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Interview with Playwright Gino Dilorio

By Gary Wien


Gino Dilorio is quickly making a name for himself in the playwriting world. The Clark University Professor has his latest work, Apostacy, currently running at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch. His play, The Hard Way, won 1st place in the BBC's 2005 International Playwriting Competition and was one of just 3 plays chosen in the Utah Shakespeare Festival's New Plays in Progress Series. Other highlights include winning a Berilla Kerr Award for Playwriting and having his "Winterizing the Summer House" chosen as one of the top 10 plays in the 2002 Writer's Digest's national play competition.

I had the chance to talk with Gino on the eve of the world premiere of Apostacy at NJ Rep, a theatre which has played a large role in his development as a playwright.

Tell me a little about Apostacy.
It's a play that had a reading at NJ Rep about two years ago and we've been developing it - myself and SuzAnne Barabas (the director of Apostacy).

It's based on a number of different ideas that were going round in my head. I was brought up Catholic, my wife is Jewish and my kids are Jewish and the two religions deal with the afterlife in very different ways. In Christianity the resurrection and the after life are very much a center of the religion, whereas in Judaism it's not. In Judaism, it's the Torah - the law. And it just seemed to me that there wasn't a focus in Judaism with the afterlife. So I started looking at the afterlife issues and I did some research on it and I found that a lot of people who were terminal cancer patients who were Jewish considered converting at the end of their lives because they wanted that idea of a religion that was centrally focused on that. They wanted that hopeful ending, that kind of faith. It seemed like there was a real dichotomy there.

So, I was interested in that and I had a friend who had a bout with cancer and he and his girlfriend were sort of on the outs. But when he first got sick they got back together and she took care of him for the last 18 months of his life. She said that it was the greatest time of her life. The reason, I think, is because she finally had him where she wanted him. He really needed her. So, I was interested in that dichotomy too and that's something we have in the play with the mother/daughter.

Plus I'm also interested in evangelicals and what they are all about. And finally I was trying to write a piece of erotica for an older woman. I thought that it was kind of interesting that somebody at the end of her life would decide to do something crazy so she has a thing with a black preacher.

So, all of that is sort of in the piece. Hopefully, it works in a lot of ways.

How did it evolve from the play which first had a reading at NJ Rep?
It's less talky. I think that it started out as being a heavy idea play and it became more of a personal play. What happens is that you have these ideas and things you want to say in a piece, but then you do more and more readings and you see people start to fade a little bit. People don't want to be lectured to they want these ideas to spring in their head but you need the action to be driving the ideas. So that's how it really changed. A lot of cuts. It became less of an idea play and more about a love story and a personal dynamic between the mother, the daughter and the evangelical and who was going to get this woman in the end.

A lot of writers have difficulties writing dialogues for the opposite sex, how do you think you got by that?
It wasn't really a problem. I think I modeled their relationship after my mother and my sister because they were always butting heads. I heard that in the house a lot, so it was just being a good listener, I guess.

Apostacy started out with a reading at NJ Rep and now is having a full production. How important do you think it is for a playwright to have a certain relationship with a theatre where a piece can go from stage reading to a full production in the same theatre? Extremely. I mentioned this at the Talk Back today. NJ Rep is an absolute treasure because they do predominately new work. One of the problems new playwrights have is that nobody wants to do new work. They'd prefer to do what's tried and true. In fact, playwrights are not only competing against other new plays but they're competing against every play that was ever written. It's like "Hamlet" or this new play by an unknown guy we've never heard of... I guess we'll do "Hamlet".

They (NJREP) develop so much new work and what's even better is that not only is there a world premiere every six weeks but they take the audience along for the ride. The audience is hip to that, they like seeing new things. It's not the same old tried and true. They like that some of it works and some of it doesn't, but it's always a premiere. I can't overstate all that they've done. Suzanne and Gabor (Barabas) are just the best!

When you were in college you were headed towards an acting career. Were you interested in writing back then?
I always had my eye on it, but I predominately wanted to be an actor. I mostly started writing about ten years ago. My son was born and it was difficult to go and do acting for very little money. I thought I could just stay home and write for very little money instead! At the time, I was with a lot of companies that did new work and I'd read a play and think, "I could write this".

I'm much happier as a playwright than I ever was an actor. You write it, it's up there and it's yours. I never got used to the transient nature of being an actor. It was always a challenge going from gig to gig.

How involved do you get with your productions?
As involved as they want me to be. I'm very comfortable just showing up the first night to see the play. If they want me to be at rehearsals, I'll be there. I try not to be there too much because I think the actors get nervous. I'd rather let them play with it and find it and let the director find it.

I'm not a very good audience member. I get so nervous that I don't enjoy it much. I like to listen to it. I'll sit in the back and just listen to the words.

How did having an acting background help your writing?
I tell my playwriting students that even if you don't ever want to act you've got to take acting classes. You've got to know what it's like to be up there. Even if you're terrible... You've got to know what it's like to stand in a space and read because it gives you a sense of the spoken word.

How has teaching helped you?
I would not have been a playwright if I hadn't been a teacher. I taught Improv for many years and Improv is one of those things where you're always saying yes to your imagination. It totally unlocked it for me. That's another thing I always tell my playwrights - take Improv classes.

What advice would you give somebody that wants to be a playwright?
I'd say take Improv, take acting classes. At first you've got to write what you know. I think you have to write what you love and what you know first. Don't be afraid to tell a personal story on stage. There's nothing wrong with starting there. And then eventually you have to write what you don't know because it's the only way you can learn things.

Go the theatre a lot, go to places where people are speaking. I think the hardest thing you have to do is listen. You have to be a magnet for dialogue. Bars, subways, diners... I don't think you can learn it from books. I think you really have to go places where people are speaking. You have to learn how people converse and bounce words in a space. You have to be a dialogue thief!



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American Girl Live: An Interview With Laila E. Drew and Shelby Miguel
Please note: Due to the potential of a major winter storm on Saturday, both performances of American Girl Live at Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown have been postponed and rescheduled for President’s Day, Monday, February 18 at 2 pm and 5:30 pm. All tickets will be honored on that date. If you cannot attend the new date, please contact the box office at 973-539-8008.
"Kinky Boots" Comes To Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City
(ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City in conjunction with TROIKA Entertainment is will present KINKY BOOTS, the smash-hit musical that brings together four-time Tony® Award-winner Harvey Fierstein (Book) and Grammy® Award-winning rock icon Cyndi Lauper (Tony Award-winner for Best Score for KINKY BOOTS), at Sound Waves in Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City from April 30 until May 5 with two performances on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets starting at $35.00.
The Panto Company Presents "Beauty and the Beast" at The Newton Theatre
(NEWTON, NJ) -- When you think of a dying rose and a clock, candlestick andteapot who talk... you are thinking Beauty and the Beast. One of this season's spellbinding family shows from The Panto Company USA stars Dame Dotty Potty, Loopy Louie, Gaston, Belle and of course The Beast!  The company brings their show to The Newton Theatre on Sunday, March 3 at 3:00pm.
La Strada Ensemble Theater Presents "La Bella Familia" by Edwin Sanchez
(OCEAN GROVE, NJ) -- La Strada Ensemble Theater presents La Bella Familia by Edwin Sanchez from January 18-20.  The play deals with a Puerto Rican hit woman and the gentlest man in the world move next door to the neighbors from hell and everyone learns, the hard way, that family comes first.
Art House Productions Presents "The Passion Project" by Reid Farrington
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Art House Productions presents the unique theatrical experience that is Reid Farrington’s The Passion Project performed by Laura K. Nicoll.  Eight performances will take place from February 21st to March 3rd. The Passion Project is a 30 minute vibration between performance, film, and installation. Carl Th.Dreyer’s 1928 immortal masterpiece, “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is the main narrative along with the history behind the making of the film, a discussion with a Danish archivist, the story of making this project, as well as Joan’s own story –– her trial, torture, and execution. The Passion Project explodes the film into the three dimensions; placing the audience inside the film, sitting next to Joan, subjecting them to the relentless rhythm of 35 mm film projection.


It's "Apple Season" at NJ Rep
Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared. Those are often the most powerful.
Rise of the Goatman
Theater For The New City presents Beltsville/Rockville, Part 1: Rise of the Goatman, an original play by Englewood resident Matt Okin (Artistic Director of Black Box Studios), from December 27 through January 13. In this pseudo-Southern Gothic dark comedy, a vibrant group of teens from two very different suburban neighborhoods clash over class differences, drugs, and sex - and the existence of the legendary ‘Goatman’ in 1986. Cut to 2013, and the adolescent kids of those very same teens are struggling to make sense of their family histories - and the same “mythological” creature - that could be holding them back in life.
PHOTOS from "The Winter's Tale" at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run now through December 30. 
REVIEW: "It's A Wonderful Life" At Mile Square Theatre
Nestled in a corner of Hoboken, on the second floor, lies the studios of radio station WMST.  It’s a wonderful art deco studio, replete with fine wooden walls, embedded with colorful lights an applause sign.  On stage, we’ve got a few chairs, several microphones and a whole corner wedged with all the necessary props – piano, men’s shoes, sheet metal – to create the audio effects for the production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Betsy Aidem Puts A Woman's Touch On George Street Playhouse's "A Doll's House, Part 2"
Betsy Aidem is a veteran actress you might have seen on Broadway. Or maybe on an episode of “Law & Order: SVU.” Or maybe on the big screen last year in “The Greatest Showman.” But over the next few weeks in New Brunswick, Aidem is adding a brand-new section to her résumé — by helming a sequel (of sorts) to a classic play that’s more than 100 years old.






Event calendar
Friday, Jan 18, 2019


MUSIC

John Forster at the Minstrel @ Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, Morristown - 7:30pm

David Massengill - Folk Concert @ Christ Congregation Church, Princeton - 8:00pm

SAL "THE VOICE" VALENTINETTI @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm

The Elvis Birthday Bash @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 7:30pm


THEATRE

"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm

Annie Jr. @ The Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Some Girl(s) @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm







COMEDY

Big Apple Comedy Club @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 8:00pm


MISC

The Jason Bishop Show to Benefit CASA @ Pfleeger Concert Hall, Rowan University, Glassboro - 7:00pm

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