In 2002, Melissa James Gibson won the Obie for playwriting as well as the Whiting Writers Award. Her works have been produced and or developed in numerous locations both regionally and internationally. Her current commissions are with the Atlantic Theater Company, Manhattan Theatre Club and the Second Stage Theatre, and Kirk Douglas Theatre patrons get a chance to peek at her work with the new play titled, "THIS."
While those of us here in Culver City may not be too familiar with a gentleman named Charles Isherwood, he is a prominent New York Times critic. Isherwood recently stated that while all of Gibson’s previous body of work has indeed been noteworthy, “THIS” is the piece that will have ultimately taken her to the “theatrical big leagues.”
Culver City Patch had a chance to talk about the new play with returning actor Glenn Fitzgerald, an original cast member from the Off-Broadway production of “This” and the playwright, Melissa James Gibson.
Culver City Patch: As a returning cast member from the original production, did you have to think long before deciding to return to do "THIS"?
Glenn Fitzgerald: For me, it was a no-brainer. I felt that Melissa had written such a rich, powerful play with great characters. So I felt excited to come back again, since her writing leaves itself open to continued exploration, possibility, and meaning. So yeah, I was excited to come back and in and continue to explore the character.
Patch: Did you envision any new challenges working with a new cast for "THIS"?
Fitzgerald: No, not really. The play itself is so strongly written that from one point-of-view you can go in and create a character and think it is yours, but when you see others come in and do the role you think "Wow, someone else can actually come in and do this!" But again, that is due to the strength of the writing.
Patch: How would you describe working with Melissa James Gibson?
Fitzgerald: She was very collaborative in the early stages of the script in terms of trying to hear my questions and making adjustments. She is very humble, collaborative and generous of her time.
Patch: You have worked extensively in the mediums of theater, television, and motion pictures. Which are you most comfortable with?
Fitzgerald: I would say that I enjoy the theater most because it lends itself to more of a process and rehearsal exploration. Even once you’re up and running night after night, you still have that opportunity to revisit something. Lastly, the exchange that you get with the audience is very satisfying. So for me, that’s why theater is so appealing.
Patch: Where would you like to be five years from now?
Fitzgerald: I would love to be able to continue to work on projects that are satisfying, with people who I am accepted by, appreciated, and who I can collaborate and create with. That is what is really important to me. If I can do that and make a living, then I’ll be very happy.
Patch: Melissa, what inspired you to sit down and write "THIS"?
Melissa James Gibson: Initially I had a thought that I would explore the subject of infidelity. But over the course of the development of the piece I discovered that the larger subject had to do with mortality and grief.
Patch: Would it be safe to say that the characters in “THIS” have a sense that the clock is ticking?
Gibson: Absolutely. I think each of the characters in their own way is taking stock of that.
Patch: You graduated from the Yale School of Drama with a Masters in Playwriting. Was writing in your blood from the start?
Gibson: As a teenager I was very drawn to theater, and initially wanted to act. But shortly thereafter I realized that I began to feel a sense of relief when I left the stage, which probably wasn’t such a good thing. By being a member of a theater company, we all wore different hats. One of the things we all tried was playwriting, and I realized then that I really enjoyed it. So by the time I went to college, I was focusing on writing as a pursuit.
Patch: You have been described as being humble, available, and one who works with her actors in a very collaborative manner. Are you most comfortable with that approach?
Gibson: Playwriting is such a solitary pursuit, and everyone is different. To me, to be in the room with other folks is exciting, as is the collaboration part of the process. When I was writing and re-writing the character that Glenn Fitzgerald plays, I relied on him heavily as there were times when he would question certain things about the script. And I was really grateful as he helped me to dig deeper and think further.