Sunday, August 01, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 227: Meg Gibson


Meg Gibson

Hometown, Current Town:

Born in Bridgeton, New Jersey-really South Jersey as we say, down by the Delaware Bay and the reason why they call it the Garden State. I ran around in the asparagus and tomato fields until I was eight. My father is third generation inventor so there was always a lot of creativity going on.

I do remember the parents going to NYC to see plays and how wildly excited they were by what they'd seen. When I was old enough to be taken to the city it was like being in a comic book. It loomed over everything. I spent some time in PA then vamoosed to Utah for college and skiing. I started acting there and then came to NYC for conservatory training. Pretty much been here ever since. I am a settler as E. B. White would say. I've made this my home. NYC- it's tough, it's expensive, it's home.

Q: Tell me about Seven Seven Seven.

A: The play is Tatata. It means the suchness of the moment.

It's a riff on making music, being sisters, having parents that are rock and roll and movie stars from the 1960's, what it is to be second generation to that history, how do they carve out their own careers, keeping their own work real in this culture of fame and product.

All that in ten minutes. I liked the challenge of the form and the sight specific setting of Jimmy's. Jimmy's is an old speak easy- I can always sense the history of burlesque or vaudeville or whatever went on in that back room with this little stage and little bathroom. Doing a theatre piece about young musicians fit with all that.

Q: What else are you working on?

A: I'm currently shaping on the next writing project. It's a short B and W film. That's all I can say for the moment.

Just finished directing the regional premiere of Too Much Memory, the adapted Antigone I wrote with Keith Reddin that Rising Phoenix Rep produced in the Fringe Festival of 2008. I also directed this wildly funny new play called Charm. It's a surreal comedy of manners about Margaret Fuller and her buddies, Emerson, Thoreau and Hawthorne. It's the antithesis of masterpiece theatre. I loved creating it with a very game cast and design team and old friends in Utah at Salt Lake Acting Company. The play is having some regional productions and I'm working hard to get it done here in NYC.

I'm also in a few episodes of AMC's, Rubicon. I play the widow to the mentor who accidently? mysteriously? was killed.

It's taken me a few years, but I'm finally starting to juggle the three gigs- writing, directing and acting.

Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A: Childhood influence to make theatre. I taught myself to read by the age of 4. I don't know which came first- the imagination or reading and seeing it all as I read. It's a 3D movie in my mind's eye- full of texture, smell, sounds. Same with plays. I imagine the production as I read. So, reading gave me the path to making this work. I also can't help but want to play- play with creating work, developing it with actors, or being the actor that brings a story to life. What better edge is there?

Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A: I wish Theatre were better funded. If we didn't need names to draw in box office and critics, if the work just stood on it's own, produced as pure artistic pursuit- that would be a real plus for our culture.

I enjoy the anonymity in work. How great is it to go to BAM or our Fringe Festival and not know any of the creators or performers? Jus going, being this blank slate and taking in what these producers have chosen to present.

Every culture has it's names. I did enjoy Denzel Washington in Fences. Glad he took the time to come do it. He was consummate. But,that will always be a part of our choice. And as a producer, I recognize the need to do that. But we need to look at which piece can be done without the big names. Some work is better without the focus on a star.

More theatre with consummate artists, enthusiastically funded, that's what I'd like to change.

Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A: Theatre heros: Ariane Mnoushkine, Bernie Gerstein, Joe Papp, Simon McBurney, Thomas Ostermeir, LIsa Kron, Les Waters, Irene Worth, Jennifer Tipton, Annie Baker.


Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A: The only advice I have is find your own form, make your demons work for you.