From the pulpit to the stage; Minnesota pastor,
emerging playwright, inspired by ministry experiences
The Reverend Kristine Holmgren is used to being in the public eye.
As a pastor — especially as a woman pastor — the Rev. Kristine Holmgren is used to being in the public eye.
In addition to speaking from the pulpit, Holmgren has reached people across the country through the informally syndicated column she wrote for the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune and as a commentator for National Public Radio.
That exposure has perhaps helped prepare her for her newest venture as a playwright.
After walking out of what she calls a "soul killing" position in 2008, Holmgren took a three-month break during which she enrolled in a class for playwrights.
It was during that class that she wrote her first play, “Paper Daddy,” which premiered in 2010 at the Northfield Arts Guild Theater in Minnesota.
“Paper Daddy” is the story of Charlie, a woman who survives the Great Recession by renting rooms to a variety of colorful characters. She is the newly widowed ex-wife of a former college dean whom she hadn’t seen in years and is now faced with the responsibility of taking care of his ashes.
Her second play, "Sweet Truth," completed a sold-out run this summer at the Berlin Theatre in Columbia, Missouri. Theatre-goers in Columbia liked her work so well, the Talking Horse Theatre contracted with her to bring "Paper Daddy" to Missouri in 2015.
Holmgren was recently commissioned for two local musicals where she will write the book; Tyrol Productions and Flying Pig Productions.
“My plays are all about redemption,” Holmgren said. “It’s been a vehicle for me to really live out my hope for my community and my world.”
Holmgren’s second play “The God Girl,” is in development for the 2015 season with the Minnesota History Theatre. Based on her experiences as a student at Princeton Theological Seminary, from which she graduated in 1979, Holmgren says her story is not an easy one to watch.
“It was the classic battlefield against women’s rights. So that’s what I wrote about,” Holmgren said.
Holmgren’s was the first class at Princeton to have a large number of women — about one-third of the class. Administrators, faculty members and male students weren’t used to having so many bright, independent women on campus, she said.
The play focuses on the pressure for the seminary to see the damage of patriarchy while telling the stories of women who feel assaulted rather than nourished. Physical attacks, humiliation, sexual harassment and inappropriate use of power are a few of the realities Holmgren and her classmates experienced and which are portrayed in the play.
Although the story is provocative, telling it in public isn’t nerve-racking for Holmgren, who sent the script to former Princeton classmates and her advisor. They all love it, she said.
Holmgren considers her playwright career an extension of her ministry.
In writing for the theatre, Holmgren uses both her training in ministry and wide exposure to people to create real people facing genuine, authentic struggles.
"I believe in a happy ending," she said. "Even though my plays do not always end that way."