AAPEX Interview: Gary Garrison — Dramatists Guild , Gary Garrison , The Loop — AAPEX

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

AAPEX Interview: Gary Garrison

Gary Garrison

Gary Garrison is the Executive Director for Creative Affairs for the Dramatists Guild and founder of The Loop, a social networking group for playwrights.

What role did theater and the arts play in your childhood and upbringing?
Theatre saved my life. I was always a very different, hyper, wildly-imaginative, day-dreaming kinda kid. And when I found the theatre, I realized there were a lot of people like me, people who understood my fascination with things most people took no note of (like how and why people behaved). I found my “kind,” my real family. I was no longer the “outsider;” I was very much inside.

Tell us about your own evolution as an artist.
I started off as a dancer, actually, but lost my hair when I was 17, so it was clear that wasn’t going to work. Then I went into acting, studied that on the undergraduate college level, did the summer stock thing, applied to graduate school and got accepted. For some reason, when they asked me what I wanted my major to be, I said “directing.” Nobody was more surprised than me, but clearly I was tired of acting and thought directing was where my real artistry was to be found. (Let’s be honest: I didn’t really know what the hell I wanted.) I directed up a storm, kept acting, kept doing summer stock (because that paid for so many other things), got my Equity card and was eventually hired (for summer stock) into Michigan Ensemble Theatre – an Equity company that was aligned with The University of Michigan. When I finished my summer contract there they asked if I wanted to stay and be in the company full-time. There was one condition: I had to be enrolled in a degree program. Well, since I already had a Masters, the only thing left was a Ph.D. So badda-bing: I was in the Ph.D. program. You talk about a misfit. BUT, I had to work as a teaching assistant in the program and they connected me with the playwriting teacher, Milan Stitt. Two days into his class and I knew what I was really meant to be: a writer. That feeling hasn’t change in 30+ years.

What does your postition with The Dramatists Guild entail?
I’m the Executive Director for Creative Affairs; essentially I handle the care and feeding of playwrights; another department addresses all the business and legal aspects of a career. I supervise and help shape the magazine, The Dramatist, oversee the design of our website, create special programming for our members, help resolve the more emotional issues for our members (“I don’t trust my director . . .” or “I feel isolated as a writer in Ohio….”), regionalize the country to best address the needs of our members not in our tri-state area, study trends in writing and careers in theatre, report those trends to our members – things like that.

What are the requirements for becoming a member of the Guild?
Write a play, submit it with an application. It’s really that simple. You can get the application on line at http://www.dramatistsguild.com/ .

What is THE LOOP and how does one subscribe?
The Loop is a very, very large online community of playwrights tied together in a social network that has 15 sub-groups of playwrights and hundred of submission opportunities posted. Each member gets his/her own profile page which they can upload scripts to, post a resume, news about their writing, a link to their own web page. It’s very cool. Go to http://www.thelooponline.ning.com/ to sign up.

In your opinion, what are the greatest challenges facing playwrights in the contemporary American theater?
To have our plays produced – pure and simple – because it’s only dramatic literature until our work lives on a stage. So we have to re-imagine our careers; we have to include self-production as a very real possibility. We have to think about co-productions, and playwrights’ collectives like 13P in New York, or, Playwrights 6 in Los Angeles. We have to take our careers in our own hands. Period.

No comments:

Post a Comment