Today, the talented Atlanta playwright and founding Artistic Director of the Essential Theatre, Peter Hardy, stops by to talk about his creative process. I first met Peter in a group called the Working Title Playwrights in Atlanta. They help playwrights develop new plays through workshops, staged readings, etc. Since then, I have been thoroughly impressed by the number of amazing plays he has written, directed, and/or produced in the Atlanta area, especially with the Essential Theatre, which has premiered 34 new plays by Georgia playwrights since 1999. Also, the Essential Theatre has recently been named Best New Play Incubator by Atlanta Magazine in their Best of 2018 issue. I am so thrilled that he stopped by to do a creativity interview!
So here you go, everyone, an interview with Peter Hardy.
What is your main form of creative expression?
That’s a good question! My automatic response is writing, which is my deepest love, and what I would choose to be the only thing I did, if I had to choose. But I probably spend more of a time as a director and as producer (working on the annual Essential Theatre Festival.)
Do you work as an artist/creative full-time or do you have a different day job?
I did temp office work for decades, but I’ve been fortunate enough that, for the past few years, I’ve been able to get by on what I’m paid for freelance acting work, the salary I’m paid by my company, the Essential Theatre, and occasional other things, like a recent consultant job I had for a group in Ohio wanting to start an outdoor drama. I’m looking to try and market myself online as a playwriting consultant, or “play doctor” — something I’ve been doing for free, for years now.
How long have you been creating music/books/plays/films/etc.?
Really, for about half a century, now. Since I was a kid.
How do you handle the pressures of creativity being your job?
I guess I do this by not imposing writing deadlines on myself (the downside being, I take YEARS writing things) and keeping the Essential Theatre limited to a once-a-year Festival. I’ve never felt any desire to be producing year-round.
Do you engage in any additional creative hobbies? Are there any you’d like to try?
I act, sometimes — more often, these past couple of years, mostly at the Skakespeare Tavern, but I also did a show at the Aurora last year. For years I did quite a lot of songwriting, and still feel like I wrote some good songs. But I barely play an instrument, and don’t sing, and I had to rely on getting other people to perform them. Eventually, I realized I wasn’t ever going to “do” anything with it, and I wasn’t willing to take the time and effort that would be required to get more musical training, and become proficient on a keyboard, so that kind of fell away.
Who are some other artists and creatives that inspire you to create?
Why do you create?
I love it, and I’m not really good at anything else.
What advice do you have for other creatives?
Find your own way; don’t force yourself; but be tough on yourself, too.
What are you working on right now?
Looking at 95 plays submitted to be considered for next year’s Essential Festival. And I’ve currently got an almost finished play (“The Other Part of the Picture”), a half-finished screenplay (“Nocturnal”) and a half-finished novel (“Dreamland Drive-In”). I’m hoping to finish the play this year — about time, I’ve been working on it since 2011 or so. I also recently finished a short screenplay called “Somerset” (maybe), and I regularly tinker with a short story that I’ve trying to crack for years, now. It’s called “The Spider Room”.
Where can people find you and your work?
You can find out more about the Essential Theatre at www.EssentialTheatre.com. We produce the Festival every summer, usually opening in late July. We do all new work by Georgia playwrights, and 2019 will be our 21st Festival. You can read some of my work by asking me to send it to you, or you can find my short stories published in a couple of editions the British anthology series Postscripts, which you can buy online. My stories were in the editions titled “Memoryville Blues” and “The Company He Keeps”. I also have a story that was published in the final issue of the magazine Hardboiled. It was partly set in the Atlanta blues club Blind Willie’s.
Thanks for letting me pick your brain, Peter! I always have at least three half-finished projects too, it seems!