Director to Deliver First Class Surprises in "Dead Letter Office"

Next week, Dog and Pony Theatre Company presents the world premiere of “Dead Letter Office” at DCA Theatre. Taking time from a grueling rehearsal schedule and search for an industrial staircase, David Dieterich Gray sat down with The Fourth Walsh to chat about his professional directorial debut.

Interview with David Dieterich Gray


by Katy Walsh

T4W:  What do you find attractive about two names?
DDG:  I have two middle names.   My birth name is David Anthony Dieterich Gray.  As the first born male, my parents’ son had to please many family members.  I have always gone by David Gray.  When I signed up for the Screen Actors Guild, ‘David Gray’ had been taken by the Scottish singer.  So, I decided to be Dieterich Gray professionally. 

T4W:  What does your wife call you?
DDG:  David… asshole… douche bag….

T4W: You are an actor and director.   Which role are you more comfortable with?
DDG:  I also write and produce.  I co-wrote a comedy pilot which is in the ‘pitching stage.’ I am finishing up a documentary film on a 1930’s Yiddish folk singer.  I am an actor first, an actor that does other things.

T4W:  What was your first acting gig?
DDG:  I was nine and did musical theatre in Galesburg, Illinois.  I co-starred with my mom in “South Pacific.”  She was a singing nurse and I was a native boy appearing in brown face.

T4W:  How about directing?
DDG:  “Dead Letter Office” is my first full professional production directorial debut.   I’ve directed smaller productions and college shows and was assistant director on bigger stuff.   This is my debut.

T4W:  As a Director that has acted, what unique qualities do you bring to the process?
DDG:  Sensitivity to the actor.  Being on the other side of the table enhances my ability to communicate to actors.  I get to know their processes.  I’m sensitive to them and then help them produce their best performance.

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“Dieterich understands the actor’s mind and encourages purposeful play.” -Joshua Volkers (Rolo) Dead Letter Office

T4W:  What made you want to direct this latest production, DEAD LETTER OFFICE?
DDG:  I’ve been aspiring to direct more.  Dog and Pony Theatre Company is where I hang my artistic hat and a great place to continue to further that work.  I also found the story interesting.

T4W:  From the reading last Fall to now, there has been a shift in the script with two different playwrights?  How was that challenging? 
DDG:  Ben Viccellio is a close friend.  He spoke at my wedding and we went to Steppenwolf classes together.  After conceiving the “Dead Letter Office” world, Ben had to step away from the project for unforeseen circumstances.  The company made the decision to move forward with these vivid characters and their stories that needed to be told.  We scouted and recruited Philip Dawkins for his high caliber of work.  Phil and I would talk on the phone every other day with ideas and direction for characters.  He has been a valuable asset to the process by shaping characters ‘boxed in’ by a building and their own shortcomings.  It would not be surprising for any of these characters to walk into the post office with a gun and go ‘postal.’  

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James Juliano with Playwright Philip Dawkins


T4W:  What’s your current sentiment toward the U.S.  Post Office?
DDG:  Systematic fortresses in which every day people are welcomed and hired under a level of scrutiny that isn’t really in place.

T4W:  Have you ever been screwed over by the post office?
DDG:  I was selling a car for my sister in Chicago.  I put an ad on craigslist and got a cash buyer.  My sister paid $26 to overnight the title.  The post office lost it.  The post office wasn’t very helpful tracking it down.  It was fucking ridiculous.  I was told to watch my language but I was angry.  How could they fucking lose it? Five days later it showed up.  No refund.  It was ridiculous!

T4W:  Zip code?
DDG:  46403

T4W:  How would you describe your relationship with your current mail carrier?
DDG:  We have two.  The one guy looks like a 50-year old version of the bus driver on “The Simpsons.” The other one is a sweet lady, who is good at her job and points out when WE have made mistakes. ‘Honey, you can’t put the label on like that.  This will never get delivered.’

T4W:  How does that influence your direction of this production?
DDG:  The post office is run by employees with flaws, bad days, desires, wants, problems.  It’s not this notion of perfect columns on a building.  You are dealing with real people that got hired by the U.S. Post Office for better or worse.

T4W:  What can the audience expect from DEAD LETTER OFFICE?
DDG:  Surprise, surprise, surprise

T4W:  Three words to describe DEAD LETTER OFFICE…
DDG:  Dark, hopeful, beautiful

T4W:  What’s next theatre-wise after DEAD LETTER OFFICE…
DDG:  I’m planning on the run extending through Christmas 2012.  It’s a ‘feel good Christmas show.’  I’m available for other stuff.  Call me. I’ve been auditioning for shows, commercials, and films.

T4W:  What’s your fantasy role to play as an actor?
DDG:  Anita in West Side Story

T4W:  What Chicago director would you want to help you nail the part?
DDG:  Bob Falls, David Cromer, Sean Graney, Krissy Vanderwarker

T4W:  What Chicago theatre company, that you’ve never worked with, would you like to experience?
DDG:  Writers’ Theatre

T4W:  Of your 984 friends on Facebook, how many of them would you send a Christmas card to?
DDG:  When Facebook first came out, everyone ‘friended’ each other.  I don’t know 60-100 on the list and probably 50 more are theatre companies.  But I do know a lot of people.  Our initial wedding invitation list had 650.  We got it down to 400 and 200 actually attended.

T4W:  How many of them would show up for your funeral?
DDG:  Morbid… All of them?  As many, as my legacy will support.

T4W:   What three words describe you…
DDG:  Charming, hectic, cynical

Dog & Pony Theatre Company presents
In association with the
DCA Storefront Theatre, 66 E. Randolph
June 11th thru July 18th
Conceived by: Ben Viccellio
Written by: Philip Dawkins
Directed by: Dieterich Gray
Christian: John Fenner Mays
Agatha: Susan Price
Rolo: Joshua Volkers
Je’ T Aime:  Kristen Magee

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