Astoria Playwright Established As Fringe Artist
By Josh Spiro
some, August is a month of back-to-school sales
and the creeping end of summer, but not for theater
buffs. For them, August brings the off-off-Broadway
offerings at the New York International Fringe
Festival and this year, those offerings included
Astoria-based playwright Kari Bentley-Quinn's
theatrical debut, "The Permanent Night."
|Astoria playwright Kari Bentley-Quinn’s “The Permanent Night” was staged at the New York International Fringe Festival.
play follows four characters on the night of the
2003 blackout: Spencer (Dave Beagle) and Heather
(Vina Less), the superficially perfect upper-crust
couple; Jane (Kat Garson), Spencer's rebellious
and politically-minded younger sister; and Justin
(Cory Whitfield), her new neighbor and romantic
interest. Set two years after 9/11, a time when,
as Bentley-Quinn described it, the "wound was
still fresh" (many initially thought the blackout
itself was the result of a terrorist attack),
the play focuses on the inextricability of the
large and small events in our lives.
"I was thinking about people's smaller, personal
tragedies and how they related to what was going
on in the world... and how that shapes your belief
system," she said.
Bentley-Quinn, who has been writing "since I was
old enough to pick up a pen," and authored her
first play at the age of 15, had her future in
writing postponed by an acting phase.
"Everybody seemed to like my writing a lot more
than they liked my acting, [but] it took me a
little while to figure out that that was the way
I was supposed to be going in the world," she
Bentley-Quinn went on to compose a couple of one
acts as an undergraduate at Pace University and
enrolled in a playwriting class at the Gotham
After finishing the first draft of "The Permanent
Night" two years ago, Bentley-Quinn enlisted the
help of Maria Romina, a co-worker-cum-producer
at her hedge fund day job, and together they shopped
the play around. Once it was accepted as part
of the Fringe Festival, the other pieces fell
"It couldn't have gone any smoother, honestly,"
Bentley-Quinn said, adding that her creative vision
fit well with the director Heather Arnson's.
Now that the play has received good reviews, Bentley-Quinn
is hoping to put it on once more.
"We just don't feel done. we really want to take
it further," she said.
This ambition and energy is part of what brought
her to New York City. Growing up in small-town
Connecticut, she felt out of place and knew she
wanted to move to New York.
Though she has been here for almost a decade and
lived in both Brooklyn and Manhattan, she said,
"Queens has so far been my favorite [place to
live] because it's so ethnically diverse and it's
like the best parts of the city and the best parts
of the suburbs."
Whether "The Permanent Night" finds a new home
sooner or later, Bentley-Quinn is already mulling
over ideas for her next project. While she doesn't
have "the exact plot points yet," she suggested
that she might tackle the increasingly heated
issue of "women's rights, especially women's reproductive
rights." She plans to tread carefully, however,
for fear of producing something preachy and contrived
and "using the piece as [her] soapbox."
Bentley Quinn is not only concerned about her
next play being accessible, but about the accessibility
of independent theater.
She imparted what she called her Broadway rant,
lamenting, "mainstream theater is completely cost-prohibitive
to most people and us indie [productions], we're
here, we're doing good work. You can see a great
play for 20 bucks and everyone should do that