McGee, Greg(ory) (William) 1950-
McGEE, Greg(ory) (William) 1950-
PERSONAL: Born October 22, 1950, in Oamaru, New Zealand; married Mary Davy; children: one daughter. Education: University of Otago, Dunedin, L.L.B., 1973.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Playmarket, P.O. Box 9767, Te Aro, Wellington, New Zealand; fax: 64-4-382-8461.
CAREER: Playwright, screenwriter, and television writer. Hard Out (children's series), head writer; Screen Works (production company), cofounder and executive producer, 1998—. University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, literary fellow, 1982.
AWARDS, HONORS: Best New Zealand Play award, 1981, for Foreskin's Lament; Best New Zealand Play award, 1983, for Tooth and Claw and Out in the Cold; Best New Zealand TV Drama Writer award, 1988, for Erebus: The Aftermath, 1993, for Marlin Bay telefeature, 1995; Best New Zealand Screenplay award, 1992, for Old Scores; International Screen and Television Writers' Film Festival Award (with James Griffin), Writers' Guild of America, 1993, for Marlin Bay.
Foreskin's Lament (produced in Auckland, New Zealand, 1980), Victoria University Press (Wellington, New Zealand), 1981.
Tooth and Claw (produced in Wellington, New Zealand, 1983), Victoria University Press (Wellington, New Zealand), 1984.
Out in the Cold (produced in Auckland, New Zealand, 1983), Victoria University Press (Wellington, New Zealand), 1984.
Whitemen, produced in Auckland, New Zealand, 1986.
TELEVISION PLAYS AND SERIES; AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Roche, TVNZ (Auckland, New Zealand), 1985.
Erebus: The Aftermath, TVNZ (Auckland, New Zealand), 1988.
Marlin Bay, South Pacific Pictures (Auckland, New Zealand), 1993.
Fallout (miniseries), South Pacific Pictures (Auckland, New Zealand), 1995.
Street Legal, Screen Works (Wellington, New Zealand), 1998.
Also writer and producer for Coverstory, Gibson Group, Free Enterprise, 1981, Mortimer's Patch, 1984, Betty's Bunch (children's drama series), South Pacific Pictures, Gold, South Pacific Pictures/Atlantis, and Hard Out, Screen Works.
(With Dean Parker) Old Scores (telefeature), ITV, 1992.
(With Anthony McCarten) Via Sattelite, 1998.
(With Waihoroi Shortland) Crooked Earth, 1998.
SIDELIGHTS: In his plays, Greg McGee uses the rituals of male bonding and scenes from everyday life to express larger truths about New Zealand society. While he may be fiercely critical and satirical toward the common man and the common assumptions of his society, his plays never condescend and in fact invite the audience to reconsider their prejudices and their attitudes.
In his university days, McGee played rugby at the highest levels, competing on behalf of his school and his province, Otago. In Foreskin's Lament, rugby is the central image, symbolizing the brutality and insensitivity that infects much of New Zealand society. When one player, nicknamed Foreskin, tries to articulate a more altruistic mode of playing, he comes up against his coach, who advocates a much more individualistic and competitive ethic. In the end, Foreskin is forced to recant his views and embrace the coach's outlook. Interestingly, the enormous popularity of the play comes from the invocation of the true bonding and joy in New Zealand's love affair with rugby, while the hypocrisy and intolerance underneath give those audiences a chance to consider the flaws at the heart of their society.
Tooth and Claw is set in a lawyer's office, but once again bonding and the hypocrisy it fosters are key themes. This time it is the comfortable elite that comes under scrutiny, and McGee castigates this group for their indifference toward the poor and their open hostility to women, gays, Maoris, and other "out" groups. McGee uses a large screen in the center of the stage which alternatively illustrates the mental state of a senior partner in the law firm and the wider city outside the firm's walls, once again suggesting the metaphorical nature of the dynamics within the firm.
Out in the Cold has a more comedic touch. Judy, a single mother, decides to pass as a man in order to get a job as a laborer in a meat-processing plant. Beneath the jokes about sexual and gender identity, the play conveys a the ways in which masculinity is formed and "packaged" in contemporary New Zealand, and once again audiences responded to both the storyline and the underlying message.
McGee stumbled with Whitemen, a critical and commercial failure. In a series of revue-style sketches replete with bad taste and grotesque images, McGee lambastes rugby officials for participating in a tour with apartheid-era South Africa, and sending an all-Black team to South Africa. This time, audiences did not respond, and indeed the financial disaster drove McGee to abandon stage work and focus on television and movie writing. His earlier plays, however, remain popular and have been revived by a number of companies.
His television work has included the award-winning miniseries, Erebus: The Aftermath, the series Marlin Bay, and another miniseries, Fallout, as well as writing episodes for a number of other New Zealand programs. He cofounded Screen Works to produce Street Legal, a popular crime drama, and has written or cowritten almost all of its episodes.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Dramatists, sixth edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
International Dictionary of Theatre, Volume 2: Playwrights, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1993.
Act, December, 1980, M. Nikolaidi, review of Foreskin's Lament, pp. 77-79; May, 1981, J.C. Ross, review of Foreskin's Lament, pp. 22-23; June, 1983, J. Roberts, review of Tooth and Claw, pp. 31-32; August, 1983, M. Neill, review of Out in the Cold, pp. 41-42; December, 1986, M. Neill, review of Whitemen, p. 70.
Arete, fall, 1986, Scott A. Crawford, "A National Ethos in Three Dimensions: Rugby in Contemporary New Zealand Fiction," pp. 57-72.
Australasian Drama Studies, April, 1983, R. Fotheingham, review of Foreskin's Lament, pp. 159-160; October, 1984, M. Neill, review of Out in the Cold, pp. 139-141; October, 1984, M. Thompson, "Promise and Frustration: New Zealand Playwriting since 1975," pp. 122-129; April, 1985, H. White, "Paths for a Flightless Bird: Roles for Women on the New Zealand Stage since 1950," pp. 105-143; October, 1990, Sebastian Black, "Playboys of the South Pacific: The Plays of Greg McGee," pp. 183-201; October, 1990, David Carnegie, "The Metamorphosis of Foreskin's Lament," pp. 202-220.
Journal of New Zealand Literature, 1983, Sebastian Black, "New Zealand Plays, Playwrights, and Theatres," pp. 5-15; 1984, H. McNaughton, "Historical Elements in Recent New Zealand Drama," pp. 15-22; 1988, Robert Leek, "New Drama '86 to '87: Various Shades of Laughter," pp. 3-29.
Journal of Popular Culture, fall, 1985, Gareth Cordery, "Tom Brown's Schooldays and Foreskin's Lament: The Alpha and Omega of Rugby Football," pp. 97-105.
Listener, January 10, 1981, P. Gifford, review of Foreskin's Lament, p. 32, P. Wells, review of Foreskin's Lament, pp. 32-33; April 16, 1983, Sebastian Black, review of Tooth and Claw, pp. 322-33; November 21, 1987, Meredith Money, review of Erebus: The Aftermath, p. 108; August 15, 1992, Bruce Ansley, "Action Here Now" (interview), pp. 60-61; October, 1991, Chris Hegan, review of Old Scores, pp. 57-58; June 24, 2000, Mark Revington, "Pack of Mongrels," pp. 34-35.
New Literature Review, 1984, Sebastian Black, "Aggressive Elements: New Zealand Theatre in the 1980s," pp. 5-16.
New Zealand Herald, July 24, 1999, Michele Hewitson, "Bonding with Blokes," p. J5. Otago Daily Times, September 28, 1991, H. Clark, review of Old Scores, p. 22.
Variety, December, 1980, review of Foreskin's Lament, p. 56.*