Pittsburgh by Gab Cody
Five years ago, I sat in a booth in a Pittsburgh diner across from Gary Garrison and interviewed for the position of Pittsburgh Regional Representative for the Dramatists Guild. Little did I know, as we sipped coffees down the street from the very studio where Mr. Rogers invited you to be his neighbor, that this interview would change my writing life—and inspire me to continue the good work our previous Rep, Tammy Ryan, did to knit our disparate gang of local playwrights into a neighborhood.
Working in this service role for the Dramatists Guild has taught me so much about community, activism, and how best to serve the diverse and talented fellowship of playwrights in Pittsburgh and across the U.S. I’ve worked with theatres in our region to create new opportunities for writers, including the reading series In Their Own Voices at City Theatre. And I invited writers nationally to create more opportunities for under-represented groups with The Monologue Project, an initiative to increase the canon of audition-length monologues for women of the African Diaspora. We’ve presented selections of these monologues at University of Pittsburgh, in Dallas at the Bishop Arts Theatre Center (led by co-organizer, artistic director Teresa Coleman Wash) and in New York City at the Dramatists Guild National Conference. Watching dozens of powerful, talented women—local talent, in three different cities!—sharing diverse dramatic perspectives from the lives of black women have provided the most moving and satisfying moments of my five years as Regional Representative.
Another highlight of my tenure was the chance to sit on the Dramatists Guild Devised Committee. Led by the delightful and great-hearted Doug Wright, the committee was peopled by Tectonic Theatre Company (Moisés Kaufman), The Debate Society (Paul Thureen), Elevator Repair Service (Rinne Groff), Jeffrey Sweet, Kyoung’s Pacific Beat (Kyoung Park) and Studio A: Immersive Engagement (that’s me, Gab Cody). Deborah Murad, Director of Business Affairs, joined in the conversation and turned our research into a resource. After in-depth debates, conversations, interviews with professionals, and a survey sent to devised companies, we produced The Devised Theatre Resource Guide, as well as three contract templates for writers of devised theatre. The Guild has made these materials available to the public, giving the writers of devised work an invaluable road map to their rights when entering into collaborative creation. I know they’ve made a difference for companies working collaboratively, because those companies keep telling us so.
While the activism and service I’ve engaged in as Regional Representative are both important aspects of my life, I’m now looking forward to channeling my energy into my upcoming projects. This year we launch two immersive projects: Daylighting the Stream, an environmentally-minded immersive urban adventure, and Studio A: Immersive Engagement, an experience custom-made for institutions, corporations, and collectives that places participants at the center of a new and challenging world where identity is uncertain and uncertain is normal. Then there are the straight plays I’m working on this year, including a ludicrous comedy, The 2nd American Revolution, a riff on Tartuffe set in the Deep South.
There’s a lot to keep me busy, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to miss out on the great events coming up for Pittsburgh dramatists. Today, Mora Harris and TJ Young are the new Regional Representatives for Pittsburgh. They have a lot of great events planned and I know they’ll bring us even closer together as a community.
Thanks to all my neighbors in Pittsburgh who made this position such a pleasure. It was a treat to meet so many inspiring dramatists. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also thank Joey Stocks and Tari Stratton of The Dramatist—always invaluable resources. Thank you for including the regions in the conversation. I’d also like to thank Ralph Sevush, for his support as we built contracts with the Devised Committee, and Tina Fallon, who was so enthusiastically supportive of The Monologue Project and who made room for these important voices at the National Conference last year. I’ll miss you all, but I’ll be darkening your doors again before long.