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Greg Hardison – Playwright and Director of Museum Theatre (Part 1 of 2)

By Admin | August 5, 2010

Greg Hardison is a playwright and the Director of Museum Theatre at the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfurt, Kentucky. We visited with him recently.

Where are you from?

I was born in Alabama, lived from 6 months to 16 years in rural eastern North Carolina, and then moved to Charlottesville, Virginia for last two years of high school.

I guess I consider myself from North Carolina and Virginia, as they both hit me at particular developmental times.

Where did you go to school and what was your academic major?

I attended Old Dominion University, first as an engineering student, but hated math.

I changed to Elementary Education in my third year, but life offered opportunities that seemed more compelling and I left less than a year from completing my degree.

I will forever regret that decision, and have intentions of going back when time permits. Alas, isn’t that always so, we never seem to have time to do the things we know we should.

What has been your career path from college to your current position?

While in college, I paid for my own expenses by working for a family entertainment company. I learned to walk on stilts, juggle, perform magic, and I honed my performance and storytelling skills before a huge number of audience sizes and types.

Towards the end of my time at college, I was offered the opportunity to buy the business. It seemed like a good idea, and I did. I ran the business for about 5 years, learned alot about business, and that it wasn’t my favorite thing.

I sold the business and took a management position for a large indoor amusement park in northern Delaware. Worked there for several years, got married, and moved to Kentucky to be near my wife’s extended family, because we wanted kids.

The museum I now work for advertised in the paper the next week. I applied for a job as an actor/docent and got the job.

From there, I helped to define the concept of Museum Theatre for the Kentucky Historical Society and eventually even defined the goals and duties of my position here at KHS, as the Director of Museum Theatre.

When did you decide to become a playwright and what influenced your decision?

I began writing plays when I owned my own company. They were horrible, but it was the only way. I couldn’t afford to pay a playwright, and we needed material.

When I started here at KHS 10 years ago, the concept of Museum Theatre was still new. My director at the time didn’t really know what it was either, but he knew good theatre, and together we kept trying things, and we defined it for our institution.

I learned alot about what it took to both entertain and educate museum audiences. I am still learning how to develop and work within clear educational goals.

I still don’t think I am a great playwright, but I do understand Museum Theatre and how it is different from other types of plays. I think I am now producing programs that are defining new thought in the field.

We are challenging our audiences, actors, our institution and the field. Evaluations and audience feedback tell me that what we are doing is working, but I will never settle.

I will always work to better define what I do, and how I do it. I have found the career of a lifetime. I love what I do!

How many plays are you required to write a year for the Historical Society?

I am not required to write any number of plays really.

In the beginning we wrote about five a year, but we have learned alot, and what we do now is far more complex than what we used to do.

Now, we really try to develop pieces that work really hard to achieve our educational and institutional goals. We produce plays that require more research, and that seek to provide new insight on our topics.

It takes longer to produce the pieces now. I am in no rush these days. We have created over sixty pieces, and we just seek to add to our repetoire now. I pick these new pieces carefully to fill holes in our timeline, or missing themes, or upcoming inititives.

I now create about three plays a year, but I also develop video conference programs, assist with the creation of other education programs, and am working on a proposal for a new literary series, with actors doing dramatic readings of deceased Kentucky authors, and other proposals for summer art camps, evening programming, and day care programs.

We present several hundred school shows both in house and as outreach each year, and keep a steady schedule of weekly performances on our campus. I stay pretty busy.

Topics: Circus Performers, Directors, Museum Directors, Playwrights | Comments Off

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