A prominent Santa Monican has gone from politics to playwriting.
Grant Woods, formerly John McCain’s first chief of staff, wrote the play “The Things We Do”, now at the Odyssey Theatre through May 12. The dramedy, based in Santa Monica, centers on couples and the intersection of their lives together after decades of marriage– should they continue together or make a change in their lives?
Woods himself was at an intersection himself many years ago as a young man straight out of Occidental College, having to choose between a more practical career and artsy ambitions. He struggled with wanting to be a writer or lawyer.
“There was no real direct path to be a writer whereas a lawyer, you go to law school and you’re a lawyer. I felt I had a better chance of doing both if I got a law degree.”
Woods served as a public defender for three years and wrote in his downtime, writing anything that would stretch his imagination.
He wrote as often as he could — until he met John McCain.
“That’s no offense to him, God rest his soul,” Woods said with a laugh. “He supported my hobbies and dreams. But he was just a 24/7 guy. Never stops. That’s the way it was.”
Years passed as Woods supported McCain’s senate run and served as Attorney General of Arizona himself.
“At some point, you step back and say, ‘Hey, it’s now or never with this writing thing.’ That’s how I started devoting myself to writing again.”
Since his later-in-life devotion to writing (only occurring within the last ten years for the 64-year old) he’s written a crime novel, songs, films, columns and of course, plays.
Woods developed his current play “The Things We Do” while commuting back and forth between his home in Phoenix, Arizona and his home in Santa Monica.
“It’s a six hour drive and not the most interesting drive at that,” Woods said, laughing. “You get on the I-10 and you’re done, theres nothing along the way. I always had a lot of time to think.”
Woods said that for this particular play, he had a basic idea in his head for the premise and whittled away on characters and dialogue. He found that in a story about balancing relationships, the play should be well-balanced.
““The play has a light, comic, sexy feel at the beginning, which draws you in,” Elina de Santos, director of the play, said. “But then, because of the things people do, it gets darker and more real. It’s fresh and surprising.”
The play has been out for a week now with positive reactions from reviewers and actors alike. Actor Stephen Tobolowsky recently tweeted that he and his wife had been talking about the play for several days, its themes still resonating.
Despite writing in almost all forms of media, Woods says his heart will always belong to theater. The instant reactions and near-tangible connection keep him coming back.
“There’s a reason theater has been so popular for so many centuries,” he said. “It’s a good product, nothing else like it. With the recent success of musicals, Hamilton in particular, it shows a new generation can have their lives changed by it. With writing, you’re only limited by your imagination. I’m glad I started writing again.”
The Things We Do performs at The Odyssey Theater Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through May 12. All tickets are $35(reserved seating). Discounts are available for seniors, students, and members of Actors Equity, SAG and AFTRA; call theater for details. TheOdyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 x2 or go to www.OdysseyTheatre.com.