OOB Final 30 Countdown – Gwyn Ballard

Only 30 days left until our 41st OOB Festival begins and we can barely contain our excitement! So, to hold ourselves together we’ll maintain another yearly tradition — the Final 30 Countdown.

Every day between now and August 9th we’re going to feature a Q&A with one of our Final 30 playwrights. And we’re going to kick it off today with Gwyn Ballard!

Gwynn Ballard is a writer, actor, and comedian based in New York City. Previously, her work has been developed and presented at Manhattan Repertory Theater, Downtown Art, and Playwrights Horizons Theater School. She can also be seen performing all around the city with her improv group Together We Chill. She holds a BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

1. When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?

I started writing plays in high school, because my high school had a playwriting festival every year. I would write really weird plays where the characters were body parts. I don’t think they made any sense.

2. How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?

I was in a couple of music ensembles at my high school, and we would go to this big state music festival where we’d be given a score based on our performance. It was this big event and some people were really intense about it. That was my inspiration for the premise, but I was interested in exploring a relationship between two young artists. The characters in this play are xylophone players, and they take it very seriously. They’re also a couple, so it’s a romantic partnership in addition to an artistic one. I think in a relationship with an artist, it’s easy to confuse feelings about the actual person with feelings about their work. Someone’s art can resonate with you deeply and that can be mistaken for love. And if it’s two artists in the same field, there’s a strong common bond, but also underlying feelings of competition and insecurity. I wanted to explore that dynamic through characters in high school, because as a teen, the weight of a romantic relationship is already much heavier. It’s a new experience that you haven’t really had before. If you’re young and you’re just starting out and you haven’t really found yourself as a person or an artist yet, a relationship can be really intense, but also really funny I think.

3. What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?

Curious, confused, constantly asking questions.

4. What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?

I think living in a city with so many people has been the biggest influence on my writing. The saturation of people alone allows you to be witness to so many interactions, and you can’t really escape it because they happen in public all the time. I’ve witnessed so many chance encounters, meet-cutes, reunions, and breakups just by taking the train or walking down the street. So I try to heighten my awareness in public spaces and observe the people around me. I also watch a lot of reality TV, and I think that’s had an influence too. The dialogue is always somewhere between real conversation and what the producers are obviously telling them to say. It’s very funny.

5. What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?

I’m a sleepwalker. It’s not that frequent, but when it happens it’s apparently either really funny or really scary.

6. What are some of your favorite plays?

There are too many to list, but the ones that immediately come to mind are The Aliens and The Flick by Annie Baker, Red Light Winter by Adam Rapp, Detroit by Lisa D’Amour, Talk Radio by Eric Bogosian, and Tribes by Nina Raine.

7. Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?

No shameless plugs as of right now!


Her comedy, Duet, will be performed on August 10th at 6:30pm. It features the high school power couple Tim and Jenna. They are one of the top competitive marimba playing duos in the state. However, as their title looms precariously in the wake of an upcoming competition, they struggle to keep both their personal and professional relationship in tact. Will fierce competition, teenage hormones, and a burning desire for greatness get the best of them?