John Gay at the 2009 Gala; photo Stefanie Motta

Name: John Gay
Age: 47
Occupation: Regional Administrative Coordinator, District Court Department
Member since: 2004
Member level: TSC Silver
Favorite Pillow Performance: Off the top of my head, and in no particular order: Aszure Barton, Grupo Corpo, Inbal Pinto, Kitt Johnson, Batsheva, Shen Wei, Les Grand Ballet Canadiens...
Most looking forward to:
The Göteborg Ballet and Lucy Guerin. And the bonus is they are both in the same week!

PillowPages: How did you discover Jacob's Pillow, and how many years have you been attending?

John Gay: After completing my first year of an acting program at NYU in 1982, and many auditions, I was dismayed not to receive any summer stock offers. Hoping to allay my parents' concern of a perpetually unemployed son, I decided to take the first skill-related position that was offered: Director of Theater at an all-boys sports camp in Pittsfield.

My schedule was simple. Write, cast and direct an original musical each week that would be performed by different age groups within the camp. We rehearsed Tuesday through Saturday, and performed the show each Sunday.

Mondays - blessedly - were my days off. This day would generally consist of doing laundry at a local Laundromat in the morning, having my car repaired shortly thereafter, and then playing 9 holes of golf. I would then treat myself to a Fribble at Friendly's before returning to my midsummer sleepover nightmare.

After a couple of weeks following this routine, I started to notice that two similarly aged women were frequently at Friendly's at the same time. Turns out, they were interns at Jacob's Pillow. They explained to me that the Pillow was a place for people (dancers and audiences alike) to celebrate dance, amidst a spectacular setting featuring world-class companies. I was captivated by the obvious love and passion these two possessed. They joyously described working long days for very little compensation, simply for the privilege of being part of the "Pillow" family.

Still, the intensity of those two interns stays with me. The love they had for dance and for Jacob's Pillow remain vivid memories. It is a passion I now happily and humbly share.

PP: It sounds like acting did not turn out to be your calling. What do you do for a living now?

JG: No, the acting didn't work out, so I enrolled at Bates College as a political science major. Not only did this choice greatly assist me in attaining a rewarding public service career in District Court Administration, I believe it also convinced my parents that based on my more pragmatic career choice, that there was, indeed, a God.

When I accepted my position to assist the judges and courts throughout Western Massachusetts, I was fortunate to become friends with longtime Jacob's Pillow Member, Robert Kumor. Though fifteen years had passed since my introduction to the Pillow, without his encouragement, I might not have made such an important rediscovery.

PP: I understand that sports are another passion of yours. What do you do with your leisure time when you aren't at Jacob's Pillow?

JG: I should have mentioned it above. In addition to my day job, I am also an on-call utility infielder for the Boston Red Sox. (Just kidding.)

In truth, I have many interests, but travel is my favorite use of leisure time. I especially look forward to trips in which friends join in the more exotic adventure. The combination of exploration and close friends is, for me, a perfect blend.

PP: You are a lay dance curator of sorts in that you look at each Pillow season and invite friends to specific shows. How do you decide who to bring to what?

It's really mixed. For instance, some of my friends are comfortable seeing a ballet-based program. Others want to see something abstract and modern. Then, there's that predictable group of devotees that wants to see every performance of Trey McIntyre's company!

To digress a little, as I mentioned before, one of my other passions is travel. And part of that love is the enjoyment I feel in the actual planning. I feel the same way about Jacob's Pillow. For me, it starts in early December. I pester (hopefully in a nice way) every staff member about the unannounced upcoming season. To Ms. Baff's credit, and despite my cajoling, her staff unwaveringly guards that precious information on the same level governmental officials still cling to the details of 1947 happenings in Roswell.

So, like everyone else, I wait for the schedule to be announced. When it is finally released, it becomes a very happy day. A colleague and fellow patron of the Pillow says the announcement of the season achieves the same effect as receiving the season's first seed catalog. That is, the correspondence portends happy days of sunshine and warmth and in the suddenly less distant future.

Based on the schedule, I start researching the companies on the Pillow website and elsewhere, concentrating on those that are new to me. And when it all comes together, and I make the telephone call to place my large order, I feel elated that another summer in Becket is close at hand. The seeds not only have been ordered, but planted as well.

PP: In addition to attending shows, you frequent our cast parties. What keeps you coming back to those events?

I attend the cast parties for three reasons: The first is that they are fun!

The second motivation is that I enjoy the recognition that Ms. Baff lauds on the companies, commending them on their effort and vision. In addition to the applause they receive after their performances, it is gratifying to see them publicly appreciated by the extended Jacob's Pillow family.

And finally, I appreciate the access to the principals and directors of the companies. Their willingness to share their love of dance, to be so accessible and responsive, has taught me much about much of the art, the staging, and the business of dance.

PP: You are absolutely beloved amongst the Jacob's Pillow staff for being one of the consistently nicest patrons we work with. How did you go about building such great relationships with everyone from our Box Office Assistants to our Executive Director? And what did we do to deserve you (or are you that nice to the Red Sox staff too)?

Quite honestly, my relationship with Jacob's Pillow went to its current level the weekend that my Grandmother died. I had tickets to Inbal Pinto (I think), and couldn't use them because of Nana's service. When I called the Box Office to explain my absence, I was immediately offered the opportunity to trade my seats for the Sunday performance.

And when I arrived that Sunday, I was overwhelmed that so many people - from the Director to the Box Office Interns - all extended their condolences for my family's loss. It struck me that weekend that the Pillow was more than simply a venue at which one could watch dance. It was a caring, supportive family. It remains a family I hope to be part of for a long, long time.

PS- My relationship with the Boston Red Sox is not at the same level as with the Pillow. This is no doubt due to the fact that they knew my Grandmother was a Yankee fan...

Read the next article: Gala Co-Chairs Q&A

PillowPages April 2010:
Member Spotlight on John Gay

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