Who doesn’t love dragons? Especially one with a deep, friendly, yet powerful voice that can be heard down the hall at a crowded rehearsal studio in the middle of midtown.
Just from the sound of the dragon’s voice (Charles Turner), you know you're in for something new with Carrie Robbins’ new play, The Dragon Griswyn, now playing at the Theater For The New City’s Dream Up Festival. Better known for her work as a costume designer Off Broadway and on Broadway, Ms. Robbins shares her story about her work as a playwright, in this exclusive with LocalTheatreNY.com.
Q: When did you start writing plays? Tell us about your work.
Carrie Robbins: I began around 2007, inspired by my husband's PushCart Prize-Nominated short stories, which circled around things medical & surgical. He was a surgeon as was his father before him. So they both told stories which were as good (to me) as the best of MASH, or any of the good medical TV series which followed MASH. Except, they were tougher. They had the gravel-like reality of coming from men who had been there. (I had often thought the stories & the characters were more interesting than some of the stories I was seeing in my work in the theatre.) I had a lot to learn and did many readings with the aid of my good and veteran actor friends to help show me what I had & what I needed. All medically based. It wasn't until joining a writing group that I was encouraged to tell other kinds of stories. Then I began to draw on my own theatrical world, the place where I spent most of my work-life. The trick was, I felt I had to wait until my subject matter "slipped the mortal coil."
This play is my 16th I believe.
Q: Tell us about The Dragon Griswyn. When did you begin writing it, how has it evolved to the point that it's now opening at The Dream Up?
Carrie Robbins: My husband and I talked of the business of old age. His medical opinion: "growing old ain't for wimps". At the same time, my mother was starting down the sad trail which today would probably be called Alzheimer's. (I remember the exact moment I realized she had lost the concept of "zero". Ten had become one.) But she told me clearly that the worst thing about getting so old (93) was reading the obits each morning and seeing more & more people she knew listed there. How awful it was to watch her friends disappear. Dick Robbins invented the dragon in a little story. I didn't touch it until 10 years later. But it stuck in my head. And meanwhile, I saw many older people, ladies of 85-90 who wouldn't go out of their house without lipstick. Who wouldn't take a photo without taking off their glasses and fluffing what was left of their once-glorious hair. Their optimism was extraordinary. And in the face of what had to be a phalanx of geriatric diseases! Men who despite their dire diagnoses insisted on taking the qualifying written test for riding a motorcycle when we all knew they'd never get to take the road test. Optimism. Somehow, out of that, a 5 page short story and these rambling observations "The Dragon Griswynd" emerged as a play. Several people said it was just a children's story. I thought it a little dark a theme for children. But when I read the criteria for the Dream Up Festival, that they did NOT want traditional material traditionally done, I thought perhaps they might not reject such a play, a play that takes place in an extinct volcano on a windswept mountaintop at the end of time. I was thrilled that we were accepted!
Q: Has the play changed from its original concept? How has it evolved, if so, how?
Carrie Robbins: Not really. Just more and more flesh-out, the characters more developed, the Dragon's longing more palpable. (at least I hope so)
Q: What do you hope to accomplish with this play? This story? This production?
Carrie Robbins: I'd like it to find a larger audience than my friends. I'd like it to bring a little humor & maybe catharsis to people going through that part of their life. It could be that because it masquerades as a kind of children's show this isn't possible. But hey, you never know. And there are some peripheral ideas about loss not just of the powers of youth, but loss of culture, loss of some of the great artifacts of our civilization, that mistreating our planet will bring about that I try to obliquely point out. We have some lovely artifacts strewn round the stage that Griswynd has been packing. Did you read about the National Museum of Brazil which burned down early yesterday morning?
And of course, like every other writer of every other production in this festival and all the other festivals every year, I'd hope for an expanded production, longer run, more audiences, the usual.
Q: What's next for you?
Carrie Robbins: I'm designing costumes for a new play to be done at Syracuse Stage in October, directed by Tazewell Thompson.
I've also started working on a new play of my own. At the moment it's called: "Pie Stories"...a father from the Old Country tries to teach his 8 year old history and poli-sci with daily after-dinner lessons. But sometimes, dessert gets in the way.
The Dragon Griswyn is playing at the 9th Annual Dream Up Festival until September 16th.
Directed by Joseph R. Sicari, the cast includes Charles Turner as the Dragon, Jenne Vath a.k.a. Marcia, Steven Hauck a.k.a. Frank, and Robert Meksin (Voice Over)
Composer, Overture: Scott Munson.
For more information, please visit: http://www.dreamupfestival.org/SHOW1807-dragongriswynd.html