By Zoë Lathan, supervising producer for The 21st Thurber Prize for American Humor
David J. Glover is the Director of Show for Thurber House’s 21st Thurber Prize for American Humor, one of the highest recognitions of humor writing in the United States, to be awarded this year on Apr. 22. David is an actor, director and teaching artist who works with several theater companies, including the Available Light Theatre Company, and is helping to train the next generation of artists as the Dean of Students and Director of Theatre Arts at The Wellington School.
Zoë: How does having such a diverse arts background affect your creative process, and what is your creative process when you’re approaching an event like this?
David: As a performer and educator, I’ve been in a lot of spaces where I’ve been valued and a lot of spaces where I’ve been undervalued. I think first and foremost, for me in that creative process, it’s just making sure the room feels good. Making sure that people in the room are open and creative and willing to take chances and put themselves out there and be vulnerable.
Zoë: You’ve been given a blank canvas to design the show for Thurber House’s upcoming 21st Thurber Prize for American Humor event. As a creative, as an artist, what does it mean to you when you’re given a blank canvas for something?
David: It’s both terrifying and exciting. I want to make sure that we are being honest and true to the legacy of The Thurber Prize. I think for me, and I think for many people working on the show, we can throw a lot of spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks and pick up the good pieces and put it together.
Zoë: Can you describe what the Thurber Prize is going to look like this year and what kind of show you’re building?
David: The Thurber Prize for American Humor is one of only a handful of awards given out for American humor writers. It’s an exciting world that can sometimes be overlooked, and we’re taking that excellence and trying to translate that to an award show that honors these writers’ gifts. This year we’re swinging for the fences. We’re highlighting the great work that Thurber House does in Columbus and elevating the artists who work in this city. We’re thinking some really cool vibes, a little “Singing in the Rain,” a little Ginger Rogers, a little Danny Kaye, big band sounds and art deco.
Zoë: You typically direct a lot of plays/musicals. What was it that drew you to do an award show?
David: For me, there’s a sense of the unknown. And I love that about any project that I start, that there has to be a tiny puzzle. I like puzzles. I like games. There’s something to be figured out. So why not? Who gets the chance to direct an award show? It’s exhilarating to put skills from the world of theater onto this blank canvas.
Zoë: As a director who has mainly worked in theater, how do you hope to grow as a creative through your work on The Thurber Prize?
David: Finding different avenues within this award show will be entertaining, educational, uplifting and really exciting. Finding areas in which we can explore lighting, dance, the spoken word. As a director, you’ve got to be able to hear and see other human beings’ vision and voices, and be able to meld those together. This is a different audience than I am used to, so crafting something that’s going to work with them is going to challenge all of us.
Zoë: What part of the show are you most excited about? Can you give us a sneak peek of what to expect?
David: We’re looking for spectacle, we’re looking for surprise. We’re looking for innovative ways to work with music. We’ve got one of the most talented Columbus artists working with us in that realm. We’re going to have some really awesome, dancy, big Tony-esque moments. I’m hoping for some past winners to pop up and give us some nice comedic numbers.
Zoë: What’s the best thing about the Columbus arts scene right now?
David: In this moment, I’ll say being adaptive and adaptability. The last couple of years have not been great for arts organizations across the board, across America. I think that the pandemic has given Columbus a moment to refocus. The most exciting thing about Columbus right now is those people and their attitudes toward how we structure Columbus art, highlight Columbus art and hire local.
Zoë: Yeah. Absolutely. It has all the potential. It’s there.
David: Yeah. It’s there. We’ve taken that time to look inward, right? We’ve taken that time to go, “Oh, I can see the potential. I can see what’s happening around me. Let’s invest in that.” And I think a lot of people are taking that time to do that. So, the next five years are going to be really interesting.
The 21st Thurber Prize will be awarded on Apr. 22. Visit thurberprize.org to learn more about the event, sponsorship opportunities and joining the host committee—and don’t miss exciting content on our new Thurber Prize Instagram page (@thurberprize)!