Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Spotlight On...Eric Gilde

Name: Eric Gilde

Hometown: Cherokee, IA

Education: B.A., English & M.F.A., Acting – Yale University

Favorite Credits: As an actor, George in Our Town, Matt in Red Light Winter, Tom in The Glass Menagerie. As a writer, I think about the first thing I wrote that was produced, a short piece called The Teddy Bear Skeptic. It was about a little girl and her teddy bear. The girl is deeply religious and the teddy bear is an atheist. Over the course of the piece, the teddy bear discovers his faith and, concerned that he has no soul (being a teddy bear), he tries to murder the girl in order to acquire hers. It was a lot of fun.

Why theater?: I moved to a little town in Texas the summer before my 8th grade year. I was pretty unhappy about it, especially being a chubby kid who played video games and listened to heavy metal and industrial music. I didn't care about sports. Most of the other kids didn't really like me, and I didn't really like most of the other kids. I ended up joining the debate team when I was a sophomore in high school for reasons that are still not entirely clear to me. The speech teacher heard I liked arguing, I think. So I joined, and when we went to these tournaments, they also signed me up for various dramatic and improv events, and so I slid a little further into it all. I ended up getting involved with the school play shortly after, mostly because of a girl. We got cast as mother and son in the play, which seemed weird, and so that didn't really help things out between the two of us. That said, I really enjoyed being in the play, and it's kind of been my primary passion ever since. Collaborating with a group of people, and then sharing a story, using great language… when it's really working, there's very little that’s as satisfying to me.

Tell us about the goodbye room: the goodbye room is about two somewhat estranged sisters reconnecting over the weekend of their mother's funeral. Their father and a childhood friend are also present and involved in the proceedings, and everyone is dealing with their grief and haunted by what's happened in their own way. It's a fairly quiet, thoughtful drama, although I think there are numerous moments that are quite funny, as well.

What inspired you to write the goodbye room?: I had been jotting down various thoughts earlier, but I started writing the goodbye room in earnest after my back injury left me pretty much useless in the fall of 2013. It was a sort of therapy, I guess, and I wrote the first draft standing with my laptop at the kitchen counter, because sitting was still too painful for me to do for longer than a few minutes. I had also been thinking a lot about various deaths that had happened in my family, and how people around me responded to them. It ended up becoming an exploration of grief, as well as the way people struggle to communicate and reach each other.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I have pretty varied tastes, but generally it comes down to good storytelling. I love attention to detail, and I love language when it’s used well. And as far as inspiration goes, it really can pop up anywhere. I think you’ve gotta try to make yourself as available to receive whatever’s around you as possible. Because a really good meal can be inspiring. The guy sitting across from you on the train can be inspiring. But all of that said, I do consume a lot of art. Sometimes that means galleries or architecture, but it can just as easily be a TV show or even a videogame. (I play a lot of videogames.) And of course my family inspires me. And of course my friends inspire me.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I’m gonna go with Reed Birney. He’s a freakin’ national treasure.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I think The Humans by Stephen Karam is a pretty astonishing play, deeply haunting and yet frequently hilarious. There is such empathy on display for all of the characters, but the play doesn't make them perfect, and in fact frequently explores this family's capacity to be cruel to each other, oftentimes very casually. And all of the performances (including Reed Birney’s!) are phenomenal. But, you know, I also think that friends should just, generally, see more theatre. Which includes artist friends. It gets very easy to get sucked up in your own bullshit and forget that there are a lot of amazing things going on most of the time, frequently being done by people going broke and ripping their hearts out to get them done in a dank little basement space somewhere.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Maybe like a young John Ritter? It would be called something like “Awkward Pauses” or, like, “Midnight in Stupid Town.” That second one’s got a bit more wow factor to it. As in “Wow, what the hell is that supposed to mean?”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Oof, so many. Antony Sher doing Richard III. Thornton Wilder when he was doing the Stage Manager in Our Town. Laurette Taylor’s opening night performance in The Glass Menagerie. Shakespeare and Chekhov when they were brand new. I mean… I could go on for pretty much forever.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Ummm, let’s see… videogames. I like getting sucked up into a game that you just waste dozens of hours exploring and experiencing. Also… whiskey. Like a good Islay single malt. My wife bought me a bottle of Bruichladdich Port Charlotte last fall and it was kind of a religious experience.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Probably a high school English teacher in a small town somewhere.

What’s up next?: We’re already planning a nine-person Troilus and Cressida as our next project, which probably won’t happen until sometime next year. I have some writing projects that I’m tinkering with that I’m hoping to spend a little more time with. And I’m toying around with a podcast idea that’s still really early on but I think could be a lot of fun to make, even if nobody listened to it. Which is a pretty good strategy for tackling just about anything, really.

For more on the goodbye room, visit Artful.ly