Humorist, playwright and storyteller Kevin Kling, best known for his popular commentaries on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” visited campus recently to teach a graduate-level class and perform for a group of students and faculty.
A friend of Kling’s, Steven Dietz, a professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, asked Kling to visit the university and talk with students about new theatre and story telling.
“Kevin Kling is an American theatre success story,” said Dietz. “Twenty-five years of making his living as a playwright and performer at major theatres across the country — and who has, of late, turned his considerable gifts to the mastery of storytelling.”
Kling grew up in Osseo, a Minneapolis suburb, and graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a bachelor degree in theater. According to his Web site, he launched into storytelling at the request of a friend from the (now defunct) Brass Tacks Theatre, who asked him to perform his stories. Over the course of his career, he has received numerous arts grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the McKnight Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Bush Foundation and the Jerome Foundation. He has also released several recordings of his stories and two recent books “The Dog Says How” and “Holiday Inn.” His plays (for both adult and child audiences) and adaptations have been performed around the world.
During his campus visit, Kling taught a collaboration workshop, bringing together graduate students in playwriting, acting, directing and design to investigate the generative process of new work development.
“Kevin Kling is an extraordinary presence and mind,” said Courtney Sale, a directing graduate student who attended the workshop. “His reverence for storytelling generates from the most humble of places. I am voting for a Kevin Kling course.”
In addition to teaching, Kling did a storytelling on Jan. 29 at the Winship Drama Building’s acting studio. His performance wove together autobiographical and fictional narratives. These tales, including an account of his near-death motorcycle accident and a retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” seemed to captivate an enthusiastic audience of students and faculty.
The feeling was mutual — when asked about his experience at the university, Kling said, “I am so heartened by the students every time I visit. The ways they are thinking and the questions they ask are inspiring. It’s a rush. It’s difficult for me to stop talking about it. I pity the guy who has to sit next to me on the plane trip home.”