Q&A with Elaine Gale on ‘One Good Egg’ Performance
One Good Egg, a new one-woman show written and performed by Elaine Gale, AUSB BA Program Interim Chair and AULA MFA in Creative Writing alumna, will give four performances at Center Stage Theater in downtown Santa Barbara, Friday, May 5 through Sunday, May, 7, 2017. We interviewed Elaine about her life as an artist, advice for students pursuing creative majors, and her show.
Q: What’s your background in theatre?
Elaine Gale: I was in theater in high school, but pursued English and religion in my undergraduate studies, opting for the liberal arts grounding and a year studying abroad. I returned to performance again in my thirties with improv comedy and stand-up comedy and then pursuing a broader storytelling style that includes the funny and the sad. I like that fuller narrative arc, investigating the moments in life where we laugh until we cry or cry until we laugh. That duality was something I wanted to represent in my stories, not just a one-two punchline. I am most interested in the things we are not saying–both to ourselves and to each other–and what’s roiling around under the surface of polite conversation.
Q: What is your inspiration?
EG: I am inspired by one-woman show performers such as Ann Randolph, who performs the show Loveland and teaches solo show workshops, and Wendy Hammers, curator of the Tasty Words series in Los Angeles who has a solo show called Ripe, who both combine exposing things in their own lives that are difficult with building community and connecting the audience in their common humanity.
I am also inspired by my old friends who I lived with in Minneapolis in the 90’s, like Chris Wells, the founder and Artistic Director of a church for artists called The Secret City, or Bridget Carpenter, a playwright and television writer—they lived next door to me in my turn-of-the-century brick walk-up in Minneapolis and taught me a lot about how to live and thrive as a working artist, how to respect the creative spirit, the creative process, how to stay grounded and focused and also true to your own vision of things, no matter what other people think of your art. This quote from Andy Warhol reminds me of what they both taught me: “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they’re deciding, make even more art.”
Q: What kind of work goes into producing a show like One Good Egg?
EG: There are all kinds of things that go into the work for a show, including building the stamina for a 75-minute performance. But there is also the hard work of memorization. I have always been a literary writer or a stand-up performer with a set list, not someone who memorizes that much material, which is the equivalent of a 50-page script. I have also loved worked with my amazing director, Rod Lathim, a Santa Barbara legend and wonderful artist who has also taught me a lot–I tell him that working with him has been like getting a masters degree in theater! The production has been so blessed by his involvement and his expertise. He is the most tireless advocate for theater I have ever met and is a true inspiration. I am also inspired by Monica Lenches, our co-chair for the production and her commitment to building community. It has been inspiring to watch her locate allies for the show around town and recruit people to contribute to the show and attend and be together. It’s ironic to me that this is called a one-woman show because it’s anything but that–I wouldn’t be here living out this dream without the amazing people we have working on the show–we call ourselves the Carton–and the amazing donors for this world premiere production.
Q: What advice do you have for Antioch University students who are aspiring artists or performance artists?
EG: I would say that what other people think of you isn’t your business, which is something that Bridget used to say to me all the time in my twenties, and it had a lasting impact. What is your business is to be true to your own heart and spirit and to live out your calling in the world, no matter if it means sacrificing some things, but to be in alignment with your soul’s calling, well there is nothing better than that–and there will always be people who love your work and others who might hate it or be neutral. That is to be expected and has nothing to do with you. Your job is to keep listening to the call of your wild and true nature, that part of yourself that knows what it loves and what it wants, and be committed to keeping that voice alive. Because we really need all of us, not just some of us, but all of us and all of our voices in the world.
We are at a big point of transformation in our society right now, and if we paid more attention to our common humanity, and to the arts, and to listening to people who have been routinely silenced, there would be a shift in consciousness and a rallying cry to live more deeply in community. And that’s really what I’m seeking with ONE GOOD EGG, to build community and contribute however I can by sharing my story in public, in the most vulnerable and risky way I can onstage at the time. I want to keep challenging myself and growing as an artist and in my capacity to share in the public realm. We are all good eggs. We all have our darkness and our light. But in the end, there’s only love.
Q: How has AUSB supported you in this work?
EG: Antioch University and especially Dr. William Flores and Dr. Barbara Lipinski have been a huge support in helping me put on this show. Rod Lathim and I have used empty classrooms as rehearsal spaces, which was an incredible help as the egg-shaped wooden sets we have are very heavy and would have been difficult to transport–there is no way they would have fit in the back of my Subaru. Also, the students in my public speaking and creative nonfiction classes have been a big inspiration to me with their work and also with their interest in helping me promote the show. I’m really humbled by all the wonderful students, faculty and administrators we have here at Antioch Santa Barbara. Not only has AUSB been helpful, but I have worked for Dr. Laurien Alexandre, the Provost of the Graduate School of Leadership and Change, as the freelance Writing Center Director for twelve years, and she has always been a champion of my creativity and my hybrid nature, as I’m what I call an “accidental academic” but also an artist and writer, a creative. The mission of Antioch University touches me deeply in terms of the commitment to lead meaningful lives and to social justice and dovetails with my own values.
Thanks, Elaine, and break an egg!