From the pulpit to the stage
Minnesota pastor, emerging playwright, inspired by ministry experiences
March 23, 2012
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 quitting her unfulfilling job at a non-profit in 2008, Holmgren took a three-month break during which she enrolled in an acting class.
It was during that class that she wrote her first play, “Paper Daddy,” which will premiere April 13 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.
The play explores the many meanings of forgiveness and the difficult role of fatherhood.
“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 based on her experiences as a student at Princeton Theological Seminary, from which she graduated in 1979.
“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.
Telling such a story 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.
She expects a wide audience for “The God Girl,” which is in pre-production with the Minnesota History Theatre and is scheduled to open next year. The majority of theater-goers are female and want to see more stories about women and their gifts, Holmgren said.
Holmgren knew she wanted to be a pastor since she was seven years old, and a lifelong interest in writing helped fuel that calling. Her experiences as a pastor are now providing insight and ideas for her plays.
“I wanted to be a person in my community who could be easily identified as standing for good things,” she said.
In writing plays, Holmgren has learned that her training in ministry and wide exposure to people have given her “the resources I need to be that kind of person in every venue I pursue in life.”