Garry became a light in the darkness that consumed Playhouse Square in the late ’60s. In 1972, after four of the five original venues closed, Ray Shepardson asked Garry, the founder of Cleveland State University’s theater program, to put together a performance that would bring audiences back. Garry’s former success with directing Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris at Baldwin Wallace University and CSU inspired him to take the show to the State Theatre where it ran for 2 1/2 years. Over the next 30 years, Garry and his late husband, David Frazier, wrote, directed and performed in plays together. Their collaborative stage presence provided a space in which they could express their love for one another without fear.
I grew up in a small industrial town outside of Buffalo, New York. I was gay. This is in a time when that word wasn’t even there.
When I was a very little child, my mother took me to see Annie Get Your Gun with Ethel Merman.
What fascinated me most was the fact that there were cutout horses on the stage. It triggered that notion that theater is about imagination.
Children play-act and play out their fantasies all the time. The older we get, the more we move away from that. There’s a sadness to that because it connects us to really ancient parts of our being.
When you have people who step into that world and are willing to surrender and commit to the vision of whatever it is you’re doing, then people can function on very high levels.
You have to invent yourself, and you have to believe in your dreams. If you don’t imagine it, it can’t be.
When we went to do the Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris show, those theaters were three weeks away from being torn down.
It got rave reviews. It exploded. It played 2 1/2 years, but ultimately it played on and off for 10 years.
Every time I go to the State Theatre and see thousands of people there in the lobby, I burst into tears. It’s like watching the phoenix rise.
David was the most authentic person I had ever met. He was magic.
He was ill for the last five years of his life. His room at the Cleveland Clinic was on the eighth floor in a VIP suite.
It looked down Euclid Avenue, and you could see the old Cleveland Play House, the old Cleveland State Factory, Playhouse Square — our whole life. It was like a yellow brick road.
The moment I heard David died, I knew that there wouldn’t be a moment of my life that would be the same.
We have to celebrate every moment and find what’s redeeming. For me, right now, that’s an enormous challenge because there’s so much darkness in my life right now. There’s no color. Everything is black, and it’s hard to find it.
I guess it’s just getting through that day and having survived that darkness and hoping the light is going to come back — and then something will happen, a little glimmer of something — and that’s powerful.
If I had to imagine what my life could have been, I couldn’t have imagined it to be better.