Today, Ginny Sain stops by for an interview. As a faculty member of the Novel Track for the Fall Retreat, Ginny will share drama techniques to help writers with character development. Below, she’ll enlighten us on how acting and writing are more alike than one might think.
Ginny graduated summa cum laude from the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas, in 1995 with a degree in theatre. She has worked as an artist in residence teaching theatre arts workshops in Arkansas and Oklahoma schools as well as teaching and directing all classes, workshops, and productions for over 18 years with the very successful Stages Theatre for Youth program, an intensive actor training program for serious and dedicated young theatre artists in grades K-12, which she founded at the University of the Ozarks, where she also worked with college theatre students.
With more than 20 years of experience as a working director, choreographer, playwright, theatrical designer, performer, and theatre arts teacher, Ginny is thrilled to be back in Oklahoma as one of the founders of HeARTsong Creative Center, a creative and performing arts organization dedicated to providing professional quality arts programs and events that will encourage people of all ages to explore the depths of their souls, stretch the limits of their possibilities, celebrate the boundlessness of their own imaginations, and recognize the value of hard work paired with creativity.
Valerie Lawson: You grew up in a very literary household, and yet you chose the theatre. What about that medium called to you?
Ginny Sain: Oscar Wilde said, “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”
I’ve always believe that. I’ve always been drawn to the immediacy and intimacy of communication that you get in the theatre – both with your fellow artistic collaborators, and especially with the audience.
VL: I love that – thinking of your audience as part of the art.
In the realm of theatre arts, you have been a teacher, director, choreographer, actor, playwright, etc., what aspect of the field do you enjoy the most?
GS: I love to act, but what I am most passionate about is teaching and directing young people who are serious about developing as theatre artists. I spent 20 years working with one amazing group of kids, taking many of them literally from kindergarten through high school graduation, and watching them grow and develop as artists, and as people from year to year.
The kind of theatre we were able to do together because of that, and the kind of community they built with each other – that was such a huge thing to be a part of, for them and for me. So many of them are out there doing amazing things now. No matter what else I do with my life I will always consider those students to be the most special thing I have ever been a part of, my greatest contribution to the world.
VL: That kind of continuity is rare, I would imagine. So fantastic!
How would you say that acting and writing are related? What can a writer learn from the theatre arts?
GS: For writers and actors, it’s all about developing real, honest, believable characters and bringing them to life for an audience. Both art forms are about creating something so real that, just for a little bit, people forget that those characters don’t exist.
In the theatre, we do a lot of character analysis work that I think would be very beneficial to writers. We learn to think about the whole life of the character, not just the aspects that figure directly into the story. We build a whole world and we spend time living there. For an actor, the key is asking questions and then, instead of deciding on an answer ourselves, letting the character answer those questions for us. And I think actors tend to ask those questions in a slightly different way than writers do. It’s a really interesting process that actors have.
VL: Yes! Let the character answer the questions. Wonderful.
For the Oklahoma SCBWI Fall Retreat this October, you are co-hosting the Novel Track with your mother, author Anna Myers, how will you be contributing to the workshop?
GS: I’ll be talking specifically about the character developement process we use in the theatre, and how writers can adapt that for their own work. I’m really excited about that. Hopefully, it will cause people to view their characters from a slightly different perspective.
VL: I’m so curious about this different perspective; I can’t wait to discover this new way of looking at my characters.
Tell us a little about your teen years growing up. What was the most embarrassing thing you experienced? What was the most memorable adventure you had with your friends?
GS: Well, you know my mother is going to read this, so……my friends and I spent most of our time just sitting around reading poetry and behaving ourselves. Lol. Honestly, my friends were theatre kids and show choir kids. And I grew up in a very small town. Our idea of adventure was, I’m sure by most standards, pretty tame. We were in rehearsal for one thing or another a lot of the time, and those were the best times I remember.
VL: Ha! Well, it was worth a shot. Actually, my daughter might read this, so…yes! That’s all good theatre kids should do – rehearse and read poetry.
What has been your favorite book to read/book you’ve been most excited about over the past year?
GS: I’ve been reading a lot of young adult books this last year. I really enjoyed John Green’s “Looking for Alaska.” Like I said earlier, I’ve spent almost half my life working with teenagers, and I love them. And the voices in that particular book rang as so authentic to me.
VL: I have heard that you yourself are working on writing a novel, tell us about your experience. What have you learned about writing? About yourself as an artist?
GS: I am working on a book – a young adult novel set in the world of the theatre. Since that’s the world I know best, that seemed like a good place to start. I guess the main thing I’ve learned is that I really enjoy writing. I’ve been told my whole life that I had some ability as a writer, but I never really thought it was something that I enjoyed particularly. Theatre is such a collaborative art form. Writing always seemed to me to be such a solitary process, and that just never really appealed to me. But, I’m beginning to understand that isn’t really true.
VL: Ha! Yes, it may take one writer to draft a novel, but it takes a village to raise it.
You and your sister started your own creative arts center a few years ago, what can you tell us about that project
GS: I’ve always been a director and teacher, and my sister is a licensed teacher. She’s taught in schools in Oklahoma, Texas, and in Malta. So, when I was looking for a change, it just seemed kind of natural that we should combine those things into one joint creative venture. We offer theatre and other creative classes for students of all ages. Most of our work is done in after-school programs at local schools. It’s something we both enjoy and it gives us a lot of flexibility in the projects we work on, which is something that was important to both of us, since we are also raising children and pursuing other interests. It’s been a hard process getting it off the ground, but we’re finally making some good progress.
VL: You have an excellent program. I know my daughter enjoyed taking acting lessons from you. She learned more about her personal strengths and weaknesses as an actor – and how to improve – from you than her own drama teacher. I wish you well in that venture!
Thank you so much for sharing your time with us, Ginny. I look forward to your presentation at the retreat next month!
There are still a few spots available for our Fall Retreat. If you would like to hear Ginny speak, along with our other faculty members, sign up, today! This is an event you won’t want to miss!
Visit the scbwiok.org website for more details and to register online.
And don’t miss the next Twitter Chat on September 22nd, from 7-8pm CST, when we chat with picture book author Janee Trasler. Use the hashtag #okscbwichat. Hope to see you there!