by Byrne Harrison- Written for Stagebuzz
Mark-Eugene Garcia is the author of several plays and musicals. He is happy to be represented twice in the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity. He can also be seen as "Javier" in Duncan
Pflaster’s The Taint of Equality. His written theatrical work includes Facing East, One Night at the Golden Boot,(un)missed connections,Inscriptions, and The Holy Cows of Credence South Dakota. Next up is Standby: as part of the New York Fringe Festival.
How did you first get involved in theatre?
My first foray into the theatre was playing my dream role of “The Baker” in Into the Woods. But when it comes to writing, the musicals Ragtime and Once on this Island primarily inspired me. I’ve spent the majority of my theatrical writing devoted to writing musicals. So much of my playwriting is influenced by music.
Who are your biggest influences?
Aside from musicals, I’m influenced by many gay writers. Armistead Maupin, Marc Acito, William Mann. Each of these writers has something in common, other than the characters being gay. They all write wordy, opinionated characters that have something to say and the nerve to say it.
What is your show about?
(un)missed connections is an experimental piece, inspired by Craigslist ads. This is my first “gay show.” But in a sense, it’s not that either. The play isn’t about being gay. It’s about people searching the void for connections who happen to be gay.
What inspired you to write it?
I may or may not have been hit on at an STD clinic. I may or may not have come home and found that a boyfriend had moved out without my knowledge. I have no comment about tricking over a massage table…but what I will say is that it’s a story about connections. One night, reading missed connections on Craigslist, I noticed something similar. Everyone was searching for something. Yes, some were searching for sex. But the one thing everyone was searching for was connection. These were people reaching out into the void and hoping that someone out there, who may or may not have shared a moment with them that day, would read this and contact them. It was taking a chance. I think everyone has had a moment in their life where they wondered: “is anyone really listening?” I know I have.
Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?
Our director, Rodrigo E. Bolanos, and I worked together a couple times these past couple of years. He was the set designer on my musical The Holy Cows of Credence, South Dakota as well the director of my short play Inscriptions. He has this amazing ability to read between the lines of a script and pull out the secrets of my characters. I trust him with my work. Trust is important.
As for the actors, we have a very special cast. We really lucked out at auditions and were blessed with a talented turnout. Derek Allen Watson brings a certain abandoned darkness to the character of Daniel. Evan Enslow easily shows the caring side of the young, but jaded, “Caleb.” Kyle James Johnson brings a simple vulnerability to “Jamie.” Edmond J. Cody III is a fantastic “Erik,” bringing a delightful comic presence to a very serious situation. Jere Williams easily balances comic aggravation and sensitivity in the role of “Bruce.” They fit the roles so perfectly there was no question about casting. Jaspal Binning was an interesting casting decision though. He was so good at auditions that I definitely wanted him in the show and ended up rewriting a character around him, changing the brooding “Carlos” to the intense “Simran”. It pays to have the writer in the room at auditions. The characters of “Man 1” and “Man 2,” who bookend the piece are portrayed by Israel Bocel and Marco Romeo Leduc who are wonderful at creating lonely characters worth rooting for.
Why was it important to you to be part of an eco-friendly theatre festival?
We all share this planet. We all are connected. Seeing that my play is about connections, it seemed only natural that we should try and participate in a festival that emphasizes that. Aside from being eco-friendly, the festival emphasizes so much good. The group is all about community. Seeing how devoted they are to each other as well as their cause, I was very eager to be involved with them.
Planet Connections donates a portion of the box office for each show to a charity. What charity has your production chosen and why?
For our charity we chose GLAAD. The reason we chose this is because our play is about the connections of eight gay men. When I tell people this, often their reactions and thoughts immediately go to sex. It’s interesting that so often the L.G.B.T. community is connected with sex. Looking in the media, L.G.B.T. lifestyles are put in a specific bracket because we have sex with people of the same gender. There are many people who think L.G.B.T. equals sex. We are seen not as people, but as a sexual act. Because of this, people don’t understand what being L.G.B.T. is. This is because they have not heard the right stories.
That’s where GLAAD steps in. With this mission statement…
“The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) amplifies the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present, and helping grassroots organizations communicate effectively. By ensuring that the stories of LGBT people are heard through the media, GLAAD promotes understanding, increases acceptance, and advances equality.”
GLAAD fights for us. They shield us. They defend us. Most importantly…they humanize us. They show that we are not an act. We are a community. We are stories. We are people, just like them, seeking connection.
So to raise support, (un)missed connections is presenting an evening benefiting GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). The fantastic John Raymond Barker will be MCing. Performers include comedians, Vicky Kuperman, Mike Cotayo, Jason Barker and half-naked accordionist/singer, Dustin James, plus appearances by the cast and creative team of (un)missed connections. We will be raffling off some great prizes too. Please come join us.
What's next for you after Planet Connections?
A little bit of a break. I’m coming off the run of a few big projects. I’m actually in Planet Connections twice, being part of the cast of DuncanPflaster’s The Taint of Equality. So, I’m pretty tired. But, I have a few things. A short play I wrote, Inscriptions is going to be part of The Puzzle: Marbles Festival of New Works and I am also co-writing Standby: The Musical which is part of this year’s NY Fringe Festival. As for (un)missed connections, I am anxious to see who it connects with next.
And finally, if a genie were to grant you one wish, what would you wish for?
I would wish for everyone to have the opportunity to find the creative outlet that makes them happy. So many people forget that we all have the creative ability within us to make art. Art gets put on the back burner so many times for jobs, obligations, and other less fulfilling things. It doesn’t get the respect it deserves. That’s so unfortunate. Creativity and art are integral. We need to remember that. That’s my wish.
That one guy from ENCORE! on ABC. NYC based Writer/Actor/Storyteller. Theatre Maker. Husband. Bad Hombre. Cat Taunter.