By Byrne Harrison
Award-winning playwright Gabrielle Fox has had her plays produced throughout New York City, and in Westchester, Putnam, and Orange Counties. Theatres include the American Theatre of Actors, Baruch Performing Arts Center, Where Eagles Dare Studios and the Axial Theatre. One of her plays was recently made into a film and is currently in post-production. She has recently taken up directing as well. Gaby is a member of Polaris North and the Dramatists Guild.
What was your first theatrical experience and how was it?
My mother is an actress and I grew up running lines with her and sitting in on rehearsals and fell in love with the process and the rhythms of the dialogue, the importance of the words. Sitting in the bleachers of the Jones Beach Theatre during rehearsals of The Music Man felt like my own private performance and I loved being part of that world. I tried acting here and there, (most recently a zombie extra in a failed TV pilot - I make a mean zombie!), but I’ve always been more comfortable behind the scenes creating the world for the characters rather than living in those worlds. Growing up in Westchester in a school that brought us to the theatre almost every year was also wonderful. The music of A Chorus Line still gives me chills!
What is your theatrical background?
My training in the theatre has been mostly hands on. I’ve studied with Tony Howarth at the Axial Theatre in Westchester for years. He’s taught me the importance of how to both give and receive criticism. How to recognize the feedback that rings true to the vision of the story and characters and what doesn’t. I’ve also taken acting classes so that I can understand a character from the actors’ perspective and to understand what they might be looking for from the playwright. Nothing beats learning on the job. Working with directors and actors and watching the play grow through collaboration is magical (most times!). There are many times when the director and actors have added so much to the play that I forget that it was once mine. For me, it’s been really important to see theatre, read plays and learn and be inspired by them. There is nothing, absolutely nothing like live theatre.
Tell me a little bit about your plays. Where do you get your inspiration as a writer?
I don’t really look for inspiration, usually I’ll hear a bit of dialogue or come across a setting that I think would be interesting on the stage or an interesting situation for characters to live in. It usually starts with a very simple idea or action and then the characters take over; they dictate the play and its direction. If they don’t, it’s not working, and I’ll move on to the next idea. When I start writing a play, it is rarely from the beginning. The play always seems to start in the middle and I have to work my way to the beginning and the end. I don’t try to focus on themes, or style but I’ve been told that my plays are character driven, usually touch on the themes of loneliness and involve the struggle to connect. The most important plays that I’ve seen or read have impacted me on a gut level and that’s what I strive for in my work.
What are the best and worst things about working in theatre in New York?
I love, love, love New York. There is so much theatre everywhere and the energy is contagious. There is such an enormous number of talented people to work with and learn from that it is never boring. The worst part is that it’s so easy to get lost in the shuffle and trying to get produced can be a roller coaster but it’s the best roller coaster ride there is!
If you could send some advice back in time to yourself in high school or college, what would it be?
What are you waiting for! Do it now! Oh and my favorite quote “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”
I understand you'll have a show in this year's Planet Connections Theater Festivity. Tell me a little something about the play.
Yes! I was accepted into the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity. I’ll be presenting Fox Tales: An Evening of One Act Plays. It will include my one acts THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT, WINFLUENCE, and GOOD FRIDAY. This is something I’ve wanted to do for awhile and I’ll be working with a wonderful cast and director. The festival will begin in June and Fox Tales will have 6 performances (dates TBD) I can’t wait for these characters to be together all in one place. Each play has 2 characters each and they come from very different worlds and find they have more than they realized in common. The settings for each play couldn’t be more different - a graveyard, an office, and a Christian theme park. Should be fun!
What's else is on tap for you in 2010?
I started off the year with DARCY & DUKE in the Short Play Lab at Where Eagles Dare Studios. This March, my play SISTERS FOR LIFE will be presented at Westchester Community College as part of Women’s History Month and will kick off a panel discussion with presenters and students. And hopefully lots more. I’m putting the finishing touches on a full length version of THE TALK and THE BROWNSTONE and hope to have staged readings of them both in the near future.
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