Q: Please tell everyone who you are.
A: I was born and raised on a melon farm in Iowa. I am a graduate student at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia. I am on the deacon ordination track in the United Methodist Church and I want to pursue theatre ministry. I believe that theatre has a unique way of connecting people and has important things to teach us about the ways we interact with each other.
Q: What's your connection to ALS?
A: The founding members of Acting Out for ALS are my aunt and uncle - Mark and Jennifer Ashby. Mark's mother, Sharon, lost her battle with ALS in 2013. Sharon was like another grandmother to me. She always took the time to read my writing and give me encouraging but constructive feedback. Sharon always encouraged me to follow my dreams. Even though my dreams have changed since then, I still hope I am making her proud by pursuing theatre ministry.
Q: What was it like to put this together as a radio play?
A: Writing the play was the easy part, but it was also the longest part. I originally wrote More Than Words as a stage play. However, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic caused theatres to close down. This made me resort to a radio play format. I contacted my theatre friends from college and asked them to volunteer to read. They were more than willing to bring this play to life. Since we were all in different parts of the country, we recorded the entire play online using Zencastr. I then set to work sound-editing. I had no previous sound-editing experience. It was a learn-as-you-go process. I found a free editing program that provided several of the sound effects that I needed. There were many times I worried that the listener would not understand a certain sound, but my roommate was gracious enough to listen to the play and provide me feedback. The process of recording and editing took me about a month.
Q: What's your experience with theater and writing in general?
A: Writing has always been a part of my life. I found a safe haven in writing when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2008. In 2012, I wrote a short inspirational book called A Step of Faith that illustrated my struggle with RA, Sharon's battle with ALS, and my grandma's journey with fibromyalgia, and how faith played an important role in our lives. I discovered my love of theatre in high school when my best friend and I auditioned for a community theatre's production of My Fair Lady. After we participated in My Fair Lady, we started a drama club at our high school. In college, I was constantly involved in the theatre productions and got a minor in theatre. I worked behind the scenes on sets and props, stage-managed, acted, and played in pit bands. I also took classes in playwriting and directing.
Q: Why did you decide to tackle the subject matter that you do in More Than Words?
A: More Than Words began as my final project for my college playwriting class in the spring of 2019, although I didn't finish the radio play until the summer of 2020. Looking back at the beginning of this project, I think the United Methodist Church 2019 General Conference impacted my decision to write about this subject. In February of 2019, the UMC voted to keep the restrictions against LGBTQ+ members. These restrictions don’t support same-sex marriage and don't allow LGBTQ+ members to be ordained. I have many friends and family members who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. I also have several LGBTQ+ colleagues who want to be ordained within the UMC. I have always been an ally to the LGBTQ+ community and I believe that gay rights are human rights. And as a Christian, it is important that I be a voice to LGBTQ+ people that they are perfect just the way they are, that they are loved, and that they are beautiful.
Q&A with...Katie M. Dean
Author of More Than Words, a radio play
Q: Any writing plans for the near future?
A: I have another play idea in my back pocket, but unfortunately graduate school takes up most of my time. However, I am constantly brainstorming and fleshing out my idea and making notes so when I do have time to write, everything I need is readily available.
Q: What's a message you'd like to give to someone who listens to More Than Words?
A: More Than Words is not a coming-out story. It is a story about someone learning to love and accept themselves just the way they are. My message to those who listen: You are perfect just the way you are. There is nothing wrong with you. You don't have to change anything about yourself. You are loved. You are beautiful. And you belong.
Click here to go to the four-episode YouTube playlist for More Than Words.