Emory Report

February 16, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 21

Kranes deals first hand in
Creative Writing Reading series

Writer David Kranes kicks off the spring Creative Writing Reading Series with a lecture Feb. 23, followed by a colloquium the following afternoon.

Kranes served as artistic director of the acclaimed Sundance Playwrights Lab for the first 14 years of its existence, during which time the program developed such Pulitzer Prize-winning theater works as Angels in America and The Kentucky Cycle. When he's here, Kranes will discuss expanding Emory's Playwrighting Center with Vincent Murphy, director of the center and artistic producing director for Theater Emory. Kranes is more than a playwright, however-a faculty member in both the English and theater departments of the University of Utah, he doesn't like to limit himself to one genre of writing. Kranes has written numerous works for stage, radio and screen, as well as novels and collections of short stories, and said he prefers to adopt a more "European sensibility" in approaching his work.

"In Europe writers tend to work across a much broader spectrum than they do in this country," he said. "To put it another way, if I were to be an athlete, I probably would be a pentathlete because I just have this sense that if I'm going to test my body-using that metaphor-it would be to my advantage to learn as many ways to test that body as possible."

Kranes has been engaging in literary cross-training since the 1960s. He secured his English appointment at Utah in 1967, his theater post a year later. His first novel, Margins, came out in 1972, and his list of credits for dramatic works is extensive. He published Low Tide in the Desert: Nevada Stories, a collection of dusty desert short stories, in 1996.

Choosing to spread one's talents over such a wide array of applications may seem risky to some, but Kranes is a gambler. In fact he acknowledges as much in his writing-much of which deals with Nevada casinos and gaming-and in conversation.

"There's something in me that likes being at the edge; I came out of a very controlled and modulated background on the East Coast, and there's something deep within me that wants to crash through all that control," he said. "I was both inside and outside [of gambling]-inside it at times when I was playing, and outside sort of watching what happens when somebody engages in an activity where the element of safety is diminished and randomness takes over to a much greater degree."

In his lecture and colloquium, Kranes will address the relationship between fiction writing and play writing, how each can lead into the other and how it helps him to have other tools with which to weave his stories. For instance, years ago he began writing what started out as a radio play. Kranes grew dissatisfied with the genre's limitations and transferred the tale into a short story, but soon that too grew constricting. The story ended up as Cantrell, one of Kranes' most-produced stage plays.

"You can start working on a project that offers a resistance," Kranes said. "Sometimes it's a healthy resistance, and it's good to try to push against it. But I like-when the pushing against it seems totally nonproductive-to be able to move over to something else that's in process."

Kranes' Feb. 23 lecture will be held at 8:15 p.m. in 205 White Hall, and his colloquium will be Feb. 24 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. in the Mary Gray Munroe Theater.

Also featured in the spring series are Gish Jen, author of Typical American and Mona Lisa in the Promised Land, on March 23, and fiction writer and poet Grace Paley (April 20 and 21), whom creative writing Director Frank Manley called "probably the best short story writer in the country."

-Michael Terrazas

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