Five Questions for Adam Greenfield
1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?
I grew up nestled between two freeways in Orange County, California. I did my best to be one of those kids who skateboards around the mini-malls with blonde hair and a deviant grin, but I was far too Jewish and queer to pull that off. So around age fourteen, I started smoking cigarettes and wearing black, and I joined the drama club. I knew pretty quickly that I was more of a director/dramaturg type than an actor, but I strutted the stage in high school productions of “Pippin” and “Can-Can,” etc., and I ultimately went to the University of Michigan’s actor-training program, wanting to take an active, performative approach to making plays, rather than a critical or academic one. After school, I went to Seattle, where I thought I’d be pulling espresso for a year before moving to New York. But I started up at the famed, now-defunct Empty Space Theatre, first as Literary Manager and then as Associate Artistic Director. We produced new plays exclusively, and it really was there that my literary tastes and approach to producing were shaped. As it turns out, the Pacific Northwest is an easy place to fall in love with, and I stayed there for nine years before finding my way to this cubicle here on W. 42nd Street.
2. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?
Without question, it was Len Jenkin’s “Dark Ride.” When I first read it as a freshman in college, this play absolutely blew my mind. It’s a dizzying, labyrinthine, high-speed chase into that nebulous space where fiction and reality blur. It was totally eye-opening to me not only how he subverts the way we experiences time and space onstage, but how he could completely rope us in along the way. How he could transport us not to a place we could imagine, but to a place that our minds had to work hard to make room for — and that, ultimately, that place was the very theater we were sitting in. Before Jenkin, and since Jenkin, a lot of writers changed things for me, but “Dark Ride” and “American Notes” really rocked my world. They were the first plays that helped me understand how a piece of writing, how a live event can bend space and time.
3. What skill or talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?
I wish I could write a play. I can’t. I’ve tried. It’s not pretty. I read a ton of plays, and, whatever I think of each one, I take my hat off to anyone who can type “End of Play.” Also, I wish I could play the piano.
4. What do you do to make a living? Describe a normal day.
My full-time-plus job is Literary Manager at Playwrights Horizons, and I also try to find as many outside directing projects as I can. As a Literary Manager, I’m constantly reading new plays (we recieve approximately 1,200 submissions each year) and writing my thoughts about what I’ve read. Reading plays is a creative act, but a lot of my day-to-day is administrative. I produce 20-25 play readings and workshops each season, which each involve hundreds of tiny, detail-oriented emails which take up a surprising amount of time. Despite the cloud of administrative tasks, though this is about as much fun as a guy could have sitting in an office. …And yet, it is an office, which means fluorescent lights, staff meetings, memos; when i daydream, it’s about spending more time in a rehearsal room, or about being a park ranger.
5. Have you ever had to make a choice between work and art? What did you choose, why, and what was the outcome?
I think I’m constantly making the choice between work and art, trying to walk that line. The salaried position I currently have is artistic; it is work, and it is art. Is that an oxymoron, or is it a lucky break? Depends on the day I’m answering this question. I feel cheery that my life right now contains a balance, but it’s a tenuous balance, constantly see-sawing.