Playwright Holly Hepp-Galvan creates original children's plays
Updated: Aug 10, 2021
by JUDY MATETZSCHK-CAMPBELL
At the heart of creative activity is collaboration. And good new children's plays are always born out of collaboration because theatre is the most collaborative of all art forms.
Pollyanna is a company dedicated to making new plays for young audiences, so our work would be impossible if not for the long creative relationships we have with playwrights. Holly Hepp-Galvan is one of the playwrights that we have worked with most often over our 20 years of production. We want to thank her for her trust in our mission and for always delivering scripts that invite our young audiences into a magical world that respects their need for understanding and their imaginations.
We want our patrons to know more about Holly. First of all, everyone who knows Holly marvels at her ability to seemingly do dozens of things all at one time and do them well. Holly is a playwright and theater-maker living in New York City where she was recently awarded a NYSCA/NYFA Fellowship in Playwriting/Screenwriting. She completed her M.F.A. in Playwriting at Hunter College studying under Tina Howe, one of our nation's most respected playwrights. Holly currently teaches on the faculty of two colleges, City University of New York (CUNY) and Fordham University where she teaches Playwriting, Creative Drama, Theatre for Youth, and Journalism courses. As an educator, Holly also has worked for thirteen years with The Isamu Noguchi Museum where she teaches a program called "Character Creation Through Sculpture." In addition to all of this, she is also Playwright-in-Residence for Voices Inside/Out which is a writing program for incarcerated individuals. Holly lives with her husband, the classical conductor Robert Rene Galvan and her daughter Gina. When asked how she manages all of these creative tasks, she responded, “My family has always been very supportive of my work and most of my plays are originally "workshopped" at our dining room table. Also, both Robert and Gina have assisted me with sound design and have played virtual roles in Zoom productions. Art at our house is a group effort. They are wonderful collaborators.”
We recently asked Holly about her work with Pollyanna and asked her to tell us about which of her Pollyanna plays are her favorites. Holly said, “I'm so proud to have written EIGHT stage plays for Pollyanna! The first one was in 2013 and there has been one (or two) a year since then. And I honestly can't pick one favorite...but I think more about each one having favorite elements. Like my favorite laugh-out-loud comedy was THE BIG BOLT! And my favorite beautiful stage imagery was SPRITES with Ballet Austin. My favorite silly Pollyanna character was Coyote in PLAYING POSSUM. My favorite strong female detective was Cindy Sharpe in THE MYSTERY OF THE GREEN TEETH GHOST. My favorite historical character was Lady Bird Johnson in HOW MISS LADYBIRD CHANGED AMERICA. Each play is different and each one brings different strengths to the stage.”
Holly has written and successfully produced plays for both adult audiences and for young audiences like the ones she has created for Pollyanna. We asked her why she writes for young people. The question came with a very quick response. “Because I love it!” she answered. “There is nothing more truthful and brave than children. And although my plays may be a rollicking romp with talking animals, there is also a sense of risk and urgency. Characters have to make difficult decisions and navigate complex obstacles. I truly enjoy celebrating the buoyant spirit of young audiences while also honoring their fierce intelligence.”
As our conversation shifted to the challenges facing arts education organizations during the pandemic, we spent some time speculating about what the future of arts education and theatre for young audiences will look like in the coming seasons. We asked her where she hopes her long-standing collaboration with Pollyanna’s creative team will be a year from now. Here is Holly’s answer: “I am so grateful for all my years with Pollyanna and my sincerest wish is to continue our collaboration! My hope is that as theatres reopen, we can mount the next Cindy Sharpe mystery, THE MYSTERY OF THE MIND-READING MAGICIAN and have an accompanying book for her earlier MYSTERY OF THE GREEN TEETH GHOST. I also hope to write a play for older children titled #DORIAN which is a look at social media through a retelling of THE PORTRAIT OF DORIAN GRAY. Finally, whether theatres are open or not, I hope we can continue some virtual adventures! I love that our Zoom plays and story drama are reaching new audiences around the country.”
One thing is for sure, Pollyanna has been blessed to have such a great collaborator in Holly Hepp-Galvan. Young patrons and their parents and teachers can visit our current season page for a full list of productions available this fall and purchase their tickets now for one of Holly’s plays.