Why Writer Meghan Kennedy Says NBC’s Upcoming Series Rise Is ‘Friday Night Lights But For Theatre’

Interview   Why Writer Meghan Kennedy Says NBC’s Upcoming Series Rise Is ‘Friday Night Lights But For Theatre’ The TV series about a high school teacher fighting to keep the drama department alive stars Josh Radnor, Moana’s Auli’I Cravalho, and more, will debut later this year.
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Rosie Perez and Josh Radnor 2017 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Playwright Meghan Kennedy’s Napoli, Brooklyn is currently running Off-Broadway at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Laura Pels Theatre. While her actors gather nightly around the dinner table of her Brooklynite family’s Italian kitchen, Kennedy sits daily around the writer’s table of the upcoming NBC television series Rise.

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Though currently under commission from Roundabout, Williamstown Theatre Festival, and The Geffen Playhouse, Kennedy feels Rise is exactly the right show to use as a transition from writing plays to scripting television. “It's very collaborative. We all sit in a room and we create these characters together,” she says. “It's a great transition from theatre to TV on the show because it feels honest.”

Not to mention, Kennedy jumped at the chance to work with her TV idol, Jason Katims, the Emmy-winning creator, head writer and executive producer of Friday Night Lights, who is one of the driving creative forces behind Rise. “Jason Katims is magic,” she says. “He's incredibly generous in how he allows us to contribute, and he really cares about getting to the heart of the character. That's not always the concern in television, and I think he's really good at that.

“I mean Friday Night Lights is my favorite show ever and he has that Friday Night Lights feel but for theatre.”

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As a playwright and actor, working on a show that champions arts education and theatre is an ideal job for Kennedy. “To take on high school theatre and what that means to so many kids is a dream to write for,” she says. “It takes place in a struggling town, and we're facing a time when arts budgets are about to be cut and I think it's very relevant in a lot of ways.”

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