston is really hungry for good, accessible theatre.

There’s so many different vibrant places here, and they’re all strong. They all know what they’re doing.

What have been your favorite parts of the process?

Getting to work with such a fabulous and dedicated team. Everybody—all the actors, Sean, the designers—are so game, and so funny, and so wholehearted. It’s a playwright’s dream, to have such a vibrant team coming together to bring a play to life. It’s been a total joy.

Veronika Duerr, Jordan Brodess, Cheryl McMahon, and Joel Van Liew in Home of the Brave. Photo by Meghan Moore.

Why do you write for the stage?

I think the theatre is one of the last communal storytelling spaces we have.

Especially with comedy, there’s something so special about laughing with other people. Sure, you could be on your couch watching a funny movie, and laughing by yourself. But there’s something about the person next to you starting to laugh, and it being infectious. I think sharing something joyful with other people is really good for us, and I think theatre gives us a chance to practice empathy together—to practice taking on different peoples’ points of view. And with comedy, there’s just a lot of room for joy.

Learn more about Lila Rose Kaplan at www.lilarose.org

Home of the Brave runs at Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell through May 15. Karen MacDonald, pictured.