In advance of South City Theatre production, David Garrett talks about writing ‘Covering Dish’

David Garrett.

David Garrett is a multi-talented artist. He’s an actor, painter and photographer, among other things.

One of those other things is writer, and Pelham’s South City Theatre is about to embark on a two-weekend run of Garrett’s “Covering Dish,” a Southern comedy set during the aftermath of Aunt Eula Mae Dish.

Garrett answered a few questions about his play, its productions and what’s next for him.

When did you discover your love for theater?

I was active with my high-school theater program but was quite theatrical even at a younger age. I was the kid making movies in the backyard with all my friends. When I went to Auburn, I got cast in the lead role of two musicals. I learned so much from those experiences and developed a real hunger to do more. I then took an acting class and was encouraged to pursue acting by my professor Will York. I graduated and came back to Birmingham where I did numerous shows at Town and Gown, and I did a couple of shows at TNT. I also started directing shows at various community theaters and found that I really enjoyed it.

Tell me about writing the play. How did it come up, and was it your first go-round at playwriting?

I graduated from Auburn with a degree in English. During one of my composition classes, the professor chose a piece I had written to be read in front of the entire class. She told me that day that I was a playwright. I think she was the first person to appreciate my ability to write dialogue. After graduating and moving back home, my brother, who had written some plays of his own, dared me to write a play, so I did, and “Covering Dish” was born. 

Can you describe the characters and the plot?

“Covering Dish” is about the five Dish sisters, who gather together after the funeral of their dear Aunt Eula Mae Dish. At the gathering, they discover that she had promised each of them her two-carat, diamond ring when she died. To make matters worse, the ring was stolen at Eula Mae’s funeral, and everyone is a suspect, and everyone has their own theory of who stole the ring. There are a lot of other eccentric family members added into the mix as well.

Was it drawn at all from real life?

Well as they say…truth is stranger than fiction, so there are some characters who are based on real family members, but I have changed the names to protect the innocent, or not-so-innocent. I come from a very colorful family to say the least, so they have provided me with some extremely rich material.

Can you speak to the title of the show a little?

 I always felt it strange when people would bring a covered dish to your house after a loved one dies. However, I do realize that in the South we have deep-rooted traditions of comforting ourselves with food, so when writing the play, I thought I would create a title that had several meanings. In the play, you have people bringing a covered dish in honor of Aunt Eula Mae. You have the five Dish sisters whose lives are covered in the play. And  Aunt Eula Mae Dish was just buried, “covered,” in the cemetery.

This is the sixth production of “Covering Dish.” Does that surprise you?

An earlier production of “Covering Dish.”

When I wrote “Covering Dish,” I was hoping at the very least to get it staged one time. I actually presented the script to a theater and it was rejected, because they said my work was untested. I totally got it, though, and decided to produce it myself. The theater who rejected it sent several of their board members to come see my production, and they really liked it. So, they put the show on their next season, which really felt good.

How did the South City Theatre production come up?

Before COVID happened, I was asked by Donna Stinson Williamson, who is the artistic director for South City Theatre, if they could do “Covering Dish.”  I met Donna years earlier when I cast her in a production of “Covering Dish.”  I, of course, immediately said yes, but then COVID hit and everything was shut down. I assumed the opportunity had passed, but once theaters started opening again, Donna reached out to me once more and asked if SCT could add “Covering Dish” to this year’s season. She has been a real champion for the show, and I am extremely appreciative.

Have you tinkered with the show since its debut, or is it pretty much the same?

I did change two of the characters’ background stories a bit. I felt their storylines were not working as well as the others, so I tweaked them, and I think the changes are much better. We shall see.

How involved are you in the production?

Other than tweaking a couple of characters, I have had absolutely no involvement with this production of “Covering Dish.” Donna Stinson Williamson is directing, so I feel like the production is in quite capable hands. I believe, too, that there is a time you have to release your work to the universe and see what happens. I will simply be an audience member on opening night. I am very excited to see SCT’s take on “Covering Dish.”

Anymore playwriting in your future?

I never say never, but at the moment I am focused on writing in more of an essay format. I have a dear friend who is a successful writer, and she has encouraged me to pursue this style of writing. I lost both my parents over the last two years, and I’ve been focused on writing about them. The process has been quite healing and comforting to me. 

“Covering Dish” runs Aug. 11-19 at South City Theatre in Pelham.

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