by: Adam Cohen . . .

Mark St. Germain is a prolific playwright whose works have been performed in New York City, the Berkshires and beyond.  He has written the plays CAMPING WITH HENRY AND TOM (Outer Critics Circle Award and Lucille Lortel Award), OUT OF GAS ON LOVER’S LEAP and FORGIVING TYPHOID MARY (Time Magazine’s “Year’s Ten Best”) , EARS ON A BEATLE and THE GOD COMMITTEE, all published by Samuel French and Dramatist Play Service. With Randy Courts, he has written the musicals THE GIFTS OF THE MAGI, JOHNNY PYE AND THE FOOLKILLER, winner of an AT&T “New Plays For The Nineties Award” and JACK’S HOLIDAY at Playwrights Horizons. Mark’s musical, STAND BY YOUR MAN, The Tammy Wynette Story was created for Nashville’s Ryman Theater.  

Television credits include Writer and Creative Consultant for THE COSBY SHOW. He co-wrote the screenplay for Carroll Ballard’s Warner Brothers film, DUMA. Mark directed and co-produced the upcoming documentary, MY DOG An Unconditional Love Story, featuring, Richard Gere, Glenn Close and Edward Albee among many others. Mark has written the children’s book, THREE CUPS. 

He is an alumnus of New Dramatists, where he was given the Joe A. Callaway Award, a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Writer’s Guild East and a Board Member of the Barrington Stage Company. He was awarded the “New Voices In American Theatre” award at the William Inge Theatre Festival.  And he even has the rare distinction for a living playwright of having a stage at the Barrington Stage Company named for him. 

St. Germain’s new play – a timely comedy entitled PUBLIC SPEAKING 101 premieres July 14th at the Great Barrington Public Theater.  The show centers on a community college public speaking class and how it transforms the lives of student and teachers.  Laughter ensues.  He was kind enough to answer a few questions: 

What inspired you to write Public Speaking 101? 

MSG: I taught public speaking at several colleges years ago.  Ironic, since today I’m terrified of speaking in public.  I also wanted to write a comedy.  Laughter in these complicated times in invaluable. 

If you weren’t a playwright, what would you be? 

MSG: A psychologist or policeman.  I’d like to do something that services people. 

What are some of your favorite plays, besides your own?  

MSG: I think the greatest American play is Thorton Wilder’s “Our Town.”  The funniest comedy is Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off.”  Play of Jean Anouilh and recently “The Lehman Trilogy.” 

Who were the teachers who inspired you or didn’t inspire you but might have fostered the seed for Public Speaking 101?  

MSG: One of the most inspiring teachers I ever had was Doctor Peter Mitchell, a history professor at Seton Hall University.  He fed my love of history, which led to my being drawn to historic figures in my plays.  Watching the students in my own public speaking classes grow more comfortable was very satisfying. 

In Public Speaking 101 you create indelible situations and characters, what’s your writing process?

MSG: It varies from play to play.  Many of my plays required extensive research. 

P.S. 101 was entirely fictional, though it’s impossible not to be influenced by the quirks of people you meet through the years.   

What’s next for you? 

MSG: I’d like to rewrite and solve a play I’ve toyed with for many years about a meeting of Sarah Bernhardt and Isadora Duncan in Long Beach, Long Island.  I’m also researching the next play.  Yes, another historical figure. 

Audiences know and love Mark St. Germain’s quick, sharp dialogue and knotty situations where characters walk into quicksand of their own making and need to reach out to others for a lifeline. “Mark is a master at comic set-up, timing and real character quirks,” director Jim Frangione says. “He can come up with a very funny storyline, and no one gets out until the hang-ups are resolved. This time, Mark gives us a comedy with great heart. Speaking in public is number one phobia for almost everybody. For these people it’s absolute terror. We all know the moment, when we wish we would have said something but couldn’t find the words.”  

Public Speaking 101 will be staged ten times only, from July 14-July 24, Thurs.-Sun., 3pm and 7:30pm, in the McConnell Mainstage Theater, Daniel Arts Center, Bard College at Simon’s Rock, 84 Alford Rd, Great Barrington, MA 01230. Tickets can be reserved on the Great Barrington Public Theater website