Meet the Fellows:
What was your first experience with theater?
In first grade, I was cast as the king’s youngest son in my school’s production of The King and I. As my photo may suggest, I’m not particularly Thai. However, this being a Sacred Heart school, they didn’t have many options.
Rehearsals began, and I was instantly enamored of the show and musical theatre in general, so much so that I had trouble separating the show’s world from my own. (According to my parents, I started addressing our pre-prandial prayers to Buddha.) Musical theatre offered a type of storytelling I had never encountered before, one that affected me viscerally and emotionally. When the king died, I was so devastated that I cried on stage. In later years, I would recognize this as method acting, but at the time, I feigned a case of strep throat.
When did you recognize you were a writer? Or when did you start writing?
I always wrote and I always did theatre, but it took me years to combine the two.
Ever since that fateful production of The King and I, I’d wanted to be an actor. However, I eventually realized that to succeed as a performer, one needs such things as talent. During my high school’s production of The Crucible, when my rendition of Hawthorne’s climactic you’re-going-to-the-gallows speech brought the audience to tears (of laughter), I figured acting might not be my thing.
Fortunately, in the preceding years, I’d started writing light verse. I first stumbled across the form in fifth grade when I decided that the best way to encourage my parents to upgrade their computer was anapestic tetrameter: “The printer’s not working. The hard drive’s been had. / I wish I could smash it, but Mom would be mad.” In high school, I joined the literary magazine where I was the Person Who Wrote Things that Rhymed (as opposed to your standard literary magazine types: Person Who Writes In All Lower-Case, and Person Who Conflates Poetry with Enjambment).
As my performing career went the way of John Proctor, I realized that (a) an entire genre of theatre consisted of things that rhymed and (b) I wrote things that rhymed, so (c) by writing for theatre, I might achieve some combination of catharsis and poverty.
In college, I wrote the book and lyrics for my first musical, a rock opera about the life and times of Nero. It was love at first write. Well, not for the Yale Daily News. The headline of their review: “Rome’s Failed Ruler Fails on Stage.” Nevertheless, I was hooked.
Where does your inspiration come from? Or who do you look to for inspiration?
My sense of story structure and tone comes from a mishmash of musical theatre over the ages, Calvin and Hobbes, and old-school adventure games where characters want what they want, and nothing short of a DOS memory error will dissuade them.
So, you know, the usual sources.
What are you most looking forward to as a fellow? Or what do you hope to accomplish / learn this year?
I’m really looking forward to hearing and learning from the other fellows’ work. Every one of us approaches theatre, musical and non-, from such a different angle, so our meetings are a fascinating study of what theatre can be and what it can accomplish.
In terms of personal goals, my collaborator Ben Green and I are aiming to complete a draft of our show, a yet-to-be-titled piece about Peruvian miners fighting to make their way in the highest city on earth.
What do you find most rewarding about being a dramatist? Or what do you find most rewarding about the writing process?
The euphoria that I feel when I’m standing in the back of the theatre and the audience is connecting to my work is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. On the flip side, the despair I feel when they don’t connect is also something fierce.
Accordingly, the pursuit of said euphoria (and avoidance of said despair) is what keeps me writing, self-critiquing, and struggling to create that “perfect” piece of theatre. In retrospect, heroin might have been simpler.
Greg Edwards wrote the scripts for Application Pending (Off-Broadway, Drama Desk nomination) and Craving for Travel(Off-Broadway), lyrics for Neurosis: A New Musical (Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, SALT Award for Best New Musical), and book and lyrics for Evelyn Shaffer and the Chance of a Lifetime (Samuel French OOB Festival winner, Take a Ten Musicals), Taking the Plunge (Samuel French OOB Festival, NYMF), and The Almost In-Laws (Take a Ten Musicals). He has collaborated with Marvin Hamlisch (White House Governors’ Dinner, Mr. Hamlisch’s holiday tour) and Arthur Laurents (Love Affair). Greg’s essays are published in Avidly (Los Angeles Review of Books) and McSweeney’s, and his gameJessica Plunkenstein and the Dusseldorf Conspiracy (NYT “Best Adventure Game of the Year”) was published by PC Gamer UK. Honors and approximations thereof include the BMI Harrington Award, the Fred Ebb Award (two-time finalist), and a Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship (top-12 semifinalist). Greg graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Yale, belongs to the BMI Workshop, and can be stalked most effectively at www.greged.com.