By Gary Wien
An Interview With David Saint, The Artistic Director of George Street Playhouse Who Is Starting His 10th Year In New Brunswick
This is your 10th year as the Artistic Director of George Street Playhouse. Did you ever imagine you'd set your roots down in New Brunswick like that?
No, I was very anxious to come here because I wanted to get back closer to New York. I had been travelling all around the country and I started out in New York and wanted to get back near home and my friends. So, I was thrilled to arrive and over the years I discovered that it really has become a home for me - both the theater because of the staff, which is incredibly generous and close-knit, and for the Board. It really is like a family.
I've watched New Brunswick change and grow. The year I got here the whole building across the street went up with SOHO in it and the building across the street came down. Now the huge Heldrich center has gone up and there are all these new apartment buildings. It's unrecognizable from what it was ten years ago.
Everything has changed so much. It's really become a very, vibrant community. At first, when I arrived, they asked if I could bring a higher level of sophistication to the work on our stage and a higher level of artistry. I said, I can do that because of the people I know and the artists I've worked with and the contacts I've built up over the years, but the community has to support that kind of work. So, slowly but surely I have found that as New Brunswick has started to grow more of New Jersey has started to hear about the changes at George Street and hear about the changes in New Brunswick. These days you can't find a better restaurant in New Jersey. You really can't. You have to go to New York and why go to New York and spend the extra money when we have first class restaurants here? And the same can be said for why go to New York when you can find world class theater here? My goal has been to make New Jersians and New Brunswickians realize that they don't have to travel into New York to see the best.
George Street is often talked about as a family of artists. Was that part of your original plan?
Well, I started out as an actor and then I became a director. I was a freelance director and I worked in 36 states and a lot of theaters. One of the reasons I became a director was because I had worked with too many directors who brought tension and their own hang-ups and problems into the room. Whether it was an ego problem or a power trip, it shut down the creativity in the rehearsal room. So, one of the reasons I became a director was to say that the director is the person in charge in the rehearsal room of keeping the tensions at bay and keeping the atmosphere relaxed so that people trust enough to create and be safe.
So, I became a director and as I started directing in more theaters all around I realized the same thing was true on a larger scale of a whole building of a theater - a whole organization. The head of the family - the captain of the ship - is the head of the theater. Ultimately, whatever atmosphere that person exhibits everybody feeds off it and it becomes a reflection of that. So, I then realized if I want a theater that has that same kind of atmosphere then I had to be in charge and lead it.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.