BB: Did you always want to be a playwright? What made you decide to become one?
NG: I came to the theatre relatively late. In high school, I took a creative drama class on a whim, and re-discovered a love for stories and acting. I applied to some acting programs for undergrad, and they all rightly rejected me. In the rigorous and hands-on BA Drama program at Ithaca College, I realized I was always telling stories in my head. After the performance of the first full-length play I ever wrote, a stranger in the audience came up to me, crying, and said "How did you know?" And I thought "Oh, this is it; this is what I'm doing for the rest of my life."
BB: What was the first play you ever wrote?
NG: The first full-length I wrote was called Time and Tides. It was inspired by a traumatic event in my family, and an attempt to figure out the history that led to it and my place in it. Some friends and I staged it at my home-town's local library, which led to the experience with the crying stranger.
BB: What genre's do you typically write? Why?
NG: I tend to write dramas - family dramas, workplace dramas, social dramas - with tragic leanings. The best way to say why I lean that way is probably that I think people need catharsis. We spend most of our lives pushing down emotions because we just have to - you can't go to work and go grocery shopping and be a good partner if you're constantly experiencing the full weight of the world. So we go to the theater and tragedy can help us recognize those feelings, release them, and then more healthily integrate them into our daily lives.
BB: You wrote a play called "Ithaca," which is also a college you attended. How big of an impact did that school have on your career?
NG: Ithaca College's BA Program had a wonderful mix of theory and practice. We we were learning complex and important concepts and history, then going into the studios and learning how those ideas did or didn't apply to our work. I learned first-hand about collaboration and putting up shows in front of live audiences. It was invaluable preparation for a career as an artist.
BB: Your most recent play "At the Finish" is being featured in The Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival. What is the play about?
NG: At the Finish is about Becca, who owns a kettle corn business, trying to prepare for a big day of work outside the Boston Marathon. Her work is interrupted by her girlfriend Casey - who is also her employee - and her moral and ethical dilemmas.
BB: What is the process for getting one of your shows on the stage? Do you have any say who directs or how the cast is chosen?
NG: It's a long, involved process! There's usually a period of workshopping and developing the play, then a time when my agent and I are sharing the play with others, then, in the lucky scenario of production, meetings with the theater's staff and ultimately rehearsing, previews, and the run. Sometimes I can bring on a director with whom I already have a relationship. Sometimes, the theater wants to work with a certain director or thinks a director would be good for the play, and the pairing happens that way. Technically, playwrights have final say in casting, but it's not usually as cut-and-dry as that.
BB: Besides writing, have you ever acted or directed any of your plays? Would you be opposed to taking on those roles if given the opportunity?
NG: I haven't acted in any of my own plays. I don't think I'd be absolutely opposed to the idea of doing that, but I'd be cautious and wary. For one thing, I'm not that good of an actor! Also, I learn so much by watching actors navigate a role - seeing them track a character's actions and emotions, and listening to their perspective on inhabiting them. So, if I ever were to act in one of my own plays, I think it would have to be at least a second production.
BB: What kinds of things do you do in your leisure time?
NG: I like going to new cities, particularly those by water, and going where the locals go.
BB: What is the one lesson a person needs to know about writing a play?
NG: Virginia Woolf said that if you can't tell the truth about yourself, you can't tell it about others, and I agree.
BB: Do you have any advice for those looking to or pursuing a career in theatre/writing?
NG: It's about the long game. Growth as an artist is life-long, and for most of us, opportunities as professionals come slowly and only after years of striving. Figure out how to be honest as an artist, generous and grateful as a professional, and healthy as a whole person. The only thing you can control is how hard you work.
Nick Gandiello is a playwright, screenwriter, and teaching artist based in NYC.He grew up on Long Island, where he fell in love with Hip-Hop and the Theatre.He attended Ithaca College, where he received a BA in Drama and minored in both Scriptwriting and Psychology. Nick holds an MFA in Playwriting from The New School for Drama, where his play OFF THE REALNESS was produced. Nick is the 2015 Page 73 Productions Playwriting Fellow, and was a member of the 2014 Interstate 73 Writers Group. Page 73 organized a roundtable workshop of OCEANSIDE, and invited Nick to their Summer Residency at Yale to work on SUNRISE HIGHWAY. Nick is an alumnus of the 2012-13 Ars Nova Play Group, where he received support on OCEANSIDE, BLACK FLY SPRING, SUNRISE HIGHWAY and more. His play HIP-HOP DOCUMENTARIES was produced in THE NETFLIX PLAYS and his play CANDYLAND was produced in GAME PLAY. His play BLACK FLY SPRING received a developmental production at Xavier University in 2014. Nick traveled to the campus to lead workshops in Playwriting and Theater Business with the students. Nick has attended residencies at the Blue Mountain Center and SPACE on Ryder Farm where he has developed several plays including BLACK FLY SPRING, SUNRISE HIGHWAY, and THE GLOW OVERHEAD. Nick is the Literary Manager of Young Playwrights Inc., where he has also been a teaching artist, dramaturge, and script evaluator.