Kevin Kling

Fellowship: 30 and 15 Years Out

Kevin Kling
Illustration by Allegra Lockstadt

I want to be pushing on what I’m doing, creating new forms, working on myself as an artist. 

Kevin Kling

Kevin Kling’s (BF’88, ’03) voice has been heard by many. It has floated across the airwaves during his commentary on NPR’s “All Things Considered”; it has told tender, funny and moving stories to theater audiences around the world. While Kling already had a successful career as a playwright when he received his Bush Fellowships (which are now available only once to each individual), through the Foundation’s support, he was able to push the form of theater and also strip it down to see what storytelling, one person and an empty stage can do. 

What were you doing when you applied for the Fellowship?

I was in the most crucial transition of my career. I was transitioning from being a playwright and an actor to becoming a storyteller — but I didn’t know that. I had planned on still being a playwright, but because of the Fellowship I could stretch and grow in ways I didn’t dream of, which led me to being a storyteller. Storytelling is really like a conversation. You are really 100 percent exchanging energy with the audience. In a one-person play it’s still kind of a voyeurism where the audience is peering in on another person’s life. In storytelling, it really, really is one-on-one engagement. You know the audience is there, and you talk to the audience as they are and as who you are. 

What were you hoping to accomplish after your Fellowship ended?

As an artist you always want to be able to grow, to reach beyond your grasp, so to say what you want is a dangerous question — it puts a ceiling on what I want to achieve. I want to be pushing on what I’m doing, creating new forms, working on myself as an artist. 

I think what’s especially important with the Bush Fellowship, is it allows many of us to stay in Minnesota instead of going off to one of the coasts. Minnesota has some of the best artists in the country, and it’s essential that they are able to stay here and make a living as an artist in their home. They can add to the fabric in their community, which I think is crucial to being an artist — you are part of the community.  

Do you want to offer any advice to current and future Bush Fellows?

I think that the best thing you can do with the Fellowship is to risk, to reach beyond your grasp. It’s the luxury of time. One of the things I loved about the Fellowship was being encouraged to fail, as crazy as that sounds. You never learn from success. You only learn through trial and error. 

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The Fellowship is a recognition of extraordinary achievement and a bet on extraordinary potential, with up to $100,000 to invest in leadership development.