Rough Excerpts from a Talk With Jonathan Gillard Daly pt. 2
In this, the second and final part of the transcripts, the writer/star of the biographical musical The Daly News talks about working on the show in Milwaukee.
SELF EDITING IN AN INTIMATE SPACE
Jonathan Gillard Daly: . . .There is nothing to hide behind. It’s just an empty stage. There are moments that are just absolutely . . . completely without artifice . . . it feels like. And that’s a real challenge to lessen that. The other thing is that it’s a real challenge . . . just to tell the story and not try to create an image of yourself—an idealized image for people to see . . . it’s a real interesting line to take.
Me: You’re exposing yourself emotionally onstage.
Daly: yeah . . . it’s not one of these . . . I’m not out there having a nervous breakdown or anything, but I’m simply being myself and letting people see what’s important to me andt that’s a challenge.
Me: And have you changed stuff during rehearsal?
Daly: During this one?
Daly: uhh, yeah. Mostly in the patterns of writing where Michael [Director C. Michael Wright] will say, “you know, I think I’m a little lost here. For a minute I’m not quite with you. Do we really need that phrase?” So it’s mostly cutting in the rehearsal process. Every now and then I’ll get to a line and I just can’t learn the damn thing, so . . .
Day: and the actor in me says that, the reason you can’t learn it is that the playwright did a rotten job writing this--so change that. So that happens every now and then—when I get a little to clever as a playwright and I think—y’know: cutitcutitcutitcutit.
Me: [laughing] ‘cause I could see that especially where it’s you speaking as you fourteen years ago [much of the dialogue for the show was written back then for the original California production]
Day: yeah, and that’s a whole different thing. My world has changed . . . very different. When I was working on this play, y son was seven years, five years old . . . and I was in the middle of that whole . . . okay: my dad was distant with me. I am NOT going to be distant with my son. All of the patterns that my dad fell into—I am NOT going to fall into those patterns . . . I’m going to do this with my son, I’m going to do that with my son . . . . so everything was all about breaking the pattern of isolation between this particular son and that particular father. And that guided a lot of the writing. And I was trying to deal with that and trying to expose that. Well—I don’t care about that anymore. My kid has gown-up and he calls me once a week and he tells me he loves me all the time—y’know—I don’t need to prove anything about that anymore, y’know?So yeah—in that way it’s very different.
Me: Are you having any trouble with that? Getting back into the mind set that you were in when you wrote the material?
Daly: And that’s the great thing. The monologues have all changed. The ones that I speak about me—those have all changed because I’m a different person . . . so a lot of that stuff has changed. Just he stuff that seemed to be integral to the whole idea—the thought of what it’s like for all of us with our fathers—what’s universal. That’s the stuff that’s staying. The stuff that was there that’s still proving to be universal—that’s staying. The stuff that was just a guy writing in 1993 I got rid of. I wasn’t interested in it. I didn’t need to tell that anymore. So those are the things that have probably changed the most [since the original California production.]
PLAYING ACROSS GENERATIONS
Daly: I remember after the first production I was re-writing and re-evaluating it. And there were various productions in various places and at that time I was feeling a real . . . time-sensitivity about it. I wanted to get as many people to see this as possible because it as about World War II and they [the veterans] wee dying. The people who were there and experienced it were dying. We’re kind of past that now. . . So I really wanted to get it out for the Greatest Generation. What really surprised me was that there were people younger than me who came and saw it and said, ‘this is really about my relationship with my dad.” And of course it’s bout war time and we have wars about every 40 years. You can always relate to sending your kids off to war. Y’know . . . I wrote it during Desert Storm. I got back to it during the Gulf War and now, of course we’ve got this one so . . . there will always be a backdrop that people will be able to relate to.
Me: It occurs to me that you’ve been writing and your grandfather was working on this newsletter constantly . . . REALLY literary.
Me: What was your background and the family’s background with writing?
Daly: uhh. . . hobby. Purely hobby. We have no writers in the family. We have people who like to write. Jus like we have no singers in the family. People like to sing, but they don’t take it beyond the living room.
Me: Is it a middle class background?
Me: Which neighborhood did you grow-up in?
Daly: Martin bought the house on Washington Boulevard. He lived there. Then my Dad built a house in Whitefish Bay on the GI Bill in the late ‘40’s . . . In my childhood he was at the highest end . . . And then things started to kind of go south . . . and my whole family—they’re all live in Whitefish Bay . . . one lives in Oconomowoc.
THE DALY FAMILY PERFORMANCE
Me: Does your family get to se this now?
Daly: oh yeah. They went out to California to see the first one and we’ve got a Saturday night . . . Saturday afternoon show Thanksgiving weekend and our family . . . the WHOLE family. All these kids of the people in this play—we have not been together as a family in years and we used to be together all the time. We spent a lot of time together in the ‘60’s and’70’s and then we all started getting families and we just don’t get together except for the occasional funeral. And they’re all coming to one performance. They bought out the house. Eighty people.
Daly: It’s going to be really . . . surreal. All these people.
Me: [laughing] The ENTIRE back box downstairs?
Daly: Yeah. Y’know . . . I wouldn’t wis a stranger on that show for anything. I could just picture someone in that audience going: “what am I missing? what am I missing?”
Me: I’ve gotta wonder what it’s going to be like for the other actors.
Daly: oh, yeah.
Me: Tough room?
Daly: mm-hmm. I think it’s gonna be fun. I think we’re gonna have to hae some kind of pre-show speech, ‘cause otherwise it’s going to be too weird for me to go out there and think, “oh, you’re just an audience.” But it’ll be really fun. There are really dear cousins. People I grew-up with and I haven’t seen them in thirty years, so it’s going to be quite a weekend. And my son’s going to come home from college and see people that he’s never met, so . . . Martin would be proud, ‘cause that’s what he was all about: keeping the family together.
Me: Any idea whathe’d think of a mucial being based on all of this?
Daly: I think he’d like it. I think he’d like it okay. Yeah. I think even though it’s contemporary music, it’s music he’d like. It’s definitely with a very strong nod towards the ‘30’s.
The Daly News runs through December 14 at the Broadway theatre Center Studio Theatre. The Daly Family reunion show will be a 4pm matinee on Saturday November 29th. No tickets are available to the public for that performance.