A Christian, Feminist Playwright: An Unusual Mix that Speaks Volumes

Cragin-Day works by the glow of the fairy lights strung around her desk. || Photo credit to Rachel Freeman

Cragin-Day works by the glow of the fairy lights strung around her desk. || Photo credit to Rachel Freeman

 

A small restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen, where the feel of New York City mixes with Joanna Gaines, is where Chris Cragin-Day meets up with her students outside of school. Amongst the loud music and wooden tables, she sips a turmeric latté and offers to hang up the winter coat of whomever she’s with before diving into conversation about theater, writing, or life itself.

While Cragin-Day is a teacher at the King’s College, she is, first and foremost, a writer, with her website describing her as, “Playwright, Librettist, Screenwriter”. Over 20 of her plays have seen the stage, and she’s helped create six produced musicals including, The Unusual Tale of Mary and Joseph’s Baby, in which she collaborated with Don and Lori Chaffer.

“My plays I write on my own, my musicals I write with Don Chaffer who’s out of Nashville, he’s a singer-songwriter in Nashville,” Cragin-Day said. “His band, Water Deep, is an amazing band, and I was fans of his band before I ever started working with him.”

Her students admire her constructive-criticism and “quirkiness,” as one of her students says, in class. Nathan Ferguson, a freshman at King’s and a student in her Acting I class, expresses how Cragin-Day is challenging him and improving him as a performer.

“You really have to know your character for her to be okay with the scene you’re doing,” Ferguson said. “I’m doing this scene right now where this character, he’s been through a lot, and she’s like, ‘You just really need to touch into that because you’re not portraying it.’”

Cragin-Day also teaches Dramatic Writing and College Writing at King’s, which she feels passionate about teaching because of her love for witnessing the effect that writing can have on students.

A poster of Don Chaffer and Cragin-Day’s musical, The Unusual Tale is Mary & Joseph’s Baby, hangs on the wall in her office. || Photo credit to Rachel Freeman

A poster of Don Chaffer and Cragin-Day’s musical, The Unusual Tale is Mary & Joseph’s Baby, hangs on the wall in her office. || Photo credit to Rachel Freeman

“I just love the epiphany moments,” Cragin-Day said. “I just love the moments where, like, students either read a play or an essay or something and for the first time they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t know it could be like this.’”

While Cragin-Day’s students know her for her work, there’s more to her than what’s on the surface. She didn’t grow up in New York City or even the United States; Cragin-Day’s story begins in Manila, Philippines where she was born and lived until she was two years old.

Although her family spent some time living in Oklahoma, Cragin-Day spent most of her childhood outside of the United States in places such as Hong Kong and the Chinese Mainland with her sister and Christian parents.

“My sister and I never did anything crazy,” said Cragin-Day. “We were living in such a high-stake situation where if we did something crazy, we might get kicked out of China.”

Cragin-Day attributes being a “third-culture kid” as one of the main reasons that she feels so at home in New York City. She always felt slightly out of place when she was out of the country or in Oklahoma, but in New York City, she feels “at home.”

Along with feeling passionate about her upbringing, Cragin-Day feels strongly about women’s rights and personally labeling herself as a “feminist.” With controversy surrounding the term, she expresses why she feels it’s important to publicly express her views and claim the title.

“It’s even scary to use that word,” Cragin-Day said. “I was watching this video where this woman talks about how angry people get when she identifies herself in that way, and I think that’s why I use the word because I want young women to be able to use the word without being scared.”

Her Faculty Assistant at the King’s College, Kaylee Long, touched on what it was like working closely with Cragin-Day. She touched on how grateful she felt to be learning from a female artist.

“She’s not only intelligent and a good teacher, but she’s active in the industry, and a Christian, and a woman,” Long said. “She’s definitely asked me a lot of really good questions that I wouldn’t have thought to need to answer.”

Cragin-Day works by the glow of the fairy lights strung around her desk.  || Photo credit to Rachel Freeman

Cragin-Day works by the glow of the fairy lights strung around her desk.
|| Photo credit to Rachel Freeman

Her pride in being a feminist has bled into her art as multiple works of hers include strong female characters and the struggles that surround being a woman. Recently, she was commissioned to write a musical about the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote.

In addition to this exciting project that she’s currently working on, one of her plays is coming to Sea Dog Theater this April. According to Cragin-Day’s website, The Rare Biosphere tells the story of a girl who comes home one day from school only to discover that her parents have been deported.

“I do feel passionate about women’s issues, and I love stories about women” Cragin-Day said when asked about what makes her excited to write. “And also, I just feel like it’s my calling and my ministry.”