English Teacher Claudia McGarry produces autobiographical play

DELANEY SMITH, Channels Staff

Claudia McGarry, a City College English skills teacher of 28 years, has written her first play, “Kiddo and Patty Hearst.”

The play was an immediate hit with two sold out shows at Santa Barbara’s Center Stage Theater. It also played at the Hudson Guild Theater in Chelsea, New York. On the weekends of Oct. 13 and Oct. 20, it will be performed at the Plaza Playhouse Theater in Carpinteria.

McGarry has written three novels and 10 featured screenplays, but had never written a play until now.

“Writing a play is entirely different than writing a screenplay,” McGarry said. “You have to have a lot less characters, not more than about seven, as opposed to a screenplay you can go wherever you want with it. You also have to limit the amount of settings the scenes can take place in.”

“Kiddo and Patty Hearst” takes places in 1974 and is partly autobiographical. McGarry identifies most with the main character, Marta, and used her father growing up as an inspiration for Marta’s alcoholic father.

Isabelle Marchand, a City College Student, will play the part of Dory, Marta’s sister in the Carpinteria showings. She had originally tried out for the part of Marta, but ended up playing Dory because she was a better fit age-wise.

“Since I have a pretty small part in the play I’ve been able to sit back and watch the production a little bit,” Marchand said. “I’ve sat in the house and watched during the rehearsals. Getting to see it develop has been really cool, and I’ve also been able to do behind the scenes work as well, like taking stage notes.”

McGarry has had quite the adventure writing and being a part of the production of “Kiddo and Patty Hearst.” She has never written a play in her 30-plus years of writing so she had a lot to learn.

One of the more valuable lessons that she’s learned since writing the play is that every time she’s watched a staged reading of it, she sees a new way to improve it.

“It was so cool to hear the lines, and to know what needed work. You learn every time a production happens. That was a huge lesson learning experience for me.”

This will not be the last of McGarry’s play writing.

“I’m already working on two others,” she said. “Once you like to write, it’s like a fever and you can’t stop.”

Tickets now for the upcoming “Kiddo and Patty Hearst” showings in Carpinteria this month are available here.