Apr 17, 2011
I Interview Playwrights Part 337: Gabe McKinley
I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, and also spent a lot of time in Europe, mostly in Majorca, Spain. My father was a professor and we traveled a lot, but I was in KC for high school, and my extended family is there, so I consider it home.
Well, as I write this, I'm in Los Angeles...being the literary equivalent of the guys who hang out in front of Lowe's waiting for work, hoping somebody will drive up, point to me, and ask me to write an episode of the Chicago Code or some such. But, that being said, I've been living in New York since coming there to study acting at NYU in the 90's.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Currently I'm writing a film for an independent producer, and I'm pretty excited about it. Theater wise, I have a new play that is making the rounds with theater companies in New York. The play, CQ/CX, is about a plagiarism scandal at a New York newspaper. We recently had a great reading for a theater company and we're waiting for someone to give the show and opportunity. Otherwise, aside from looking for television work, I've been doing sketches and working on two new plays, one is a dark comedy about a effects of a celebrity's sex tape on a couple's relationship, and the other, still in its infancy, is an epic romance...or, at least, my version of.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: I've had either the honor or horror, depending on your point of view, of being surrounded by writers my entire life. My parents, who are both writers, and their friends, most of whom are writers, poets and painters, had a great effect on me from a very early age. I spent a lot of time at poetry readings and writers conferences and I'd stay up late and listen to my parents and their friends talk about the books they loved and others they were writing and I think it seeped into my brain at an early age that writing was a noble profession and that, perhaps, one day i'd like to join it. I can think of no singular moment or event that made me a writer... but, I often think about my father's typewriter in his studio, it was a big old lug of thing and he had taped a small piece of paper with the word "truth" written on it. I think of that yellowed piece of paper and it's simple message when I sit down to write and then I try to write one truthful thing after another.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: More money for artists.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: As an American playwright, I fell in love with Eugene O'Neill first, and I still hold him dear. Checkov, of course, and Georg Buchner. Mamet, Shepard, August Wilson, Lanford Wilson, Pinter, Bond, Osborne, Kushner, Kennedy, Kane and Parks.... there are a lot of great writers I steal from, I could go on and on.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Honest and brave works... and not brave in the sense of shocking, but rather, just brutally truthful. Great writing is a bloodletting, and I think great theater is the same.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: John Guare said something about never getting a job, but in this economy...that's moot. So, I'll say...read everything, not just plays, but fiction, nonfiction, newspapers, magazines, both prose and poetry. Reading is writing. Also, GO TO THE THEATER! I'm always surprised when I speak to writer who doesn't make the effort to get to the theater.