Garret Schneider's ULTRASOUND | Ingram New Works Festival
Ingram New Works Playwright Garret Schneider on Ultrasound.
This week for "Theatre Thursday" we focus on Ingram New Works Playwright Garret Schneider. Our New Media/Marketing Coordinator Shane Burkeen sat down with Garret to talk about his upcoming festival play Ultrasound.
Shane: Describe your new play Ultrasound in one word.
What is your new play about?
It's about a planned relationship. It's about a couple, Jolene and Maddy, who plan to have a baby. Once all of their planning works, Jolene gets cold feet about it. It is only the arrival of their future daughter that helps Jolene realize what it takes to be a good parent.
Who's in your cast?
My cast is amazing. I have been so lucky to see all three of my actresses in other Nashville works, and they were fabulous. If you hate everything I've said, and everything I say after this, you should see my play because of the talent that has been assembled for it.
Rebekah Durham (Jolene) and Evelyn Brush (Maddy) play wife-and-wife amazingly. Their chemistry is nuanced and powerful.
Keri Pisapia plays their daughter from the future, and she sets the role on fire. I am so excited.
We also have a director. Maybe you've heard of him, Pete Vann?
We’ve heard of Pete Vann.
He brings an energy to the room which is palpable, and an infectious excitement.
“Infectious excitement” is a perfect way to describe Pete.
I would be lucky if I got to work with these four every time I worked in Nashville.
What do you like about working in Nashville?
What is there not to like? There are venues that can be rented without mortgaging your house! The actors I've been able to work with are nice, and talented, and dedicated. I have rarely been in a room where the actors consistently bring SO MUCH to the table.
Where did the idea come from?
It started as a ten-minute play I presented at the Playhouse Nashville Ten Minute Playhouse. A small play with a big idea: husband and wife. Husband is so myopic on his work- working on crafting genes- that the only way the wife feels safe to tell him she's pregnant is by describing his work. And he's scared to death that a child of his will only get the worst in him. Through her, he realizes the only way to combat his genes, his problems, is to be there for his son.
When did you start working on this play as a full-length?
Ha! I have no idea. Let me check. (He takes out his phone) Man, thank god for Evernote. It's a program that allows me to take notes on my phone, and those same notes can show up on my computer, and on my tablet. I still have about four partially filled notebooks, but Evernote has allowed me to keep track of everything, and put my notes all together.
Are you getting paid to advertise Evernote?
Evernote sends me checks every time I say the word Evernote. Evernote.
Here. First entry. About my plot and how to handle the second act. So, May. Last year. That's when I started plotting this play.
How has the play changed since you started?
If you think of my play like a house, then the first draft is like the houses that are going up by 12th south and 8th avenue. When I would live over there, my wife and I would take a walk and just look at all of the wood that goes into building them- seeing only the foundations and the beams and the walls. That was my first draft. It had nothing fancy, it was something which was sturdy in parts, but the floor wasn't completely built.
No one wants to live in a house in the first part of construction.
So I added negotiations, I made the characters WANT something, I pitted Jolene and Angela, the daughter, against each other in the beginning, I cut out and combined scenes, and the biggest change on the surface is the gender of the characters. I started with a husband-and-wife couple, and I changed it to a wife-wife.
You’re about to be a father yourself, how has that changed your play?
Oh man, in all the ways you wouldn't expect!
In the past, I've tried writing personal plays- you know, from my life. But they always end up being horrible, and about an hour too long. Now I just focus on writing something that I have fun with, and that feels true, as opposed to actually true. So my coming fatherhood hasn't influenced my story, but rather how I go about writing it.
I'm writing something that I want to be able to pass down to my son, as something his father has crafted. I only want to write plays which are the best possible that I can craft, if that makes sense. I want my son to be proud of his dad's work.
At the same time, expecting a child puts everything in perspective. Working a draft, outlining it, rehearsing, I used to freak-out and be nervous, but I don't have the luxury of that anymore. I sit down, I do the work, if it's bad, I do it again. I work until it's right.
You're a full time math teacher, too, right? When do you find time to write?
Man, it can be hard! Yeah, I work at Hunter's Lane High School teaching Algebra 1.
What you need, more than anything else, is a supportive wife- and a dog that needs to get up at 6am on the weekends. I usually get up to let the dog out a couple of hours before she wakes up, and I write until breakfast. So, if I'm focused, I can get at least 4-6 hours a week. If a deadline is coming up, and I need more time, I find a way to fit it into the schedule. In grad school, I never had enough time to write! Now that I have a family and a full-time job, I realize that writing time is time that I carve out, and that makes it more precious.
Are you the only math teacher-slash-playwright in the world?
I am. I have the badge. I had to send away for it with pay stubs and a math test.
Garret Schneider's Ultrasound premieres at Nashville Rep's Ingram New Works Festival, May 9 & 12, 2013, 7:00 PM. For reservations and more information on the festival please click here.