Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

Meet the Artist: Gary Corbin January 22, 2013


Gary Corbin, playwright, author of  Lying in Judgement & The Exes

Gary Corbin, playwright, author of Lying in Judgement & The Exes

Two new plays, two genres, one prolific playwright:

“Lying in Judgment,” A courtroom thriller

“The Exes,” a romantic comedy united by common themes of (in)fidelity, trust, and the search for a complex truth.

Part of “PDX Playwrights Presents” at Hipbone Studio

Dates & Times: 1/27/13, 3-5 PM

Tickets: $10 door or at http://bit.ly/PDXPFG13

Contact: gary@garycorbinwriting.com

Gary Corbin, originally from a small town outside of Springfield, MA, may be the Grandpa Moses of Fertile Ground, having begun his stage work late in life. Okay, he was in his forties, after his divorce. But as far as mid-life crises go, theater seemed cheaper (at the time) than a Camaro.

Gary studied improv and sketch with ComedySportz, the Brody Theater and Curious Comedy, and playwriting with Matt Zrebski and Francesca Sanders. His first Fertile Ground experience was the self-produced “Happy Anniversary,” a Hothouse production at the Armory mezzanine in 2010. In attendance for that play was Tony Broom, who staged “Happy Anniversary” when he later opened Serendipity Players in Vancouver. Later in 2010, Gary’s first fully staged production, “PS, I Love Your Daughter,” opened CoHo Theater’s “Endless Summer” event and was later produced by North End Players in Portland. In all, a dozen productions of Gary’s plays have appeared in the Portland area in the last three years, including at Magenta Theater, Ft Vancouver National Trust and Hipbone Studios.

Gary’s day job title is Royal Storyteller at Portland Walking Tours (really). He also appears as Eddie Kurnitz in Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” opening February 21 at North End Players.


1. An Artist in My Field I Have a Giant Artist Crush On Is . . .

Sam Shepard. I love how much emotion he wrings out of such spare scripts. I also love how he portrays simple but real characters in complex ways.

2. A Work That Has Shaped My Artistic Voice Is . . .

Neil Simon. I know he’s kind of out of favor among contemporary playwrights but I love his wit, and again, his very real, likable but flawed characters. The dialog always makes sense, even when the characters don’t.

3. When I’m Not Creating Art You Can Often Find Me . . .

At the Oregon coast with the love of my life, Renee, and our two rascal hounds.

4. Five Songs On My Writing Playlist Are . . .

I actually prefer quiet when I write. But stuff that inspires me includes:

“In Your Eyes,” Peter Gabriel

“Somebody that I used to know,” Gotye

“Silver Lining,” David Gray OR Bonnie Raitt

“Jungleland,” Springsteen

Anything and everything by The Beatles

5. A Portland Artist or Company I’d Love To Work With Is . . .

Theater Theater! Love that they’re so committed to producing original work and every interaction with the people there has been terrific.

6. I Am Terrified Of . . .

How I drive.

7. I Am Obsessed With . . .

Politics. I am also disgusted by it. But it’s like those bad horror movies – I can’t tear myself away. It’s why I have a useless Poli Sci PhD.

8. The Book Currently On My Nightstand Is . . .

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. Thank God you didn’t ask me this question last week.

9. Three Adjectives That Describe This Work Are . . .

Lying in Judgment: Psychological, Twisted, Intense

The Exes: Funny, Emotional, Quirky

10. In the Indie Art-House Bio Film Of My Life, I Should Be Played By . . .

A younger Stanley Tucci.


1) Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival work.

Lying in Judgment poses the question, What would happen if a person served on the jury of a trial for the murder that person committed? Or, at least, believed they did.

Such the fate besets Peter Robertson. As the play opens, the jury begins deliberations on the evidence presented in court. He and five other jurors struggle to reach consensus, but their perspectives on what they heard are as different as their personalities. Alfred, an unemployed recent college grad, spent most of the trial hitting on Christine, a sassy juror who fixates on the defendant’s history of stalking the victim’s girlfriend. Her unabashed romantic interest in Peter leads to heightened conflict with Alfred even as they ally to push for conviction. Under intense stress, Peter’s struggle to separate what he experienced and what was presented in court causes him to reveal things that only the killer should know. When Christine catches on, Peter’s world unravels.

The Exes Promo-med

The Exes: Two divorced couples crisscross their romantic paths and hook up with each others’ exes without realizing it until it’s too late and wedding bells start to chime.

2) How did this work come about? What inspired it?

Lying in Judgment: Back in the late 1980’s, as a friend told me about his experience on jury duty, it struck me that the accused in that case could have been anybody – just as the jurors, his peers, could be anybody. What if one of those jurors, randomly drawn from the pool of local citizens, were actually guilty of a similar crime – but never convicted? This quickly morphed into: what if it was the *same* crime? What if it was murder? He’d have to be completely disconnected from the victim, which meant he killed a perfect stranger – and why would he do that? And if so, what would make us want to root for him?

The Exes: Specifically? I have no idea. But in general, I am always intrigued by awkward relationship circumstances. (“PS, I Love Your Daughter” has similarly vague origins.) Probably I heard or read about some spouse-swapping situation and wondered what it would be like if it WASN’T creepy. Seemed like comedy gold to me.

3) Talk about your creative process. (How do you work? When do you work? What gets you inspired?)

I usually write in the morning, after breakfast when I have the house to myself, lots of coffee and sleepy dogs. I write by hand, using pen and paper, for all first drafts, then later transcribe on the laptop once the story is well underway. I usually develop a scene-by-scene outline and character profiles (even complete biographies) to start the story, and I write a lot of scenes that I never use – or even intend to use – to help me figure out a character’s back-story. I do separate edit passes for flow and structure, plot, character voice/consistency, and dialog fine-tuning before I show it to anyone. I like to have it table-read next, and for the past year and a half I’ve relied on PDX Playwrights for that – an amazing organization of amazing, creative, hard-working people. Then I revise a few more times to incorporate their feedback. Then I try to do a staged reading, like Fertile Ground, and revise it again. Sometimes I change them even after they’ve gone into production. Only once have I changed a play DURING a run. I was bad, I know. But it made the play better.


One Response to “Meet the Artist: Gary Corbin”

  1. Melinda Says:

    Gary Corbin is a wonderful playwright AND actor. I am delighted and honored to have had him work at Love Street Playhouse in Woodland WA. He is a rare gem in the SW Washington theatre scene. Bravo to Gary!!!

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