The Real World – Theater Edition: Gino DiIorio

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Gino DiIorio, the writer of SAM AND DEDE (OR MY DINNER WITH ANDRE THE GIANT), opening at Custom Made Theatre on February 11th.

On his website, Gino describes the play as such —

True story: 12-year old Andre the Giant, already over 6 feet tall and 240 pounds, didn’t fit on the school bus. Andre’s neighbor, as a kind gesture of returning a favor, offered to drive him to school in his truck. The neighbor was Samuel Beckett. Out of that bit of trivia comes “Sam and Dede, or My Dinner with Andre the Giant,” imagining three scenes between a giant – a man who cannot hide, and a writer obsessed with silence.

So of course, I was intrigued. I mean lately I’ve been obsessed with silence and subtlety and how it’s theatricalized. Gino and I talked about that and also his influences and creative process.

Enjoy the interview below!

Gino Dilario

Gino DiIorio

Barbara: First off — your premise for SAM AND DEDE sounds amazing — a man obsessed with silence and a giant who cannot hide — how did you come to the idea for this play? What intrigued you?

Gino: My son was very interested in professional wrestling. And I mentioned that when I was his age, I was as well and he asked who were my favorites. And I mentioned Bruno Sammartino and the British Bulldogs and of course, Andre the Giant. He had never heard of him so we Wikied him and that’s where I found out he knew Sam Beckett. And I thought if anyone can write this play, it’s me. Cause I love Beckett as well.

It was great fun to write because once I got them in the room together, I couldn’t shut up them up. They just had great takes on the world, such different experiences and in a way, (not to be too egotistical) but they’re extensions of me. And I guess that’s true of all writers, every character we write is just an extension of ourselves. But Andre is the part of me that thinks I can do everything and that everything is simple and nothing matters and so what if it did? And just have a good time and live life to the fullest. And theatre is about being big and over the top and crazy. Beckett is the part of me that doubts everything, my ability to do anything, the reason to get out of bed in the morning, the weight of the world, the heaviness of existence, the inability to construct a sentence. In this regard I suppose they’re probably like everyone else on the planet!

Barbara: Tell me about your creative process. Is each play unique or do you generally approach new work in a similar way?

Gino: I try to put the characters in a room and let them talk. And if it’s going well, they do things that surprise me.

Barbara: Anything that you’ve come across in your trajectory as a theater artist that made you question or overhaul what you do? What happened? What changed?

Gino: Good question. I sometimes think I’m a bit of an anachronism. I tend to write stuff that’s very linear, straightforward plot lines, etc. I think it’s harder to write a play with a plot. Most writers avoid plot because it’s so damned difficult. But then again, it’s good to try to write something that perhaps doesn’t follow a traditional line and I guess Sam and Dede is just that. It’s a play where I didn’t feel to urge to have anything happen. Kind of like a Beckett play I suppose. Nothing happens. and in turn, things begin to happen in that absence. If that makes sense.

Barbara: How did you get into theater and writing in particular?

Gino: I began as an actor. I did a lot of Shakespeare, regional stuff, commercials, etc. I did it in high school mostly cause I was good at it. And I liked losing myself in the role.

Barbara: Tell me about the current state of theater. Where are we going?

Gino: Oy. In some ways,there’s a lot of good going on. I see a lot of focus on new play development. The problem is it’s too expensive to produce new plays on Broadway and Off Broadway. So it’s hard for plays to get their New York pedigree,if you will. If i could snap my fingers and change one thing about theatre, it’d be that. I’d make it easier to produce new works on the New York stage. it’s just too cost prohibitive. Negotiating a new deal with the technical unions would be a good first start.

But here’s the good news, people still love writing for the theatre. And going to the theatre. It’s wonderfully atavistic and despite the cost and the assault from new technologies, it still remains unique and vibrant.

Barbara: Anything about it that scares you or makes you dream big?

Gino: Wow. I don’t know. I think I get scared that I’ll die before I finish all these play ideas I have in my head! I don’t dream that big. I dream of small honest moments on stage. If I get a lot of those, I’m happy.

Barbara: What’s next for you?

Gino: I’m researching a historical piece on slavery in the 18th century. Yeah, I know. Good luck getting that produced! But it’s what I’m interested in.

Barbara: Words of wisdom for people who want to do what you do?

Gino: If you can do anything else, do it. If you must write or be in the theatre, don’t think you can make a living at it. Remember what makes it great, what you love about it, and judge your success by how much you live in that.

Barbara: Any bad advice that might actually be good?

Gino: Wow, good question. I’ve been lucky, I haven’t gotten that much bad advice. But I will share something my good friend Gary Garrison told me, it’s good to listen to lots of people but reserve the right to ignore all of it. Or some of it. You can pick and choose your advice. Ultimately the piece has to mean something to you. It’s why you wrote the thing in the first place.

Barbara: Shout outs and plugs for your things (theater and otherwise), friends’ things or just anything you thought was rad?

Gino: New Jersey Rep is the greatest. Suzanne and Gabe Barabbas, great people. Clark University rocks. Which is where I met Leah Abrams and Brian Katz of Custom Made!

Dave Sikula and Brendan Everett in rehearsal at Custom Made for SAM AND DEDE.

Dave Sikula and Brendan Averett in rehearsal at Custom Made for SAM AND DEDE.

You can catch SAM AND DEDE at Custom Made Theatre from February 11 through March 5.

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Cowan Palace: A Play, A Pregnancy, A Passion for Broccoli Tacos, And Other Chats with Mary McGloin

This week, Ashley Cowan chats with actress, Mary McGloin!

In an already exciting season for Custom Made Theatre Co., I recently had the opportunity to see their latest production of How The World Began and not to get into “review territory” but I thought it was fantastic. Aside from catching Theater Pub’s February contribution, I sadly haven’t been up for a lot of theatrical viewings these days. Unfortunately, it’s been difficult to sit longer than an hour without having to pee or put my feet up so seeing anything away from my couch has been tricky. And to be honest, when I entered Custom Made’s space last week, I was already uncomfortable and achy.

But in true theatre healing style, I sat down and was immediately brought to another place. Where I could watch three characters, one of which was suffering through pregnancy pains of her own, explore the divide between religion and biology.

In this Bay Area premiere, written by Catherine Trieschmann and directed by Leah S. Abrams, we meet Susan (played by Mary McGloin), a high school science teacher, her student Micah (played by Tim Garcia), and Micah’s “guardian”, Gene (played by Malcom Rodgers) who are all fighting for a chance to be heard and understood. I had the opportunity to ask Mary McGloin a few questions regarding her experience with the production and gain some additional insight into this piece about the universe’s origin story.

picture by Anne Livingston

picture by Anne Livingston

AC: What first drew you to How The World Began and helped you to accept a role three thousand miles away from home?

MM: I first discovered How The World Began back in 2011 when I went on an acting retreat in Costa Rica with casting director, Alaine Alldaffer. She runs the retreat and assigns each actor a role and a play to work on for it. She assigned me Susan. I immediately fell in love with the play and the role and dove into working on it. I will always remember doing the 3rd scene on a beach.

When I saw the Off-Broadway production at the Women’s Project in 2012, I fell in love with the play again and hoped to one day play Susan. Back in April of 2014, Leah, our wonderful director, announced that she was going home to SF to direct this play in Winter of 2015, I immediately said, “I’m right for that role.” Lucky for me, she agreed enough to cast me, which led me home to the Bay Area for this production. (Missing winter in NY notwithstanding.)

AC: What is the biggest thing you have in common with your character, Susan?

MM: That’s funny you should ask. My little sister and brother in law came to the show and said, “Oh my God, she’s exactly like you, did they write this role for you?” I definitely have a very strong sense of justice, fairness, and a desire to stand up and stand by what I believe in, even if it makes me unpopular. That said, I think I personally am a bit more hypersensitive to other people’s feelings and beliefs and would probably have not ended up in the same situation exactly. I tend to apologize more. Though we are eerily similar.

AC: What’s been the biggest surprise challenge in playing Susan?

MM: Surprise challenge? I am not sure what was a surprise exactly but – when I initially read the script, some of the way she talks seemed foreign to me, I don’t say things like “willy-nilly” and “doing my darndest” but it was surprisingly easy to get that once I saw where she was coming from. The first scene sets up quite a tone for the play and I knew that I had to answer a few questions internally to know where to start from. It’s also important I think not to get angry or frustrated with Micah early on as he’s a kid who’s clearly hurting and she’s really trying to do the best she can, that and there’s a long way to go and if you start there you’ve no where to end up.

AC: As the play centers around discussions of faith and biological origin, did conversations of this nature infuse the rehearsal process as well?

MM: This is San Francisco, after all, so no, not really.

AC: What do you hope audiences leave thinking about after they’ve seen the show?

MM: About how easy it is to mis-characterize what other people believe – maybe how they would feel in the situation, how we as a country might be able to be a bit more tolerant of one or another’s views, whether we agree with them or not. Maybe especially when we disagree.

Picture by Jay Yamada

Picture by Jay Yamada

AC: How has your acting preparation process been influenced by playing a character who is pregnant?

MM: I’ve never been pregnant, so I read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and asked friends who have been for their experiences. I also did a lot of people watching.

AC: What has been your favorite part about being back in the Bay Area theatre scene?

MM: Oh, God, I miss home. This is my home. I have a lot of friends and family here. I come home typically at least twice a year to visit. Before I moved to the East Coast, I had been living in SF and other parts of the Bay Area for 15 years. I have worked at theatres all around the Bay. Everyone is nice, welcoming, supportive and you can really get to know the community and be seen for roles when they’re casting – New York is so huge and so competitive – it’s hard to keep on keepin’ on but it’s what we do. I was broken-hearted when I had to leave SF. But ultimately, I believed after understudying 12 times at Bay Area Theatres – mostly to women who lived in NYC and had MFA’s – that if I wanted to compete with that I needed to get my MFA and move to NYC, so I did. Was that accurate? I guess I’ll never really know. I would love to come back here at any time and do shows. Eventually, I’d love to be so well situated in my career that I could live anywhere and work consistently, and not just on stage but in TV and Film as well.

AC: What do you miss most about Brooklyn and the New York artistic scene?

MM: New York is pulsating and alive. It’s like being on a train that never stops. There is a great amount of opportunity there to succeed and in a very big way – but it also comes with a big price tag. It’s because of the support of my friends and family here and there that I can get up and do what I do everyday.

To be honest, though, I miss my friends and family in Brooklyn and NY (though if I were there I’d miss you guys here, doh!) , I miss the constant auditioning, I miss the willingness of everyone to bust their butt to make something happen. Brooklyn, itself, I miss Prospect Park, I miss broccoli tacos, I miss finding new and unexpected places to go.

AC: Tell us about where we can see you next and any upcoming projects!

MM: I am busy writing 2 web series in NYC. One is called Lines & Asides and I shot a pilot that got into a few film festivals. It will probably be re-shot when we shoot the whole season. The show revolves around a classically trained actress (typecasting) struggling in NYC and the people she knows – it’s really a story of the life of most of the actors I know in NYC – the idea and the humor are kind of a cross between Slings & Arrows, Waiting for Guffman and The Office. It’s been fun to write – I’ve written 2 seasons, I want to write a final third and then do some re-writes before trying to get it shot.

The other series is about 2 women who work at a startup tech company. My day job has been as a QA Engineer for many years and both me and my co-creator, Amanda Van Nostrand, are taking stories from our lives in this word to make a short (3-5min) episodic. This one is all set in an office and I hope to shoot much sooner than Lines & Asides.

AC: In twelve words or less, why should people come and see How the World Began?

MM: It’s a powerful script that will give you something to talk about!

Picture by Jay Yamada

Picture by Jay Yamada

How The World Began Runs has four shows left and will close on March 8th. To get tickets, please go to: www.custommade.org/tickets and catch this show while you can!

Falling With Style: Broadway, On and Off

Helen Laroche comes at you, live from New York…

I write to you this week from my Airbnb’d Chelsea apartment. I’d like to tell you that I’m sitting at a pristine desk facing a window, hair disheveled, musing aloud a la Carrie Bradshaw. But the truth is, I’m lying supine on the unmade bed, laptop on my knees a la Hannah Horvath. My husband and I are in town for a few days before we move on to New Jersey for a friend’s wedding. (If we’re lucky, we may even see fellow Theatre Pub writer and my former castmate Eli Diamond while we’re here!)

Like nearly every other theatre person on the planet, I’ve long considered New York to be a theatrical mecca. I incorporated my eventual move to The City into my post-college plans. I fantasized about my eventual life here. I added New York legs to any Eastbound trip and tried to see as many shows as possible. I even had my bachelorette weekend in Manhattan, with my 4 bridesmaids and I huddled into a hostel room for maximum savings. (Somewhere, a picture exists of me — in a “Bachelorette” sash — and my bridesmaids kicklining in Times Square. And I believe that this was before they turned Times Square into a pedestrian area, so it was extra annoying.)

So here I am, back in the city I’ve dreamed of for so long. And it’s not what I want it to be. Like every other crush I’ve ever had, the fantasy I made up for myself leaves no breathing room for the real thing.

First of all, there was the guardedness of the people around me that felt like a punch to the gut. Remember that Baz Luhrmann song “Always Wear Sunscreen”? One of the lines was “Live in New York, but leave before it makes you too hard. Live in Northern California, but leave before it makes you too soft.” I think I’ve gone really soft. I’ve gotten used to keeping my head up, making eye contact with other people, smiling and making some semblance of a connection, a sharing of energy, with strangers. (And, yes, even thinking the phrase “sharing of energy” is a sign of that NorCal softness at work.) The blockage I got from other people in the first few hours of walking around was noticeable. It wasn’t big, and it wasn’t from everyone, but it put me in a sour mood that I ended up directing at my poor husband.

Second of all, a realization that’s been dawning on me for some time now: Broadway, at least vision of Broadway I have in my head as a shining pinnacle of theatre, does not exist. Maybe it did when I was a kid, when I first built that seed of a dream in my head. Maybe it never existed. But my love for creation, for telling new stories, is greater than my love for telling bombastic, high-budget ones. And in light of that, I think I’ll always be a workshop and black box girl.

I have an aversion to things so overly polished that they’ve lost the crags and spots that make them relatable (I’ve always thought this was a backlash to my LA upbringing). I feel foolish saying this, but I never fully allowed myself to apply this aversion to my dream of Broadway. As with all childhood dreams, it’s surprisingly emotional to see this one laid to rest.

But maybe there’s still hope in Off-Broadway.

Helen Laroche is a Bay Area actor and singer. She can make you a 5 shot venti soy half-caf no whip salted caramel mocha. Learn about upcoming performance dates at http://www.helenlaroche.com.