|View single post by Edd|
|Posted: Mon Mar 3rd, 2008 08:56 pm||
Interview with Gary Garrison
edd: Gary Garrison is a playwright and author, as well as the Executive Director for Creative Affairs of the Dramatists Guild of America and the Artistic Director and Division Head of Playwriting for the Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing at the Tisch School of the Arts. He is also the former National Chair of Playwriting for the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival, as well as the Artistic Director for the First Look Theatre Company and the recently formed Playwrights PlayGround. Welcome, Gary. Have you anything you'd like to say before we get started?
Gary Garrison: It is my pleasure to be here. I think writing for the theatre is a noble art form and I'm happy to answer any questions. We need playwrights now more than ever.
edd: GREAT! Then our first question comes from muncy.
muncy: My question is about the frequency of receiving submissions to festivals. Do you find that you get a big rush when it is first announced?
Gary Garrison: I think it comes in waves starting two weeks before the actual deadline.
muncy: And do you get another peak at the end?
Gary Garrison: You'll always get the eager-beavers that send in a month before, then steady through a couple of weeks before and then inundated in the final week. The final week is when you see all the Fed Ex envelopes from people waiting until the last minute. Does that help?
muncy: Yes, thanks. At least I know what to expect!
Gary Garrison: Check your mailbox every day a month.
edd: kato has our next question.
katoagogo: Who is writing some exciting work that has really surprised you? What made it fresh? Who should be on our reading list right now?
Gary Garrison: Have you seen Tracy Lett's August: Osage County? OMG!
katoagogo: I'm not in NYC.
Gary Garrison: This is brilliant inter-relational writing.
katoagogo: I'm ordering it.
Gary Garrison: It was in Chicago before, and I think ATL before that. He's smart. VERY smart and so well crafted. Beautiful complicated relationships. Martin McDonagh should be on everyone's list. Pillow Man is unbelievable. Just read Frost/Nixon. Really interesting. I like Sara Ruhl . . . some of her stuff. Like Clean House. I’m reading this kick-ass book about the business written by Theresa Rebeck.
katoagogo: I'm at Bown—so we hear alot about Sara.
Gary Garrison: She had The Scene Off Broadway last season and Mauritius on Broadway this season. She knows her stuff. and it's very wise in all ways that matter to writers. Do you all know “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield? Not a play, but writing wisdom.
katoagogo: Haven't heard of it.
Gary Garrison: Really intelligent, sensitive, sensible advice about writing and your soul and you know I’m all about the soul, baby. There's a guy named Steve Yockey . . . watch for him. Productions every where. Dark, poetic, angry.
edd: in media res, one of our members who could not attend this afternoon, has left with me the following question: “Is political/economic/social theatre been abandoned by producing theatres? Here we are in what many economists and others have said has been the worst political, economic worldwide social crisis for us since the Great Depression, and I have yet to see a play that deals with any of it. Well, I have seen a few mediocre, very safe attempts, but nothing stirring. Theatres say "No one is interested." From a lot of theatres I go to, people aren't going to the theatre much anyway!”
Gary Garrison: I'd say it's been abandoned by COMMERCIAL theatre, yes. And that's sad, no doubt. But in our regional theatres, and small store-front theatres, believe me, it's alive and flourishing. Wholly Mammoth in Washington, D.C. is a big theatre for social questions. Florida Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, San Diego Rep, Theatre Rhinoceros. I hope no one is judging theatre by what New York or Broadway is doing. New York is . . . well, I don't know what the hell it is. Looks like theatre, smells like it . . . but clearly ISN'T what most of us expect. That's maybe not a bad thing. It should come from the regions of the country.
edd: The state of Theatre is indeed sad!
Gary Garrison: Sad, but not hopeless! It’s not hopeless, ya’ll!
katoagogo: There's a lot of emphasis on how to sell your plays to the "big" places—like NYC, Chicago, LA—but very little ink spent on how a playwright connects with their community—where they live. Theater is exclusively local. How can a playwright learn to play to this fact as a strength rather than a weakness?
Gary Garrison: Great question. First, I couldn't agree with you more. Teaching writers anything—in my 20+ years at NYU—is a slow and often frustrating experience because they want to know what they want to know. And it's usually what they don't know that bites them in the butt. In this instance, becoming community-aware is essential to any theatre artist. We think that if it's not on a big stage or at a named theatre, it doesn't count, but the truth is OUR TRUTH needs to be heard in all the small coffee shops, church basements, classrooms and meeting places in every corner of every city. Homes for the elderly, elementary schools, social service organizations (like AIDS awareness treatment and health centers) desperately need our words to carry on. We can create theatre anywhere, AND SHOULD. So I think it takes looking around at less conventional places that we wouldn't ordinarily think of as "audience," approaching them, maybe as a small group, and literally saying, "what can we do to help."
katoagogo: I'm fond of staging plays in art galleries—and most will let us use the space for free.
Gary Garrison: Our art is to explore, dissect, explain, pose questions, probe, challenge, defy, demand and that can happen in someone's soup kitchen or meeting room. Galleries are great. How could you not be inspired with all that art around?
edd: I'm close to several playwrights from the original Cafe Cino crowd and they would agree and applaud you, Gary, as I do. My most exciting production was performed in coffeehouses, malls and in the streets of Barcelona. stayceea has our next question.
stayceea: How much do you think the age, ethnicity and gender of an emerging playwright matters? The recent list of the Public's emerging writer's group made me think I needed to be a male and hyphenate my name. BTW, LOVE the Loop. Thank you for doing it.
Gary Garrison: Thanks, Staycee. We love putting out the Loop. And it's gotten crazy-big. But to answer your question, I was a little shell-shocked when I saw the list of the Public's Emerging Writers. Look, anyone can do anything they want . . . just be clear about what you're doing and no one will be disappointed. This felt—so what?—OBVIOUS? Age?—doesn't matter. A good story has no age attached. Tracy Letts—again—is 43. And it's, like, his third play ever. Ethnicity? Well, there are theatres that are looking for very specific groups of writers because of their mandate. I'm afraid that won't change. Too much federal and state money is tied to those mandates. Gender? Well, not to get on a band wagon . . . but you know I'm a feminist and I'm outraged for the lack of equal opportunity for women writers. Last year 17% of all productions in the country were written by women. 17%! Of that 17%, 2% were women of color. Pitiful. Now hold on to your seats for a second: In regional theatres, where a lot of this work originates, over 65% are run by women. WHAT THE FUUUUUUUUUUUU? I don't get it. Regardless, here's what I would say: If you write a play that's got all the great things that make a terrific theatre experience it will find a theare and its audience no matter what age, gender or race you are. It might not be on your time line, but it will find its place.
edd: Gary, I have an amusing question before calling on our next member's question. I'm several months behind on my DGA dues. When I pay them will they be retroactive or will my dues cover the full year from time of payment, which I would of course prefer?
Gary Garrison: Now now now, mr. edd . . . what's up with that "several months behind" biz? :-) Seriously, happens all the time at the Guild. Not to worry. If you pay your dues tomorrow, the clock starts tomorrow. By the way, there are some verrrrrrrry talented writers in this room, if I recognize the names.
edd: Thanks, Gary. :>) Corerro, I believe, has the next question.
Gary Garrison: Love the name: Corerro.
Corerro: Thank you. When tackling the business of pitching an adaptation of a classic work to theatres, is there anything in particular you recommend the playwright do to ensure it's seen as it's own body of work?
Gary Garrison: Yes, explain your style or approach to the material in a way that's clear, interesting and compelling. You can escape the original source material—that's the given. So you have to represent your take, your "pass" on the material as something unique and individually you. For example, I just saw the WORST adaptation of The Seagull at Classic Stage Company. I mean, it STUNK and if the writer had given me three passages in a cover letter, I would have known. When you know the original source material, it's not difficult to discern good from bad. So write an interesting cover letter that indicates your take on the material.
edd: Gary, our next question comes from NAtlanta.
NAtlanta: What are the legal ramifications of using a real person, public figure, in a scene that I made up? It's not particularly damaging and is not necessarily true, but the real person could say he was portrayed in a negative light.
Gary Garrison: Good question. You can write anything you want about someone as long as it doesn't rob original source material.
NAtlanta: What does that mean?
Gary Garrison: In other words, what you can't do is extract info about that idiot President Bush from newspapers. But you can certainly write about President Bush, and believe me, many do.
NAtlanta: Well, I did extract from the newspapers, on a true story
Gary Garrison: There was a play in New York several seasons ago called, I think, Barbra's Wedding. All about Streisand. All fictional. All made up. The writer can't get in trouble. If it's based on a story from a newspaper, it's public knowledge.
NAtlanta: I used court documents, quoted the court reporters words, but I made up a fictional name
Gary Garrison: As long as you don't lift passages from the actual article, you should be okay. I think you should be fine. It's all public record. Read Emily Mann.
NAtlanta: I do/did! Thanks.
Gary Garrison: Then, you're cool. Read/see The Laramie Project, The Trials of Oscar Wilde.
NAtlanta: It's similar to Laramie.
edd: Equus was based on a newspaper story—and Shaffer turned it into Art. Our next and last question comes from kato.
katoagogo: I'm starting work on a paper for Neuroscience and Performance—so I am curious about your take regarding "dream-logic" in plays. It's a term that comes up all the time. Do you think that it's something fundamental to our enjoyment of a piece of theater, or is it something else?
Gary Garrison: I honestly don't know enough to say. Sounds fascinating. But I'm not read up on it. Sorry, Katoagogo. But if you want to send me something, I'll read and respond. Loopityloop@gmail.com
katoagogo: Sorry my question is soooooo out there.
Gary Garrison: Okay, everyone. Write well! Best of luck to all of you. I wish you well with your dreams.
Marys: Thanks, Gary
Corerro: Thank you.
edd: Well that's about it. Thank you, Gary.
Marys: Thanks for hosting, Edd.
Paddy: Thanks so much, Gary!
NAtlanta: Yes, thanks to Edd
Gary Garrison: My pleasure. Feel free to write.