Monday, November 2, 2015
Spotlight On...Gavin Broady
Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Education: Kenyon College (Fiction, Theater and Classics)
Favorite Credits: The Oath (Weston Playhouse). The Summoners (Hook & Eye Theater Co.)
Why theater?: I’ll answer that question in the form of Tom Hanks movie references: Writing fiction is like "Castaway", where your problem-solving involves isolation, demented muttering and infrequent bathing. Writing theater is more like "Apollo 13", where you’re trapped in a very small room but have a team of passionate, generally attractive people who are working collaboratively to solve your problems with you. There’s a higher likelihood of tension and conflict in that process - but the celebrations afterward are much more satisfying than just sadly high-fiving your imaginary volleyball friend. (If you’re wondering: composing music is "Big", and writing poetry is "Road to Perdition".)
Tell us about God is a Verb: The play’s inspiration, utopian design scientist Buckminster Fuller, was a sort of technocratic Don Quixote who thought he could change the world by altering people’s perceptions of it. He understood that history, when viewed from afar, can be tremendously inspirational: the arc of human progress inarguably trends upward, and our ingenuity and creativity often appear boundless. But he also understood that, viewed from up close, much of that inspiring human progress has been driven by a series of cold, ugly machines that eat poor people as a means of sustaining the comfort of a very small group of pale, oblivious people. Fuller fervently believed that in order to change history and ultimately reduce world suffering, all he had to do was build a better machine. The play is about the ways in which he was both utterly right, and hopelessly wrong.
What inspired you to write God is a Verb?: The artistic directors of our theater company approached me after our last show and explained that they were interested in a character named Buckminster Fuller. My knowledge of him was sketchy at best, but a few weeks later I was having dinner with my girlfriend and her family when I mentioned the project. Her father responded: “Oh! I know Bucky.” It turns out Bob was a participant in one of Fuller’s original “World Game” experiments in New York during the summer of 1969. The fascinating material and firsthand anecdotes Bob provided about the man sparked a months-long dive into the mountain of written text and archival material Fuller left behind. During that time I became fascinated not only by the World Games he actually conducted, but also the fantastical end goal he had for the World Game project: he dreamed that one day world leaders would play the World Game on a digital game board the size of a football field, and it would all be broadcast live around the world, and that this would replace all warfare. The clash of pragmatism and absurdity suggested a play that would be more than a biopic or a history play, and would instead grapple with the friction between fantasy and reality that I believe rages inside all idealists.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I’m drawn to plays that are unafraid to live in their own world and to operate by their own reality. Better still if the playwright understands that operating in a heightened or skewed reality does not free one of the obligation to create characters that feel logical and real within the confines of that reality. The most meaningful experiences for me have all involved leaving the theater feeling as though I’d just spent two hours witnessing a vividly strange new elaboration on the human creature. As an artist, I also take a lot of my inspiration from reading poetry. At it’s best, poetry accomplishes the excruciatingly difficult balance of sensory richness, density of meaning and precision of language - which is, of course, equally true for theater.
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I wouldn’t mind sort of sitting quietly in the back of the rehearsal room and watching how Richard Maxwell makes a play.
What show have you recommended to your friends?: I saw Natasha, Pierre... during its first week at Ars Nova, and I’m very fond of telling people I saw Natasha, Pierre... during its first week at Ars Nova. It’s been a while since I’ve seriously lobbied on behalf of a show that I had no personal or social connection with, but I remember telling people they had to go see Neva at the Public and Samuel Hunter’s The Whale at Playwright’s Horizons.
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I would be played by an adorable puppy, and the movie would be called “A Writer’s Life Is Profoundly Boring, So Instead Here’s Two Hours of An Adorable Puppy.”
If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I’d like to participate in the riots that followed the 1896 opening of Ubu Roi.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I spend a lot of time and money composing and recording music, despite not being a particularly gifted or interesting musician. I justify it as a form of therapy.
If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: A more attentive boyfriend and dog parent.
What’s up next?: The play opens on Nov. 4th. After that? Catching up on sleep.