Mile Square Theatre’s Playwright-in-Residence Debuts new Solo Show
By Sally Deering
A life in the theater can be a wonderful journey if he or she sticks it out long enough and for actor and playwright Joseph Gallo, his long day’s journey in the theater continues to be mined with opportunities. He just had two of his plays published by River City Books; and as playwright-in-residence at Mile Square Theatre (MST) in Hoboken, Gallo is about to debut his newest one-man show, LONG GONE DADDY directed by MST artistic director Chris O’Connor. Performances begin July 20 and run through August 7 in the company’s new theater on the corner of 14th & Clinton.
Prior to this, Gallo workshopped his play Two-Man Kidnapping Rule at MST. It was later produced by the New Ohio Theatre in New York, and published in Smith & Kraus’s anthology 2012 Best Men’s Stage Monologues and Scenes. As a solo writer/performer Gallo appeared in the original production of his one-man show My Italy Story at Penguin Rep in Stony Point, NY, which later had its debut Off-Broadway at the 47th Street Theatre in New York, starring Danny Mastrogiorgio (“…a compelling page turner.”—The New York Times). An avid storyteller, Gallo won a StorySLAM championship at The Moth in NYC.
As a teacher, Gallo founded and developed Hudson County Community College’s Theatre Arts program where he serves as Coordinator of Theatre and Film. He is the 2016 recipient of the Lincoln Center Prize for Innovative Teaching in Theatre. Gallo holds an MFA in Playwriting from Ohio University; and grew up in Linden, New Jersey. He a long-time Hoboken resident where he lives with his wife and daughter.
Since late 2014, Gallo has been perfecting LONG GONE DADDY, performing scenes on a ‘salon tour’ of interested backers’ homes to raise money for MSTs new theater space. After more than a year of refining the work, Gallo says he’s ready for the stage and a bigger audience to tell his latest story.
RVO: What is LONG GONE DADDY about?
JG: The character I’m playing is a fictional creation, an alter ego of mine. The entire thrust of the play is this character who is completely reluctant to be a father. He just doesn’t want to be a father, and that is completely one hundred percent not my life. My wife and I wanted, we planned, and we had a child. Its that simple.
RVO: Is LONG GONE DADDY autobiographical?
JG: There are strokes of the play that are real; and its emotionally autobiographical. I’m quoting from my own book now: it’s semi-autobiographic; it has the authority of fact and the freedom of fiction. Audiences are obsessed with what is true and what isn’t true. My most basic answer is that life doesn’t play out in three perfect acts. If you are handcuffed to the details of your life, you come up short with plot points and conflict (when writing the play).
RVO: How did you come to write LONG GONE DADDY?
JG: After my wife got pregnant I started to keep a notebook. I knew life was going to change, so I thought I’ll keep the journal through the first year of my kid’s life. From the moment of my wife’s pregnancy to my child’s first birthday. I did that and then I closed that notebook. Most of what was in that notebook, is all I needed (for the play). But I had so much on my plate at the time, I didn’t get back to it for a couple of years. Then I opened my notebook and I realized this is the same character as “My Italy Story” (Gallo’s first one-man show). I had not intended to revisit this character, but then suddenly I sat down, and it was that character spinning the yarns.
RVO: And are you ready for opening night on July 20?
JG: Yes! Rehearsals are going well. Director Chris O’Connor is terrific to work with, and now the tech team has to catch up with me. I started working on the lines in mid-May so I came into rehearsals off book. Jeff Daniels did that for the play BLACKBIRD and I thought his performance was extraordinary. It was a physically demanding show, and he said he got off book right away because it was one less thing he had to focus on. I saw the director and asked how Jeff Daniels prepared and the director said he runs the entire show every morning. I asked, is he married? The director said, “no”. Does he have kids? “No.” Well then, of course he can run through it every morning. (laughing)
RVO: Didn’t you just get your solo shows published?
JG: Yes. LONG GONE DADDY along with MY ITALY STORY were published last week by River City Books.
RVO: How do you juggle both acting and playwriting?
JG: I’ve always done both, and my entire life has been a push and pull between those two things. Initially I was an actor and wanted to write screenplays. It wasn’t till I joined the Waterfront Ensemble in Hoboken that I became a playwright. I can’t understate the amount of credit they deserve for my development. We had the top floor of the YMCA on Washington Street. It was a huge group of writers like Rosemary McLaughlin, Andrew Young, David Crespy. So there it was, a great breeding ground for acting and writing. Every week I’d bring in new work and the group would read it and actors would do it live in front of the group. Then afterwards, we’d all get a slice at Benny’s (Benny Tudino’s pizzeria), a few beers at O’Reilly’s on Bloomfield, then go home and write all night. I gave myself one year to do my writing and then I would go back to acting if nothing panned out but I never went back. I used to say to my wife that when my hair goes gray I’ll go back. My hair is now gray, so I’m back.
RVO: After the Waterfront Ensemble, you went to L.A?
JG: I went to L.A. to write screenplays and TV stuff for five years.
RVO: And now you’re directing as well as acting and writing?
JG: Yes. My wife and I have been collaborating on dance theater projects. In fact, we’re finishing up a three-part trilogy which will play Roulette in Brooklyn. Right now as we speak, she’s creating and choreographing the third piece. So now, I’m wearing the director’s hat. But it’s not a matter of ‘am I this’ or ‘am I that’. It’s not a career in the theater, it’s a life in the theater and to make a life is to do everything. You have to look at ‘a’, what opportunities are there; and ‘b’, what are you passionate about? I love the collaboration.
RVO: Can you talk about the collaborative process in theater?
JG: Collaboration is the antithesis of being a playwright, which requires you to be in a room by yourself for a long time. The collaborative process fulfills something else in me. I want to spend quality time with myself and I also want to go to the party and dance around with a lampshade on my head. (laughing.) I’m a well-rounded guy.
If you go
LONG GONE DADDY runs July 20-August 7,
Thurs through Sat, 8 pm, Sun, 3 pm;
preview performance on Wed, July 20 at 8 pm
Mile Square Theatre
1400 Clinton St, HOB
Purchase tix at www.milesquaretheatre.org