Thursday, October 4, 2018

Spotlight On...Dominick DeGaetano

Name: Dominick DeGaetano

Hometown: West Babylon, NY

Education:  BA, George Washington University; MFA, Stony Brook University

Favorite Credits:  This is my first production as a playwright! I’ve mostly been doing the development circuit, but I’ve also had the privilege of working in the background to bring some amazing projects to life, like working on the NYC team for Broken Bone Bathtub in 2016 and Book Assistant on Bridges of Madison County during its Williamstown run.

Why theater?: Lots of reasons! Superficially, as someone with the attention span of a gnat, I like turning my phone off for an hour and having some constructive silent thinking time along with a few dozen strangers. As a writer, I like sitting down with an idea and attacking it from multiple angles, which theater allows you to do. And sentimentally, growing up as a young guy, theater is one of the few socially acceptable places for you to have feelings. And I have a lot of feelings.

Tell us about Turing Test: Turing Test is the 70s sci-fi thriller I’ve always wanted to make. It’s about a poet that is forced to take part in a secret government experiment to teach a computer how to write poetry. However, the computer starts getting its own ideas, which makes trouble for everyone. It’s smart and thrilling, but with a heart; think Westworld meets Dead Poets Society. Taylor Edelle Staurt, our director, and I have assembled one of the best teams I’ve ever worked with on this. It’s going to be something really great.

What inspired you to create Turing Test?: A lot of things! I always write toward a feeling, something I’m trying to figure out. The core of this play is that feeling that the world just wants to crunch you down into a number and smooth off your rough edges. That’s something plenty universal, and something I’ve struggled with a lot.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I like anything that challenges me not only with content, but with form. I think the Aristotle-Brecht binary is played out, and I’m looking for things that radically reconfigure how I think about what theater is. That’s not necessarily technical stuff like what Andrew Schneider does, or immersive stuff like Houseworld (though both are pretty awesome). I mean, Annie Baker’s John also blew my mind, and that’s all script-based. I’m just looking for good ideas to steal, and they can come from anywhere. I’m a big fan of reading anything I can get my hands on; that’s usually where the ideas come from. Another thing is crossing mediums; most of the important lessons I’ve learned about writing come out of playing guitar badly. Failure in general, and giving yourself permission to “be bad” at things, is a huge source of inspiration.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Lighting designers are the alchemists of theater to me: I don’t know anything about how they do what they do, but when they do it right, it turns a bunch of people in costumes into a thing of beauty. So, I’d love to work with the big guns, like Don Holder, and make some of that magic happen.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I mean, there’s a ton of great artists doing work at this year’s FringeNYC festival. Personally, I’m pumped to see Jessica Creane’s Chaos Theory, which is gonna scratch both my left- and right-brain itches. Outside of Fringe, Caitlin Saylor Stephen’s When We Went Electronic at The Tank (my favorite arts org in NYC) looks awesome, and also looks like it’s the vanguard of late-2000s nostalgia, which makes me feel old.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Instead of a movie, can Taylor Mac do a pageant? I can only trust judy to make the life story of a white cis hetero dude from Long Island who moved to Brooklyn truly fabulous.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: A bit of a theater-kid deep cut, but I would have loved to be at Playwrights Horizons on the day they put “Finishing the Hat” into Sunday in the Park with George.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I’m Italian-American, so it’s carbs, cannolis, and The Sopranos.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Doing more canvassing for the November elections! I’m particularly excited by my hometown hero Liuba Gretchen Shirley, who’s working to unseat an incumbent who’s been in office for as long as I can remember.

What’s up next?: I’m in post for a short film, "Emma on the Roof", which I co-wrote & co-directed with the brilliant Maureen Monterubio. Look out for that to hit the festival circuit next year!

For more on Turing Test, visit