Interview: Peter Gil-Sheridan

Posted on May 15, 2013

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SheridanWhere are you from originally? Where are you living now?
I am originally from Rahway, New Jersey where I lived with my Mom. I spent all my summers living with my Dad in Tampa, Florida, where Cockfight is set. I now live in Brooklyn, NY, next door to the industrial fish market and across the street from the Dunkin’ Donuts factory. Summers are a challenge.

What first drew you to a life in the theatre and playwriting, in particular?
At the time, it seemed a better option that the priesthood. Now I have my doubts. I mean, free housing, coats of many colors, respect! But at what cost? Now is not the time to re-enter this debate with myself. I realize that. I was drawn to the theatre because all young gay boys are drawn to singing, dancing, and generally acting out. I found out very quickly that I was really funny on stage and it was nice to be laughed at because I was TRYING to be laughed at as opposed to being laughed at for the way that I walked, talked, or thought. So you know, I came to college at Fordham, jazz hands at the ready and was firmly walloped by “serious” playwrights like Buchner, and Wedekind, and other cheerful Germans. Then I graduated and was repeatedly cast as apes in plays in Alphabet City and realized that, perhaps, acting was not for me. Writing was a natural fit, a way of staying in theatre without having to go there every night to pretend to eat bugs out of people’s hair. Plus I’m verbal. I like verbal people. I need to create my own structures. I certainly need to process my damage.

What is the first play you ever wrote and has it been produced?
The first play I ever wrote was called The Job and it was about the psychological effects of giving 300 blow jobs. It was produced by the NY International Fringe Festival when I was 21 years old.

What or who has inspired you?
Gandhi. Mother Teresa. Paul Meshejian.

I grew up around a lot of salty old ladies and sketchy characters. It was the 80’s. There were drugs, and Cubans, and perms, and hairweaves. One set of my parents were hair stylists. They all inspire me, all those ghosts. There was a certain wisdom, but it wasn’t cute. Wisdom with spikes, you know.

What was the initial inspiration for the play being workshopped at PlayPenn?
It’s a play I’ve wanted to write for years. I just had this image of this giant egg. And this image of a really hot Latino guy dressed as a rooster. And in my mind I wanted to create a piece about a dad and a son fighting over the same dude, but for entirely different reasons. So I got into the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab and I thought, now is the time. Do it! And I did and I’m in love with it because despite the fact that my father is not completely like the character of Big Juan in my play, it is a play that is a tribute to my father, who is maybe a bit gentler and loving than he ever really lets on.

Why did you decide to apply to PlayPenn, and what do you hope to get out of the conference?
I’ve heard such great things about it. My friend Jen Haley developed her play Breadcrumbs here and had a fantastic experience. I need some real time in the room with the play, along with my director Anna Brenner, who was my director at the Soho Rep Lab. I hope to see the play fully produced and I’d like to address whatever issues the play might have before I get into the rehearsal room of a fully-realized production.

What’s the most interesting job you’ve worked while trying to support yourself as a writer?
I was an elevator repairman dispatcher at Millar Elevator for several years. It was very blue collar. My presence there was highly comical. “Hey Mario, I got people trapped at 1501 Broadway.” Needless to say, it was all very erotic.

If you could change anything about the American theatre, what would it be?
See those who inspire me for better answers. Paul, I’m lookin’ at you. (I guess I try my best not to think what I wish were different anymore. I just try to accept it as it is, try to trust there’s a place for me in it, and try not to become demoralized by constantly railing about what doesn’t work. At this point, it’s enough for me to emerge from my house once a day with my teeth brushed. I can’t solve the problems of the American theatre.)

Complete this sentence: I write plays because…
I write plays because it’s an incredibly glamorous lifestyle replete with million dollar mansions, fast cars, and big busted babes. And I like it. It makes me happy. It doesn’t do any harm. Occasionally it makes other people happy.

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