May 17, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 171: Gary Sunshine
Hometown: Seaford, New York
Current Town: New York, NY
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I've been in LA since November working as a staff writer on HBO's "Hung." Right before I left home, I did a workshop of my new play at New Dramatists called GOOD DEEDS FOR A WEARY WORLD, and it was recently workshopped again at Theatre of NOTE in LA. And I just finished up a screenplay for Starry Night Entertainment called MOSCOWS, about a secretly wealthy young librarian and her obsession with her college acting teacher.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: When I was about 11, I was cast as the Scarecrow in the Maplewood Day Camp production of "The Wizard of Oz." I was a tiny kid with a big head and a really big voice, which may explain why the drama counselor gave me a song from "Pippin" to sing--one usually performed by a 70- year-old woman. For the slow, sad verse at the top of the song, they had me sit at the lip of the stage a la Judy Garland, and sing into a microphone with a long cord. And then they had me burst to my feet and belt
out the chorus "Oh, it's time to start living, time take a little from the world I'm giving..." The Maplewood Day Camp audience ate it up (at least in my memory of this). This has always felt like a seminal experience. It made me love theater, love connecting with an audience, and, most likely, it made me pretty gay.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I'd go back to the time when plays didn't have to be considered perfect to go up, because it was more important for as many voices to be heard as possible, and not much money was riding on each production. I'd minimize "development" because ultimately, you don't learn all that much about your play from readings--you learn from productions.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Chekhov. Albee. Sondheim. Kushner. Fornes. Used to be Beckett but I think the older I get, the more reluctant I feel to face what he has to say about the world. I hope that changes for me.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Funny, I wanted to say "theater that looks and sounds nothing like TV" but if it's done well, I could care less. Theater that tells the truth and makes me pant.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Connect yourself to creative "homes"--where you feel safe enough to write in ways you'd never imagined. Get your work out there and build up a community of peers whom you can share the process with and make theater with.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: Watch HUNG on HBO this summer!