Kyle Bass was raised in the scenic countryside of Frankfort, New York on his father’s horse ranch. He’s now a prolific author — and the first resident playwright for Syracuse Stage — whose stories can take him anywhere.
“Everything I do is directly related to this thing I have to do, which is to write,” he reflected. It was this unwavering commitment to the craft that helped him find his true calling in the theater arts. Among his many artistic accomplishments, Bass has authored comprehensive plays including “Bleecker Street”, “Baldwin vs. Buckley: The Faith of Our Fathers”, “Possessing Harriet” and his most recent play on the stage of Syracuse, “salt/city/blues.
He has also written and co-written screenplays, published work in journals, and founded Syracuse Stage’s Cold Read Festival of New Plays.
Become a playwright
Reading, writing and a creative disposition were constants for Bass, but the knowledge that he would one day become a resident playwright with several productions under his belt, was not. Looking back, it was always going that way, even if he didn’t know it, he told himself.
From an early age, Bass was fascinated by words. Their function, meaning, and ability to convey drama — former students of Frankfurt-Schuyler High School jokingly shared — led him to keep a word diary from the age of five. He preferred the company of adult conversations – divorce, financial difficulties, death – these topics piqued the young creative’s interest. “‘Do you like me, yes or no?’ wasn’t dramatic enough for me” as a child, he remarked. Although of a joyful sensibility himself, tragedy has always been one of his greatest sources of artistic inspiration, has t -he shares.
Additionally, his love for music, especially the classical variety, also shaped his relationship to words. “I think from there [love] came a kind of understanding and interest in the music and the rhythm of the language,” Bass said.
As a freshman studying English with a creative writing minor, Bass watched a performance of the tragic play, Hedda Gabler; it was a “revelation” for the future playwright. He was fascinated that such a world and the characters within it could not only be imagined, but also animated to be seen by an audience, he said.
In many ways, Bass was writing plays before he even realized it. His writing has always been assimilated to theatre; his prose mimicked scenic directions and often relied heavily on dialogue, he recalled, and his characters would lead the way in the story. “I usually hear a voice. . .” he shared his creative process, “and I’m like, ‘Oh, who is this? What do they want?’ And so I have to write to explore that voice, and then what are the other voices around it?
Find your way
From the late 90s to the early 2000s, Bass wanted to get closer to the craft that called him. While living in Syracuse, he found Armory Square Playhouse, a local playwriting group, where he shared pieces of his work that would later be read aloud for an audience. “They were glued to the words,” Bass said of that defining moment. “They were of one mind. I could feel it. And I was hooked. »
This artistic breakthrough inspired Bass to earn his master’s degree in playwriting, and from there his path was set. “A long time ago I said either stop dabbling, or give your life, do it all, make it your life’s work, or stop,” he remarked.
In addition to writing his own plays, Bass teaches art at Colgate University. He worked at the Syracuse Stage for nearly two decades – first for a short time before branching out into writing plays, then, on his return with his brilliant path, working his way up the ranks to finally earn his ” final title” at the Syracuse Stage in 2021, resident playwright. “At some point I realized it was always going that way,” Bass said.
In his role as resident playwright, Bass is among the senior executives who steer the artistic ship. In addition to overseeing theatrical processes, Bass is free to focus on his writing with support from the organization. “I’m very grateful to have this position, and Syracuse Stage is rare among regional theaters to have a resident playwright,” Bass explained. “It shows the theater world that Syracuse Stage truly recognizes and understands the role of playwright and the art that we do.” He continued, “It can’t start until someone writes something.”
About his pieces
Bass has described his work as dramatic with impressions of music, history, and where he grew up.
Raised in the only black family in an all-white town in upstate New York, Bass said his pieces “present black people and white people together in the world, which has been my experience.” A rural landscape is also not uncommon in his work, he shared. “I’m not sure where all this sadness is coming from,” Bass said of his songwriting with a laugh.
History has always been one of Bass’ favorite subjects, and being told about his own family history has only heightened that interest. “[My family has] in upstate New York for 225 years. I know the names of these people. I know where the earth is. I know where they are buried. So I’m very connected to my family’s history in this country and that history comes from slavery, both in the north and in the south.
He continued: “The history of race in this country is a broad, deep, confusing and necessary thing to talk about, watch and write about. Not everyone needs to write about it, but it interests me.
Ultimately, Bass said he creates the piece he wants to see and hopes audiences can immerse themselves in the world and find their own connections there as well.
To learn more about Kyle Bass, visit his website, kylebassplaywright.com.