Garen Scribner, the rhapsodic dancing star of the sparkling stage version of ‘An American in Paris, is in love with love
SCOTT HUFFMAN | Contributing Writer
When Garen Scribner began studying dance, he set three goals for himself — any one of which would be daunting. First, he wanted to dance in an esteemed ballet company. When he became a soloist with the San Francisco Ballet, dream one was met. Next, Scribner hoped to perform with an acclaimed contemporary dance company. Once he joined the Nederlands Dans Theater, he checked that one off his list. Finally, he wanted to perform on Broadway in a musical. He completed the hat trick when producers of the Tony Award-winning show An American in Paris sought Scribner to join their cast.
But they did more than ask him to just dance. They wanted him as their leading man.
“That’s an opportunity that never comes around for most people,” Scribner says. “I felt a great responsibility to work really hard to live up to [the producers’] expectations and do my best. That’s what I’ve been trying to do. In that process, I found out so much about myself. I’ve been able to open up some channels inside myself that weren’t open before. I feel it’s definitely been a turning point.”
Inspired by the 1951 best picture Oscar winner, An American in Paris is filled with lively, recognizable Gershwin tunes, romantic lighting and costumes and remarkable, Tony Award-winning sets (which require 10 trucks to transport). However, Scribner feels the key to the show’s success is more rudimentary than its flashiness. The musical — which begins a 16-show run on Jan. 31 as part of the Dallas Summer Musicals series (before moving to Fort Worth’s Bass Hall for a week) — is about love.
“I think that every person in this world is looking for love,” says Scribner, 31. “It manifests in different forms — whether it’s looking for the love of your life or just looking for the love of a friend. [When we are born] on this earth, we immediately search for [love] in our mother’s eyes and we continue to search for it throughout our lives. That’s what the show’s about. It’s shown through art, music and dance.”
Scribner grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, and fondly remembers frequent trips to the Kennedy Center to see dance and theatrical productions as a kid. That’s one reason he relishes the opportunity to make performing arts more accessible by bringing Broadway to other parts of the country.
“I remember how much I was impacted by seeing those shows and being around those performers,” Scribner says. “It inspired me to create a life for myself on the stage and create a career based on that. When I think about going out and performing every night, even though I might be tired or I might have an injury, there could be someone like me who is young and impressionable and needs inspiration and maybe is looking for that thing that they are going to have as a guiding light.”
Another of Scribner’s passions is DanceFAR, an organization he co-founded five years ago in San Francisco with friends and fellow San Francisco Ballet dancers Margaret Karl and James Sofranko. DanceFAR’s mission is twofold: It raises funds in support of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, and also showcases world-class dance. Scribner jokingly describes the annual event as “a bake sale of dance.”
“This [past] year was our fifth annual performance,” Scribner says. “We’ve raised half a million dollars for the organization. We’ve done a great thing for the arts, too. It provides a great platform for smaller [dance] companies that don’t necessarily have the funds to put on their own performances all the time. We thought we were killing two birds with one stone. It’s turned out to be a really great thing.”
When asked what accomplishment in life he considers his greatest, Scribner pauses. His surprising reply, much like the theme of the musical in which he stars, centers squarely on love. In this case, though, it is the love for his rescue dog, Pilot.
“He was abandoned,” Scribner says of finding Pilot tied to a pole in NYC nearly 11 years ago. “He needed a home. I took a risk. It was obviously a great thing for him, but it was a great thing for me, too. It really did change my life. It made me look outside myself a lot and taught me so much about responsibility, commitment, and friendship. They say [dogs are] man’s best friend for a reason.”
As he performs in playhouses across the country, Scribner is struck by the grandeur of many of the buildings. He is also frequently stunned by the number of actors who have made appearances before him as evidenced by the signatures he finds on dressing room walls. Among the autographs are those of Tommy Tune, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin and Michael Stipe.
“We are touring in these beautiful historic theaters, a lot of which have been saved from demolition by great people who have seen the beauty and recognize the legacy and want to preserve that,” Scribner says. “The beautiful thing is to go into these theatres that have so much history and see autographs of people on the wall who are legends.”
Scribner, who signed on for six months of touring, is not yet sure what his next project will be. He looks forward to spending more time with his family and his dog. And he would like to find a boyfriend.
“I would like to have a relationship again,” Scribner says. “I was with somebody for eight years, and we split up three years ago. I’ve needed this time and it’s been great, but I’d love to be in love and be in a relationship and to support somebody and be supported. To set myself up for that I need to be in one place.”
Scribner, no doubt, will make accomplishing this goal seem effortless as well.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2017.