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9 Questions: D. W. Gregory

November 20, 2013
D.W. Gregory is a resident playwright with New Jersey Rep and a member of the Dramatists Guild.  She writes frequently about the American working class experience and is best known for Radium Girls, an historical drama about dialpainters poisoned on the job in the 1920s.  A popular title in high school and college theatre, it has received more than 130 productions worldwide, including in London, Chicago, Boston, and Toronto.  The other feather in her cap is The Good Daughter, about a Missouri farm family struggling with rapid social change after World War I, which was her first project with New Jersey Rep and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize when it premiered there in 2003.  Gregory's work in youth theatre was launched with a residency at Imagination Stage (Bethesda, MD), where she wrote and premiered Miracle in Mudville and four other plays for young audiences.  Two of those works, Penny Candy and The Secret Lives of Toads, are available through Dramatic Publishing.  In addition to writing plays, Gregory has worked as a theatre critic, writing for The Washington Post, and as a teaching artist.  She is a founding member of The Playwrights Gymnasium, a process-oriented playwrights' workshop based in Washington, D.C. More information about her plays is available on her web site,


1. A group of friends is having a potluck-- what do you bring? 

Green salad.  Too many potlucks are overloaded with carbs.

2. What piece of conventional wisdom about playwriting have you found to be the least helpful? 

Make your play actor-proof. What the heck does that mean? We’re all at the mercy of our actors.

3. Where is a place you've never been that you would love to go?

Versailles.  I want to see how much luxury cost Marie Antoinette her head.

4. What is most helpful to you as you sit down to write a first draft? 

To let ‘er rip.  Turn off the inner critic and just riff on whatever amuses me.

5.  I am a closet  ______________.

Nail-biter.  Really.

6. If for some reason you were suddenly forbidden to write, what would you end up doing?

I would paint – oils and acrylics, in wild, impressionistic fashion.

7. Is there a book you read, play or movie you saw, or story you heard as a child that had a significant impact on you? 

Had to be Frank Capra.  I think the one that hit me hardest was Meet John Doe – because of the collision between idealism and cynicism – the story of a man who initially agrees to a ruse, then is caught up in it and willing to die for an idea.

8. What is the biggest obstacle or setback you've ever faced in creating a play, and how did you move past it? 

My own anxiety; the inner nagging voice that says "give up, you have no talent."  How did I move past it? I went back to work.  I threw out an entire draft once and started over – sometimes that’s what you do. And that play has had almost 300 productions.

9. How has your writing changed over time?

I started out imitating the artists whose work I’d seen or read, in the small towns where I grew up and spent the first 30 years of my life.  So my work had echoes of Frank Capra and William Inge, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller, because that’s what was in the library.  As I got comfortable with the form I began to break free and search for a style that married my stories to my perceptions … I think I am still on the hunt.

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