Michael Gorman, Class of ’84, Recounts Fond Memories

Throughout his childhood, into his college years, and still now in his professional life, Michael Gorman has been fascinated by the notion of place. The Class of ’84 alumnus, who earned his Associate’s degree in Landscape Development, says that for him, SUNY Cobleskill was the right place.

“My first thought about college was that I had a fear of being trapped in a library,” says Gorman. “I am one of six kids, grew up working in the woods, and whatever my area of study [had been] I knew I had a fascination with how people move through the environment.”

Landscape development, and, later, landscape architecture made for logical fields of study. But Gorman was torn – between the visual creations his education prepared him to make, and a love of literature that opened an entirely different set of doors.

Gorman ultimately elected to pursue the latter. A playwright, Gorman is founder of “The Forty Hour Club” production company. Since 1994 he has authored and produced major productions, primarily in New York City and Maine.

Still, he says his two passions share many commonalities; place retains its influence on Gorman in the theater. In his piece entitled “The Place of Seeing,” he writes: “By its simplest definition, according to the Greeks, [theater] is ‘the place of seeing.’ Where do plays come from? Where do they start? For me, they start with an image, coupled with an action… then come the words.” He says becoming a playwright was a way to merge what compelled him about the outdoors and the natural environment, with an added element of creativity. “And I think those seeds were planted at SUNY Cobleskill,” says Gorman.

With film, he points out, viewers only get a chance to see what the director wants the viewer to see. In a theater, audience members are able to let their eyes wander. It is a more natural, and less linear environment, similar to the one he came to appreciate as a SUNY Cobleskill student.

“The word ‘playwright’ does not mean play-‘writer,’ it means play-‘builder,’ explains Gorman. “And that’s how I see the art and craft of playwrighting – as a builder. An image wells up in the imagination and I focus on it. What does it mean? And why is it visiting me now? How can I start to build upon it, and see just how far the roots of this thing go, and how deeply connected to the universal subconscious it is?”

This depth of thought, and deep reflection, trace their roots to SUNY Cobleskill. “I am someone who needs privacy, and I found that in the stunning foothills,” says Gorman. “It was the right balance of social stimulation, and routine and privacy. Very quickly I felt I could be comfortable here – that I could figure it out from here.”

Feature photo: Michael Gorman ’84 (in pink) works with an actor on stage. The playwright studied Landscape Development at SUNY Cobleskill.

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