Oct 26, 2012
I Interview Playwrights Part 513: Greg Romero
Hometown: Greenwell Springs, Louisiana.
Current Town: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am cleaning up the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.
I love this river and want to create a performance project about it. But I want to learn the river more completely so I can best know how to express it. So I am asking the river to speak to me and hoping an appropriate return gift is to pick up the trash and litter and debris along its banks and in its waters. I have made the commitment to clean-up the river for 50 – 60 hours from now (mid-October) through the end of 2012. I have already gone out several times and loved every minute of it. I wish I could work for the river every day.
If a performance project results from this work, I will be thrilled. If not, I still will be thrilled, and for reasons I probably haven’t imagined yet (maybe it is a performance project already?).
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: First-- I have three sisters, one of which is my twin. That explains me a little bit.
Also, several years ago I wrote to my mother, telling her I was looking closely at my name—that I was trying to discover things about it, trying to decide if it was best keep it, or if I should work to take on a new one.
This is her reply:
On Monday, July 27, 2009 4:52 PM, Nancy Mouton wrote:
A few weeks before you were born - and I didn’t know then what sex each baby was - your dad and I couldn’t come up with two girls names, nor two boys names, so we went with Melanie Claire, and Gregory John. Each name was different enough so that neither of you would have to follow in the shadows of the other.
We decided that when you were born, if you were girls, then we’d pick another girl name, and vice versa. I remember researching name meanings so that I wouldn’t call you both something that meant something awful. Also, having two older sisters I wanted each of you to have a unique name, not unusual, but not commonly used. I had a lot of down time while waiting for you, so I read a lot. I don’t really remember all the meanings from different languages, but I knew you needed a strong name.
And yes, you were not breathing when you were born.
They revived you then and they revived you again in the isolette. You actually died twice. Remember, I was there. Right before you were born, feet first I might add, the doctor and nurse worked hard to turn you so you could be born naturally. No such luck, so out you came breached and bruised. I remember telling you how I watched the clock for more than three minutes. My elbows were bruised because I was in shock while waiting and I shook so hard I rattled the gurney. I knew they were about to give up on you. Too much time had passed and chances for a healthy infant were almost none.
Greg, be prepared for what follows, as I never told you this. I am just remembering this now. It’s like I just went back in time. I stared at the clock, then the nurse, then the doctor’s face while he held you cradled face down in his arms - the doctor and I caught eyes and I held his eyes with mine and silently begged him not to give up on you. Minutes passed. Finally, like a miracle, your tiny cat’s cry sounded and I knew you were alive. The nurse cried out, “He’s breathing!”
How could I have forgotten that moment?
I can truly say that time stood still in that room. Since you and Melanie were 7 ½ weeks premature, Melanie’s cries were so soft and kitten like. Not like a full term baby’s cry. Maybe she couldn’t communicate loud enough with you through her cries. You just couldn’t hear her that’s all.
Whatever you decide about your name, know that your given name bonded with your soul long before you took your first breath. You are who you are. Use your name.
Have to close, my heart threads are raveling.
Love now and always, Mom.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: More animals.
Q: From Greg’s 6 year-old nephew, Brody: What would it be like if people spoke in numbers?
A: It would be awesome!
I wonder if it would make us better listeners. Would we learn more just by how things sounded?
I bet it would make our voices more expressive.
Also—it would be really fun to talk to someone who spoke another language, if we were speaking in numbers.
Also—I think it might make us funnier.
I think we should try it. Five three three four five six. Nine nine nine nine nine nine nine nine nine nine nine nine. One.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Wolves, Richard Foreman, wales, Jerzy Grotowski, Pina Bausch, August Wilson, trees, Tennessee Williams, Zeami, elephants, Erik Ehn, Suzan-Lori Parks, Sam Shepard, oceans, Samuel Beckett, children, dreams, bison, and stars.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Fewer words and more action (and again, more animals). Impossible things happening. Images I’ve never imagined. Music in it. Rituals and rites of passage. Movement. Gift-exchanges. Discovering things deeply human and personal. When there is food and drink. Theater that cares, profoundly, about the people participating in it; theater whose creators have taken the time to ask,
“why would people come to this?”
Q: From Greg’s 6 year-old nephew, Brody: Are there really negative numbers?
A: Uncle Greg: Yes.
Brody: So that means they don't like people, right?
Uncle Greg: Good question! I really don’t know. Maybe negative numbers only know how to speak in words. Maybe if they’re so negative they should do something fun (like dance like a bear). Maybe we should ask them? What do you think?
Q: Plugs, please:
A: I just closed a production of my all-ages play, Of Plastic Things and Butterfly Wings, in the 2012 Philly Fringe Festival. The wonderful producing company (who also commissioned the work), Little Fish Theatre, is now touring this production to Philly/New Jersey-area schools in partnership with Fernbrook Farms Education Center.
Of Plastic Things and Butterfly Wings also opena in Phoenix on December 1st, running through December 16th, produced by the good folks at Space 55.
I am also looking for homes for two of my collaborations with electronic music composer Mike Vernusky—Radio Ghosts and The Babel Project—hoping to continue their lives.
Lastly, the work on the Schuylkill River Project is ongoing.