When Phoenix playwright and actor Kim Porter lived in San Francisco, she and her husband took a road trip to Las Vegas. The moment they crossed the California border and saw the shining lights of a city, they got excited. "There it is! Las Vegas!" they exclaimed, driving on only to find it was not Las Vegas, but Primm, Nevada, a "tiny little blip on the map," 38 miles from their destination.
"It was a false, lesser, more easily arrived at destination, but it had totally tricked me into thinking we had arrived," Porter says.
Writing well, Porter says, is about working through drafts to get to the truth — or driving farther past the illusion of Vegas to the real deal. Just as Primm was "like a diminished version of Vegas," early drafts are "like the diminished twin sister of what you're trying to say," Porter says. "It's not about whether you make it funny or sad. It's about making it true. If something isn't working, it's because you haven't quite gotten to the truth of it."
Many of Porter's plays are "semiautobiographical," and she performs in most of them. Tattle-Tale tells the story of three sisters growing up in suburban Texas, focusing on the youngest — "a show off and a sissy and worst of all a tattle tale" named . . . Kim. Knock on Wood's about a girl with a habit of knocking on wood 200 times a day; it draws from quirky family stories Porter heard as a child.
Since moving to Phoenix five years ago, Porter's found another passion. In addition to penning and performing her plays, she also teaches writing for the stage and solo workshops at Space 55 theater. "It's been fun. It's also very challenging," she says. "But my greatest love is helping other people do their stuff."
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Porter's mantra: "Writing is rewriting." She also stresses story flow and substance. "To have good art, you have to make sense of it and understand the point you're making," she says.
Even a fictional yarn like Blue Galaxy, Porter's unproduced musical "about urban hipsters who do the retro club scene," features such themes as acceptance, rejection, and estrangement. The plot revolves around the daughter of a famous rock star (now in a nursing home) and the man pursuing her, and includes "a lot of parking lot sex and fellatio." Porter says she's "waiting for the right people to come along and help me produce it."
Her latest plays, Wake of the Bounty and Drifting (both being performed at the Phoenix Fringe Festival this weekend), are drawn from Porter's love for true ocean-survival stories. She says the latter's a comedy, while Wake of the Bounty is "about saving yourself from despair by appreciating what you have."
She says both plays are metaphors for the isolation of a housewife and living in the desert. "Phoenix is like a life raft," she says. "If we got stranded and nobody brought us water, a lot of us wouldn't make it."