Interview: Pedro Antonio Garcia Makes a Strong Case for a Real-Life WITNESS ROOM

The Whitefire Theatre world premieres Pedro Antonio Garcia’s The Witness Room March 23rd

By: Mar. 11, 2024
Interview: Pedro Antonio Garcia Makes a Strong Case for a Real-Life WITNESS ROOM
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Interview: Pedro Antonio Garcia Makes a Strong Case for a Real-Life WITNESS ROOM

The Whitefire Theatre world premieres Pedro Antonio Garcia’s The Witness Room March 23, 2024. Whitefire Theatre’s artistic director Bryan Rasmussen directs the cast of: Tricia Small, Dave Baez, Louie Liberti and Mitch Rosander. Pedro found time from preproduction to answer a few of my queries.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Pedro!

What initially sparked the idea behind The Witness Room? A specific real-life event you saw on the nightly news? Or a compilation of some of the cases you were a criminal defense lawyer in?

I wanted to expose the questionable relationships among the police, the judges, and the district attorneys as they justify morally corrupt behavior under color of law. Personally, everything I write is either based on versions of cases I’ve handled or have been involved in. 

What would your three-line pitch for The Witness Room be?

Four New York City Cops at a drug suppression hearing prosecuted by an Assistant District Attorney run into monumental problems when, one by one, their testimony is exposed as fabrications, so that their only chance to save themselves is through the testimony of the last cop who is unwilling to lie, triggering accusations of treason as they confront issues of racism, policing, morality, and the blue wall of silence.

How involved in this Whitefire world premiere’s pre-production are you?

I have been intimately involved in the pre-production of The Witness Room. I attend every rehearsal, I provide answers to the director and actors on terminology and points of view, I re-examine dialogue for authenticity, I offer opinions on graphics, and I act as a production assistant on whatever Bryan and the actors need from me.

Was the first time you worked with Bryan Rasmussen and Whitefire your world premiere of Firehouse in 2011?

Yes.  I had just moved to L.A. the winter of 2010.  At the end of 2010, Bryan was hanging a sign on the Whitefire when I passed by the theatre with my script for Firehouse. I was visiting an actor friend Kamar De Los Reyes, who owned a gym two doors down from the theatre. I asked Kamar to introduce me to Bryan, but to my surprise, he had never been to the Whitefire nor did he know him. We approached Bryan and I gave him my script for consideration. A few days later, I received a call from him informing me that he wanted to produce the play and that Laura Coker, an executive producer, wanted to financially back it. And just like that, on my first day trying to interest people in my play, it was accepted.

You must have had a good experience in 2011 to come back to Whitefire. Can you share some good memories of that production?

It was my first experience in a production in Los Angeles, as I’ve been involved in numerous productions in New York City, first with the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, then with the Dramatic Question Theatre Company which I founded along with other professional playwrights who were former members of the PRTT.   Bryan Rasmussen is a wonderful director who has nurtured thousands of plays at the Whitefire. Two of the lead actors – the aforementioned Kamar and Elvis Nolasco – immediately wanted to be part of it. Kamar was on One Life to Live for 11 years, and Elvis was performing nationwide the one person show The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao when they joined Firehouse. Unfortunately, Kamar recently passed away. Elvis has blown up Hollywood-wise. He’s one of the stars of The Godfather of Harlem. One of the other actors, Gerry Downey, is the lumberjack-looking spokesperson for Busch beer that is regularly advertised on TV and during the SuperBowl.   

As a result of Firehouse, I’ve maintained a close friendship with Bryan. I regularly attend plays there and I developed a relationship with Bobby Moresco, the academy award winning writer of Crash who runs the Actors/Writers Gym at the Whitefire and in New York, and I’ve developed relationships with the writers and actors who participate in the Gym.   

Firehouse ran to critical acclaim and was extended three times. As a result of Firehouse, I landed my first agent who eventually steered to me Law and Order: SVU as a writer for season 13.   

If your friends and family saw The Witness Room, would they recognize elements of themselves in your five characters?

Some elements from families and friends, such as my own personal biography, the biographies of the cops, and the locations of events, were incorporated in The Witness Room. Most of the sources are derived from my personal experiences as a criminal defense attorney.

After decades as a criminal defense attorney, what made you decide to dip your pen into scriptwriting?

I’ve always had a writing streak in me. I was a reporter for my high school and college newspapers, so I was accustomed to storytelling to some extent. During and after law school, I was a news reporter for various papers and magazines such as the Guardian and the Multinational Monitor. The stories of the human condition were important to me and still are. I wanted to express those stories in a creative medium allowing me to expand on the vicissitudes of life.     

I would have thought a more organic pivot from lawyering would be acting instead of writing. Don’t you find the better an attorney ‘performs’ in court, the more effective he is?

It all depends. Yes, a lawyer must perform for a judge, a jury, and for the criminal defendant in order to instill confidence in the lawyer’s abilities. But I discovered that the full story of what motivates all the parties in the criminal justice system to act the way they do is more interesting, offering a perspective that is rarely known. 

Are you still practicing law?

Some. My work is more criminal appellate litigation, but I will get involved in important civil rights and criminal cases.

I’ve always wondered if real-life lawyers watched TV lawyer shows and what they thought of their television counterparts. Fan or not a fan?

I myself and the legal associates I know do not watch TV lawyer shows. They do not accurately portray the criminal justice system at all. So I am not a fan.  

Is there a new play percolating in your creative mind?

Yes. I always have new play ideas I develop while writing scripts. I’ve already outlined two plays, one exploring the topic of generational sexual child abuse, and the other exploring the moral contradictions of criminal defense attorneys. 

What’s in the near future for Pedro Antonio Garcia?

I have movies and series scripts in development with producers. I’m just waiting for funding, like we all are.

Thank you again, Pedro! I look forward to seeing your Witness Room.  

For tickets to the live performances of The Witness Room through April 27, 2024; click on the button below: