Carolyn Kras is using her creativity to shed light on sexual assault. On Sept. 24, the Carnegie Mellon University alumna continues the global readings of her play, “The Subject,” with six simultaneous performances, including one at CMU.
“People are excited that these issues are being spoken about and that art and activism is uniting to get people engaged,” said Kras, who earned her master’s degree in 2010 from CMU’s College of Fine Arts, where she majored in dramatic writing.
Kras’ play, developed with the support of a 2015-16 Fulbright LUSK Award, explores the coverup of the alleged assault in the late 1700s on Princess Sophia of the United Kingdom, daughter of King George III. Its two debut readings last May were held in London on United Nations Orange Day, one featuring Alfred Enoch of “How to Get Away with Murder” and “Harry Potter.”
She recently launched her worldwide series, The Subject Project, to further publicize and protest lenient rape sentences. Eleven organizations have committed to the project with many more finalizing details.
“Carolyn has brought to life an untold facet of English history, in a compelling story with some hugely well-written characters and narrative structure,” said David Hutchinson, executive creative producer of London’s Sell A Door Theatre Company.
“‘The Subject’ is a huge accomplishment of note for stages in the UK and internationally, full of layers and layers of compelling storytelling,” he said.
CMU will participate in the Sept. 24 event, with a 7:30 P.M. campus reading directed by CMU Associate Teaching Professor Catherine Moore.
“Carolyn takes an historical event and uses it to examine an important contemporary issue,” Moore said. “She finds a theatrical means of addressing the subject of sexual assault, cover-up, and lenient punishment (if any) for perpetrators, as well as showing how these assaults and their aftermath affect not only the victims, but those close to the victims.”
Kras was inspired to write “The Subject” after discovering the historical story at a time when numerous campus assault cover-ups were being exposed.
“I felt that these happenings from history would be a good vehicle with which to examine the present,” she explained.
CMU’s Fellowship and Scholarship Office and Peter Cooke, head of the School of Drama, assisted Kras with applying for the Fulbright.
“They were extremely helpful in navigating the application process,” Kras said.
Kras spent 10 months overseas, working as playwright-in-residence at Sell A Door, conducting research in Bath, poring over Hanover family correspondence in the Oxford University libraries, and developing the play while living for a month at Drue Heinz’s Scottish castle, Hawthornden.
In July, Kras returned to Los Angeles, where she had moved following her 2010 Carnegie Mellon graduation. She chose CMU after being impressed with the hands-on nature of the dramatic writing master’s degree program and the unusual ability it provided to work directly with actors.
“Not every program has that opportunity for a playwright,” she said. “Carnegie Mellon stressed collaboration.”
Her screenplay, “Magnetic,” was written while at CMU, winning the Alfred P. Sloan Screenwriting Award. It is ready for casting under the direction of John Amiel, known for his films “Entrapment” and “Creation,” among others. She also is adapting a series of bestselling books for television, still under wraps until the official announcement.
Kras gives much credit to CMU, including her ability to work in multiple arenas.
“CMU’s dramatic writing program prepares you to work in all three fields — theater, film and television — which is not always the case,” she said.
“It instills a very proactive attitude in its graduates,” she added. “And Carnegie Mellon alumni have a great affection for the school and love to collaborate together even after they’ve graduated. It’s wonderful to be a part of such a vibrant artistic community.”